Michael Grunwald @MikeGrunwald Senior writer, @POLITICOMag. Editor-at-large, The Agenda. Author of The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era. Apr. 25, 2019 3 min read

I notice the "stupid @JoeBiden believes in compromise with Republicans" theme is taking off in Twitterland. I spent a lot of time with Biden for my stimulus book so allow me to interject a bit of nuance. 1

First of all, it's basically true. As a general matter Biden believes in compromise. It's worth noting that most Democratic primary voters, unlike most Republican primary voters, tell pollsters they believe in compromise. But yes, Biden likes dealmaking. 2

Even more damning to some Democrats, Biden believes in bipartisan compromise. Again, most Democrats agree with him. But he does love bragging about his good working relationships with Republicans, and not just moderate Republicans. 3

Now let's talk about the Obama era. The prevailing narrative is that DC Republicans were hellbent on destroying Obama's presidency, uninterested in any compromise. I know this because my reporting on GOP plotting in late 08/early 09 helped create that narrative. 4

Here's my Party of No piece on the R's plotting to oppose everything Obama did before he even took office.  http://swampland.time.com/2012/08/23/the-party-of-no-new-details-on-the-gop-plot-to-obstruct-obama/  Here's the book it's adapted from, which is still available for purchase!  https://www.amazon.com/New-Deal-Hidden-Story-Change/dp/1451642334/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=grunwald+the+new+new+deal&qid=1556225806&s=books&sr=1-1-catcorr  5

So...why was Uncle Joe such a doddering sucker? Why did he think the R's would do anything to help Obama? Actually, he wasn't, and he didn't. 6

In fact, Biden told me that before Obama took office, seven GOP senators told him they weren't going to be able to help him on anything. I confirmed Bob Bennett & Arlen Specter. John McCain & Lindsey Graham were clearly back-channeling too. 7

"I promise you--and the president agreed with me--I never thought we were going to get Republican support," Biden told me. He would've loved to do big bipartisan legislation but he knew that most of the time the best the WH could hope for was picking off a few R's. 8

On the stimulus, for example, the WH needed to pick off three Republican senators if they wanted to have an economic recovery bill. So Biden basically spent January and February 09 stalking Susan Collins, Arlen Specter & Olympia Snowe. He begged and he bribed. And it worked. 9

Biden was also the chief lobbyist pestering Specter to flip parties. That eventually worked, too, and if it hadn't the Democrats wouldn't have had 60 votes for Obamacare. 10

And after the GOP landslide in 2010, Biden negotiated a deal with Mitch McConnell that probably saved Obama's reelection. It got $300B in new stimulus, including a payroll tax cut, and allowed D's to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell & ratify the START treaty before R's took over. 11

The deal did extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich for another two years; a follow-up deal after Obama's reelection killed most of them. There was also an estate tax cut the WH hated. But after a GOP landslide, it was a surprisingly good deal. 12

Now these were not perfect deals. And many liberals will never forgive Obama and Biden for pursuing a "Grand Bargain" that never ended up happening. Fair enough. Reasonable people can disagree about the substance of any deal, and even about what was politically possible. 13

I'm not making a case for Biden's candidacy. And I've said before I find his confidence in his skills as a campaigner rather baffling. 14

What I'm saying is this: The notion that Biden was or is naive about the obstructionism of the modern Republican Party is silly. And the notion that good relationships with obstructionist Republicans are totally useless is also silly. 15

There's a deeper point here about the misreading of the Obama era. Liberals have convinced themselves that Obama somehow gave away the store to Republicans, and that his progressive stuff could have been much more progressive, but I'll save that discussion for another day. 16

This is about Biden. He says goofy things, and sometimes he does goofy things, but there's no need to create a straw-man Biden. He does like compromise. He does get along with some Republicans. And it was useful for Obama that both of those things were true. END


You can follow @MikeGrunwald.



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