In a sit-down interview with The New Republic released today, President Barack Obama cast blame on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh for shaping compromise as a “dirty word.”
Obama talked about the recent deal to avert the fiscal cliff, saying he thought House Speaker “genuinely wanted” to come to a deal sooner but felt he was vulnerable to attack from the right.
Here’s the relevant excerpt:
I think if you talk privately to Democrats and Republicans, particularly those who have been around for a while, they long for the days when they could socialize and introduce bipartisan legislation and feel productive. So I don’t think the issue is whether or not there are people of goodwill in either party that want to get something done. I think what we really have to do is change some of the incentive structures so that people feel liberated to pursue some common ground.
One of the biggest factors is going to be how the media shapes debates. If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you’ll see more of them doing it.
I think John Boehner genuinely wanted to get a deal done, but it was hard to do in part because his caucus is more conservative probably than most Republican leaders are, and partly because he is vulnerable to attack for compromising Republican principles and working with Obama.
Obama said the same thing happens with the far left — but that “left-leaning media outlets” are more willing to accept compromise. In turn, that’s why Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are willing to compromise, Obama said.
Obama also criticized how the media in general shapes partisan gridlock in Washington as a two-party issue. He suggested that it’s a handful of conservative Republicans preventing compromise:
[L]et me be clear. There’s not a — there’s no equivalence there. In fact, that’s one of the biggest problems we’ve got in how folks report about Washington right now, because I think journalists rightly value the appearance of impartiality and objectivity. And so the default position for reporting is to say, “A plague on both their houses.” On almost every issue, it’s, “Well, Democrats and Republicans can’t agree”—as opposed to looking at why is it that they can’t agree. Who exactly is preventing us from agreeing?