Faux Bipartisanship?

On the Daily Beast, Reihan Salam explains that the time for bipartisanship is over. The bolded take-away:

Instead of lecturing Republican legislators, President Obama has to start knocking Democratic heads and gear up for passing more legislation through reconciliation, leaving his Republican rivals sputtering with ineffectual rage.

Andrew Sullivan, though, takes from the article a point on the illusive nature of Obama’s brand of bipartisanship:

[W]hen the president claims that the Senate health-care bill he still hopes to salvage includes many Republican ideas, he’s stretching. Republicans wanted interstate competition for insurance policies, allowing New Yorkers to buy South Dakota policies that have fewer expensive mandates. The bill allows states to form interstate compacts, allowing New York to decide that New Yorkers can buy policies from certain other states—almost certainly other states with similarly stiff regulations. Just as the Harlem Globetrotters always choose to play the hapless Washington Generals, this isn’t a real competition: It has the form of a Republican idea, but not the substance. [. . . .] 

There is something condescending about this faux bipartisanship. It fools no one but the gullible or the deliberately obtuse, and it obscures a real and legitimate debate.

An emphasis on whether Obama’s bipartisanship is genuine, however, misses the larger argument. It may in fact be correct that Obama only provides the appearance of compromise, but Reihan’s larger point, that the President should at this point abandon bipartisanship, overwhelms such petty distinctions, because Republicans wouldn’t care either way. The notion that nuanced policy analysis matters to our honorable friends opposite finds no support whatsoever in the record. If Republicans actually wanted a debate on the merits, we could fault Obama for providing a shell of bipartisanship. But at no point have Congressional Republicans even sought the appearance, much less the actuality, of a policy debate. At all points, they’ve fought this issue at the existential level — Regulation is socialism, Spending is bad (when Democrats do it), government-made care decisions will kill Trig, etc. To ask whether or not we’ve been bipartisan enough requires that we first embrace the fiction that it would’ve or could now change something. That I cannot do.

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