Here's Barack Obama at the past week's AFL-CIO debate, explaining why he took so long to come out against the Iraq War supplemental, and making me wonder if he's really that naive:
My hope was that we would start seeing some progress among the Republicans, where they would begin to agree with us on a timetable to withdraw.
Did he really think we could get enough Republican votes to end the war through some kind of bipartisan agreement? If so, he had no idea what the legislative state of play was until terribly late. And more importantly, he doesn't understand the contemporary Republican Party.
The vast majority of Republicans in both houses of Congress aren't the sort of people you can reason with, or negotiate with in good faith. The Iraq War is only the latest issue on which the politics of hope will leave you disappointed. Remember all the Democrats who made compromises with Republicans, only to see their side of the deal get ripped out in conference committee? Remember how Democrats came up with a nice proposal for a Department of Homeland Security, only to see Republicans load it with an anti-union poison pill and bash Max Cleland out of office for opposing the resulting monstrosity?
I don't doubt that Obama will be able to forge some useful compromises on low-profile issues that are relatively hard to demagogue. But attempting to negotiate or persuade House and Senate Republicans into a good-faith agreement on the Iraq War or health care reform or any major issue facing our country is just a lunch invitation for Karl Rove. The kind where you invite him to eat your lunch.
You don't negotiate with the contemporary Republican party or try to reason with them -- you use every bit of your power to crush them. Perhaps there will come a happy time in the future of our nation when we're dealing with a reasonable Republican Party, and then I'll really warm up to the idea of an Obama administration. But I don't see that time coming during the next presidential term.