Obama’s Only Compliment For GOP: You Agree With Me

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Barack Obama’s Jan. 3 statement marking the death of former GOP Senator Ed Brooke included the highest possible compliment that Obama can give to a Republican — that the Republican conceded to Democrats.

“During his time in elected office [Brooke] sought to build consensus and understanding across partisan lines, always working towards practical solutions to our nation’s challenges,” said the Jan. 3 official statement about Brooke, who was the first popularly elected African-American Senator to the U.S. Senate.

Obama’s backhanded compliment is very different from the praise usually lavished on the people that Democrats want to associate themselves with, including failed progressives.

“An Italian Catholic kid from Queens, born to immigrant parents, Mario [Cuomo] paired his faith in God and faith in America to live a life of public service – and we are all better for it,” Obama’s statement said Jan. 1 after Cuomo died.

Democratic Rep. Donald Payne “made it his mission to fight for working families, increase the minimum wage, ensure worker safety, guarantee affordable health care and improve the educational system,” said a March 2012 statement marking Payne’s death. “He was a leader in US-Africa policy, making enormous contributions towards helping restore democracy and human rights across the continent.”

Brooke was a GOP senator who was elected in 1966 and 1972 in Massachusetts.

He was a WW2 combat veteran, and the first African-American elected to the Senate. Brooke downplayed racial conflict, saying in 1966 that “I do not intend to be a national leader of the Negro people.”

Obama’s statement acknowledged Brooke’s ability to rise above racial discord, but refused to praise Brooke’s color-blind attitude towards race.

The White House statement even implied that Brooke played a passive role in U.S. politics. “As the first African-American elected as a state’s Attorney General and first African-American U.S. Senator elected after reconstruction, Ed Brooke stood at the forefront of the battle for civil rights and economic fairness,” read the Obama statement.

The restrained language is absent in the White House statement’s about the death of people that Democrats like.

The co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs “transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world,” said Obama’s October 2011 statement on Jobs’ passing.

Arthur Sulzberger, the patriarch of the family that owns The New York Times “was a firm believer in the importance of a free and independent press — one that isn’t afraid to seek the truth, hold those in power accountable, and tell the stories that need to be told,” said the Sept. 2012 statement about his death.

“Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Donna Summer,” said a short statement in May 2012 about the passing of singer Donna Summer. “A five-time Grammy Award winner, Donna truly was the ‘Queen of Disco.’ Her voice was unforgettable, and the music industry has lost a legend far too soon.”

Obama turned the praise for Nelson Mandela up to 11 on the dial, even on the one-year anniversary of his death. “One year ago the world lost a leader whose struggle and sacrifices inspired us to stand up for our fundamental principles, whose example reminded us of the enduring need for compassion, understanding, and reconciliation, and whose vision saw the promise of a better world,” read a December 2014 statement.

In contrast, Obama offers little praise in statements marking the death of GOP politicians.

The GOP leaders’ efforts to promote freedom and to shrink government are airbrushed out, and they’re tepidly lauded for making concessions to Democrats’ government expanding wishes.

In June 2014, former GOP Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker was praised for “his ability to broker compromise and his unofficial role as the ‘Great Conciliator’ that won him admirers across party lines.”

Democratic Cuomo, however, “rose to be chief executive of the state he loved, a determined champion of progressive values, and an unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity, and opportunity,” said the White House’s fulsome statement.

Cuomo’s progressive values, however, helped cause New York’s median income fall throughout his term. The state’s economy and population grew slowly. In 1960, Nw York was the most populous state in the nation. By 2014, under the gubernatorial tenure of Cuomo’s son, Andrew Cuomo, New York’s population fell into fourth place, below Florida’s population.

The Oct. 2013 death of GOP Rep. Bill Young allowed Obama another opportunity to praise GOP legislators who submit to Democratic priorities. “He will be remembered for his advocacy and support for the armed forces, service members, and their families as well as his statesmanship and long history of working across the aisle to keep our country moving forward,” read the official statement.

In December 2014, Obama praised a deceased Illinois Republican, but focused largely for her cooperation with Democrats. Illinois State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka “was a fierce advocate for her constituents, which I got to see firsthand when she was State Treasurer… She was blunt, pragmatic, unfailingly cheerful and energetic, and always willing to put politics aside to find commonsense solutions that made a difference for the people of Illinois.”

Obama’s self-serving praise for Republicans compromisers is very different from President George W. Bush’s statements marking the deaths of his political rivals and critics.

In August 2008, he marked the death of Democratic Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, saying “she devoted her career to serving her community at both the State and national levels… after making history as the first African American woman elected to Congress from Ohio, the Congresswoman worked to expand the rights of all Americans. Our Nation is grateful for her service.”

In November 2006, Bush complimented a CBS reporter at a time when most of the D.C.-based media hated his guts. “For over forty years, the American people have turned to Ed [Bradley] as a trusted source of information about events that have shaped our Nation… [he was] one of the most accomplished journalists of our time.”

Obama’s “Good Republican compromiser” theme recurs in statements from Vice President Joe Biden.

In August 2014, Biden praised Sen. Jim Jeffords, who turned his coat in 2001 to become a Democratic senator. His secret switch gave Democrats a bare majority in the Senate, greatly complicating then-President George W. Bush’s agenda.

“He was a man who dealt with his colleagues without pretext and with complete honesty… Jim was a reflection of Vermont—independent and non-ideological and always about solving problems,” Biden’s statement said.

“Jim knew that with a country as diverse as ours, there is a need for consensus to move the country forward,” said Biden’s eulogy.

Follow Neil on Twitter

Neil Munro