Only last summer we were told that Barack Obama’s political appeal rested on his vision for a “post-partisan future.” The post-partisan future was one of the press corps’ favorite phrases. It served as shorthand for the candidate’s repeated references to “unity of purpose,” looking beyond a red or blue America, and so on.
Six months into the president’s term, you don’t read much about this post-partisan future anymore. It may be because on almost every big-ticket legislative item (the stimulus, climate change, and now health care), Mr. Obama has been pushing a highly ideological agenda with little (and in some cases zero) support from across the aisle. Yet far from stating the obvious—that sitting in the Oval Office is a very partisan president—the press corps is allowing Mr. Obama to evade the issue by coming up with novel redefinitions.
The redefinition started during the stimulus debate, but it really picked up steam late last month with David Axelrod’s appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” There the president’s chief strategist explained that a bill didn’t need Republican votes to be “bipartisan”; it was enough if Republican “ideas” were included. A few days earlier, Rahm Emanuel had offered reporters another redefinition, suggesting that a bill was bipartisan if people merely “saw the president trying” to get Republicans on board.