The Other Reason GOP Won't Work With Obama

Back when congressional Republicans actually made a deal with the president, he got the credit.

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But whether you accept conventional wisdom that he hasn't cracked enough congressional heads -- Lyndon Johnson style -- or you believe GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania when he says that gun control was filibustered "because the president wanted to do it," when it comes to legislative gridlock, Obama has clearly had plenty of help from legislators.

Even though, of course, it doesn't have to be this way. Recall that right after Obama got "shellacked" in the 2010 midterms, he struck a win-win deal with Congress, caving on the Bush-era tax rates while getting in return the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell," extended benefits for the long-term unemployed and an up-or-down vote on the DREAM Act (ultimately defeated).

This could have been the model for future negotiations between Obama and the GOP, right? No matter where you stand on the merits of the deal, it was a classic case in which both sides gave up something they didn't want in exchange for something they did want. That's proof they know how to negotiate, whether or not they'll do it anymore.

But then you further recall that initially, Republicans crowed and Democrats howled about that deal -- until the story changed, and Obama came out looking like the moderate man in the middle. Once that theme solidified, Republicans left the sandbox, took their toys and went home.

Right now, among many other issues, there are universal background checks and immigration reform on the table that can be exchanged for a budget deal and revamping the tax code. But a deal like that doesn't give congressional Republicans the one thing they apparently want more than a flatter tax code or more sensible budget cuts -- it doesn't help them throw sand on Obama.

Even Toomey admits that Republicans are trying to make Obama look bad. But it's even worse than that. They're not interested in looking good themselves if it means that he looks good, too.

David Swerdlick is a contributing editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

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