Monday, January 21, 2013

Obama's Post-Partisan Promise Mellows Amid First Term Gridlock

WASHINGTON -- As President Barack Obama enters his second term, his aides have concluded he likely will fall short on one of his signature promises.

Barring some collectively cathartic Beltway experience, the Obama administration will not usher in an era of post-partisanship. The forces of gridlock continue to have the upper hand, and they will have a tangible impact on the president's tactics and ambitions.

Obama and his aides are neither fretting nor apologizing. Rather, while expressing a continued preference for politics by consensus, they are embracing the need for a more aggressive, even confrontational approach. The president signaled as much by vowing simply to not negotiate with Republicans over raising the debt ceiling. He upped the ante with the introduction of his gun policy reforms, which were more comprehensive than expected.

The message was solidified this past week with the announcement that Obama for America -- the organization that lifted the president to two election victories -- would be converted to a non-profit entity for the express purpose of pushing the White House's agenda in Obama's second term. One senior administration official was practically giddy about the prospect of using the organization's massive email list for policy purposes, admitting the campaign group had failed to do so effectively during the president's first term.

The White House has made similar boasts before, so skeptics have their reasons. But this time, a dysfunctional Washington and a weakened but more dogmatic Republican Party make a combative strategy the best option.

"Obviously, we hoped for something better," conceded David Axelrod, Obama's longtime adviser, in an interview. “And to the extent that the president can do more, he will. But this is largely a function of a decision on the Republican Party to try and thwart him at every turn as a political strategy."

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