Getting Things Done

by digby

In an interview on the ABC News Shuffle Podcast today (listen HERE) Sen. Joe Lieberman, the independent Democrat from Connecticut, made his case for the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., saying, "I’m going to make a provocative statement: in many ways I think John McCain on Foreign Policy is closer to where Al Gore and I were in 2000, then Barack Obama is."

Lieberman made the comment in the midst of acknowledging that on domestic issues ranging from the economy to health care his positions more closely align with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois. "On domestic policy, you’re right. I’m closer on a lot of issues, not all, to Obama," Lieberman said. "But the big difference for me is, McCain will actually get something done. It’s one thing to say where you are on a policy and give a good speech, but McCain as president will actually get something done."

This is what is so loathsome about the Village fetish for bipartisanship. They don't give a damn what the bill says, they just want to "get something done."

We've had a virtual love fest of bipartisan legislation over the past seven years. It's not as if the Republicans ever had a filibuster proof majority, after all. They managed to get a lot of things "done." Bad things. And if they didn't like something, they just threatened to filibuster and the Democrats bowed respectfully and backed away.

Here's how Glenn Greenwald laid it out:

Many people, especially partisans, always believe that their own side is compromising too much and that the other side is always winning, so it's best to consult objective facts in order to know how "bipartisanship" works. Here are the vote breakdowns by party over the last couple years on the most significant and contentious pieces of legislation, particularly (though not only) in the area of national security.

In almost every case, the proposals that are enacted are ones favored by the White House and supported by all GOP lawmakers, and then Democrats split and enough of them join with Republicans to ensure that the GOP gets what it wants. That's "bipartisanhip" in Washington:

To support the new Bush-supported FISA law:

GOP - 48-0

Dems - 12-36

To compel redeployment of troops from Iraq:

GOP - 0-49

Dems - 24-21

To confirm Michael Mukasey as Attorney General:

GOP - 46-0

Dems - 7-40

To confirm Leslie Southwick as Circuit Court Judge:

GOP - 49-0

Dems - 8-38

Kyl-Lieberman Resolution on Iran:

GOP - 46-2

Dems - 30-20

To condemn

GOP - 49-0

Dems - 23-25

The Protect America Act:

GOP - 44-0

Dems - 20-28

Declaring English to be the Government's official language:

GOP - 48-1

Dems - 16-33

The Military Commissions Act:

GOP - 53-0

Dems - 12-34

To renew the Patriot Act:

GOP - 54-0

Dems - 34-10

Cloture Vote on Sam Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court:

GOP - 54-0

Dems - 18-25

Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq:

GOP - 48-1

Dems - 29-22

On virtually every major controversial issue -- particularly, though not only, ones involving national security and terrorism -- the Republicans (including their vaunted mythical moderates and mavericks) vote in almost complete lockstep in favor of the President, the Democratic caucus splits, and the Republicans then get their way on every issue thanks to "bipartisan" support. That's what "bipartisanship" in Washington means.

So Lieberman's right in one sense. John McCain will have a much easier time getting legislation through than Obama would, even with a majority. But it's because Obama would not be able to rally as many Republicans as Bush has been able to rally Democrats, even to enact exactly the same legislation. They understand the value of obstructing an agenda for political purposes. And even worse, Democrats themselves, if history is any guide, will go out of their way to make Obama dance on the head of a pin to get a progressive agenda through the congress.

So yes, the way the Senate normally works, John McCain will be more able to "get things done." But it won't be because he's more willing to compromise. It's because Republicans won't and Democrats will under a Republican president. A Democratic president has to deal with recalcitrant Republicans as well as preening Democrats who only show their "courage" when it comes to standing up to other Democrats. It's a completely different dynamic based upon the conventional wisdom that Democratic courage is defined by how much you betray your own voters. (Republican courage is defined by agitating for violence and bloodshed as often as possible.)

The key to understanding how the elders define bipartisanship is recognizing that whatever your beliefs or principles, you "get things done" in Washington by doing what conservatives want you to do.