Harry Hamburg/AP Photo
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA).
Harry Hamburg/AP Photo
The conversation aired Thursday that All Things Considered co-host Steve Inskeep had with Rep. Dave Dreier, a California Republican in line to become chair of the House Rules Committee, was one more indicator of just how difficult it will be for President Obama to find common ground with House Republicans.
There are two reasons for that observation. Dreier suggests Obama hasn't heretofore recognized that the country isn't liberal.
The congressman also claimed a mandate from midterm voters, presumably for House Republicans.
But the administration has clearly taken pains to appeal beyond its liberal base, to reach out to moderates and even conservatives, which is why the Democratic base has been disappointed with it.
And the midterm results seemed to be more about voter distress with the economy, an energized Republican base and an apathetic Democratic one, than anything else.
An interview excerpt:
STEVE: In a broader sense, is it in your party's interest right now to pass bipartisan legislation that the president would get to sign before the 2012 election?
DREIER: Absolutely, because I'm an American before I'm a Republican. There were some people who said "Gosh," as the campaign proceeded, "Why don't we come close to winning the majority but not quite do it so we can blame them for everything?"
And my response was: "This country can't wait two years." You know what, I really want to do things in a bipartisan way.
STEVE: Even if it means President Obama's re-election is enhanced?
DREIER: What's interesting is, I will tell you, one of the things I've said, Steve, is one of my goals is to make President Obama a better president. And the way to make him a better president is to have him move to the center and recognizing that the United States of America is a center-right nation.
STEVE: If he moves in your direction, are you going to be politically, and I'm speaking of Republicans collectively, politically in a position to move in his direction as well?
DREIER: Well, I think we can find areas of agreement. And I know that we are determined to do everything we can to make that possible as long as we don't forget the mandate that came from the election.
While Dreier sought to place the administration as consistently coming down on the liberal left, the president has clearly tried to position himself as a centrist pragmatist in any number of ways, as David Brooks noted earlier this year.
Obama's moves to include tax cuts in the economic stimulus, drop the public option from the health-care legislation and surge troops into Afghanistan were definitely not out of the liberal playbook.
If Obama and House Republicans can't agree on this, there's probably little else they'll be able to agree on in the next two years.
Meanwhile, a recent CNN/Opinion poll asked if voters thought the election results were more a mandate for Republicans or a rejection of Democratic policies.
Only 17 percent said it was a mandate for Republicans; 70 percent said it was a rejection of Democratic policies.
So Dreier is seeing something in the election that the Democratic White House surely doesn't.
Again, it's just one more piece of evidence for the expert's opinion that the next two years will be mostly a policy stalemate.