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First 100 Days: What is bipartisanship?

The Washington Post writes, "After a week of legislative successes for President Obama, Republicans seized on one asterisk: his inability to line up support from their ranks. As he heads into his second full week in office, members of both parties are waiting to see whether he will regard this as the failure that some have made it out to be -- and how much he is willing to alter his approach if he does."

Yet the paper makes this important point: "To Obama … fixing 'broken politics' is less about making concessions just for the sake of finding common ground and more about elevating the debate -- replacing cynical gamesmanship and immature name-calling with intellectually honest arguments and respect for the other side's motives. In his book 'The Audacity of Hope,' Obama waxes nostalgic about the fellowship and vigorous debate of Congress's halcyon days in the mid-20th century more than about the centrist deals the era produced."

More: "Obama's bipartisanship 'was as much about style, collegiality and civilness as it was actual movement on issues,' said state Sen. Kirk W. Dillard, who was Obama's closest Republican ally in the Illinois legislature. Obama did compromise on major bills on ethics and the death penalty as a state senator, but there were limits, Dillard said: 'He always listened to the other side and would move to some degree, but his bipartisanship was clearly about the tone and the way you treat one another . . . and trying to understand the other side -- and not necessarily all about caving in.'" 

E.J. Dionne says that Obama's "quest for a new tone in Washington also has a practical motive. He believes that economic recovery is about psychology as well as money and that Americans will have more confidence in the future if they see the nation's politicians cooperating to resolve the crisis. This may be true, but it creates a problem. If achieving bipartisanship takes priority over the actual content of policy, Republicans are handed a powerful weapon. In theory, they can keep moving the bipartisan bar indefinitely. And each concession to their sensibilities threatens the solidarity in the president's own camp."

Meanwhile, Judd Gregg as Commerce secretary looks like a done deal, but the formal announcement could come tomorrow, not today.

Gregg "has assured Senate colleagues that he would be replaced by a person aligned with Republicans even though the appointment would be made by the state's Democratic governor, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday."

The leading candidate to replace Gregg: J. Bonnie Newman, a Republican who was once Gregg's chief of staff.