President Barack Obama needs to “pulverize” and “destroy” his Republican opponents if he wants to leave any kind of legacy — according to CBS News’ political director.
“Go for the throat!” declares the title of John Dickerson’s latest column for Slate, posted Friday. Its subtitle: “Why if he wants to transform American politics, Obama must declare war on the Republican Party.”
In it, Dickerson — who was named CBS News political director in 2011 — says Obama, facing political gridlock and endless clashes with House Republicans, has the challenge of “how to be great when the environment stinks”:
The president who came into office speaking in lofty terms about bipartisanship and cooperation can only cement his legacy if he destroys the GOP. If he wants to transform American politics, he must go for the throat.
How should the president proceed then, if he wants to be bold? The Barack Obama of the first administration might have approached the task by finding some Republicans to deal with and then start agreeing to some of their demands in hope that he would win some of their votes. It’s the traditional approach. Perhaps he could add a good deal more schmoozing with lawmakers, too.
That’s the old way. He has abandoned that. He doesn’t think it will work and he doesn’t have the time. As Obama explained in his last press conference, he thinks the Republicans are dead set on opposing him. They cannot be unchained by schmoozing. Even if Obama were wrong about Republican intransigence, other constraints will limit the chance for cooperation. Republican lawmakers worried about primary challenges in 2014 are not going to be willing partners. He probably has at most 18 months before people start dropping the lame-duck label in close proximity to his name.
Obama’s only remaining option is to pulverize. Whether he succeeds in passing legislation or not, given his ambitions, his goal should be to delegitimize his opponents. Through a series of clarifying fights over controversial issues, he can force Republicans to either side with their coalition’s most extreme elements or cause a rift in the party that will leave it, at least temporarily, in disarray.