Our view: Being bipartisan doesn’t always mean being right

DKS Editors

Lots of things in this world are better bi – the prefix meaning two, that is.

We have a bicameral legislature as a result of a really great compromise.

That’s good.

People who are bilingual tend to be more marketable than unilinguals. That’s good.

What about bipartisan? Well, it sounds good.

Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona made himself the most outspoken critic of President Barack Obama’s methods for pushing the economic stimulus bill through Congress. The $787 billion economic stimulus bill passed through both houses – only three Republican senators voted in favor – and is waiting for Obama’s signature.

“The measure is not bipartisan,” McCain said. And, “It was a bad beginning because it wasn’t what we promised the American people, what President Obama promised the American people, that we would sit down together.”

There’s a myth circulating right now about the merits of bipartisan legislation. Perhaps a history lesson will clear it up.

In 1964, Congressmen and Senators voted 504-2 in favor of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that gave President Lyndon Johnson authority to send troops to Vietnam. The United States gained nothing from that war and lost billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

The 2001 Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act was relatively bipartisan, especially considering the president at the time. It passed both houses of the split Congress, 292-235, and, as evidenced by this recession, it didn’t work.

Even the authorization to go to Iraq was approved by Congress, 373-156. Now every notable Democrat, except Joe Lieberman and many reluctant Republicans agree the War in Iraq was a failure.

Positive legislation has passed with bipartisan congressional support, too.

The Civil Rights Amendments and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 each passed with favor from both parties. And the State Children’s Health Insurance Program had bipartisan agreement, even though President George Bush vetoed it in spite of most of his own party (Obama finally signed it this month).

What we learn is that bipartisanship doesn’t mean legislation is good, nor does it mean

it’s bad.

Politicians, including Obama, have made it a talking point and a goal. Despite earning no votes from the House in passing the stimulus bill, Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod said, “The package reflects the thinking of members of both parties.”

But our Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland told the administration not to worry so much about getting Republicans involved and just to pass the legislation.

“I think (Obama) has made a Herculean effort to be bipartisan,” Strickland said.

We won’t here mention Bush’s eight years of Herculean effort.

Obama and the congressional majority earned their seats over Republicans by Democratic election. That’s good enough.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.