PBS NewsHour Guests Plot Ways Obama Can Push His Agenda in 2014

On Thursday night’s edition, the PBS NewsHour held a discussion about President Obama’s prospects for making 2014 more successful than 2013. Of course, the panelists defined success as the president enacting more of his left-of-center agenda.

Gerald Seib of The Wall Street Journal posed a “really interesting strategic choice” that he thought the White House had to make:


"Is the road back to cooperate with congressional Republicans?... Or do they simply confront congressional Republicans and make clear the differences between the two sides going into the midterm elections this year?"
 

Susan Page of USA Today weighed in on that choice with what she probably intended as a balanced answer. She said she thought the White House would try to work with congressional Republicans on some things, such as immigration reform. But on other issues, according to Page, Obama will need to take a hard line:
 

But you go to an issue like climate change or income inequality, which is another issue you have heard President Obama talking about.  Hard to see Republicans, especially in the House, going along with his proposals on those.  And therefore he needs a policy on those issues maybe more of confrontation or of trying to use executive orders and other executive powers to bring about change.
 

The underlying assumption is that Obama must implement his agenda, even if it means bullying or bypassing Congress. Compromise is good only on issues like immigration, where many Republicans share the president’s goals. But for those truly contentious issues on which the parties are miles apart, Obama mustn’t even try to meet the GOP in the middle. He must leap over them to force his proposals onto the American people.

Anchor Judy Woodruff played into this line of thinking when she asked Page this question:

 

"Susan, how much of all this does depend on whether the Republicans are ready to play, so to speak, really want to work with him on a few things?"

 

Compromise is indeed the best path to follow in a representative republic with diverse viewpoints. However, compromise will also depend on whether President Obama is willing to work with Republicans on the tough issues, not just the easy ones.

Below is a transcript of the segment:


GERALD SEIB: I think beyond that, they have a really interesting strategic choice to make at the White House.  Is the road back to cooperate with congressional Republicans, and did the budget deal that was reached at the end of 2013 suggest there's a path forward in cooperation?  Or do they simply confront congressional Republicans and make clear the differences between the two sides going into the midterm elections this year?

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Susan, do you think they have made a decision about that?

Of course, there are different issues out there that we're talking about, immigration.  There are others.  Is this something they're going to decide on a case-by-case basis?

SUSAN PAGE:  Well, I think on some things they will try to cooperate.

And immigration is probably the best example of that, because there perhaps is the possibility of getting some immigration legislation through the House.  You know, a bipartisan bill did get through the Senate last year.  There's some hope of building on that, although it's a tough issue and it's an issue in which the parties are divided.



But you go to an issue like climate change or income inequality, which is another issue you have heard President Obama talking about.  Hard to see Republicans, especially in the House, going along with his proposals on those.  And therefore he needs a policy on those issues maybe more of confrontation or of trying to use executive orders and other executive powers to bring about change.

***

WOODRUFF:  Susan, how much of all this does depend on whether the Republicans are ready to play, so to speak, really want to work with him on a few things?  Clearly, this is a congressional election year.  They're going to have their mind, as are Democrats, on what happens this spring in the primaries and then in the fall.

PAGE:  So, Republicans need to calculate what is going to serve their interests in the 2014 midterm elections.

But the Republicans are divided.  You know, there is a civil war going on in the Republican Party between those Tea Party conservatives who have really had the upper hand since 2010 and more establishment Republicans, more mainstream Republicans, including some of the business interests, some of the big donors, who want to steer a different path.

And that may make -- that may create opportunities for President Obama to make deals with that part of the party.  But it also may create problems in trying to deal with a divided enemy.
 

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.