I’ve written about this tension before, but today’s Bob Herbert column in the Times makes me think of it a whole lot more, with respect to Obama and the Republican congressional opposition.

President Obama almost killed the bill because he bent so far backwards at first to accommodate Republicans looking for “bipartisanship.” In reality, they wanted nothing of the sort. President Obama and Democrats have been using the argument that bipartisanship is not limited to a vote. But for the purpose of this post, let’s say that it was.

We’d have a president who is committed to providing a government that works — not necessarily a Democratic government or a Republican government, but one that is efficient and fights for the needs of the American people. He goes into detail with Herbert here:

“My job is to help the country take the long view — to make sure that not only are we getting out of this immediate fix, but we’re not repeating the same cycle of bubble and bust over and over again; that we’re not having the same energy conversation 30 years from now that we had 30 years ago; that we’re not talking about the state of our schools in the exact same ways we were talking about them in the 1980s; and that at some point we say, ‘You know what? If we’re spending more money per-capita on health care than any nation on earth, then you’d think everybody would have coverage and we would see lower costs for average consumers, and we’d have better outcomes.’ ”

Then, along come the Republicans. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has already been found to have joined John Boehner in demanding that other House Republicans unanimously oppose Obama’s stimulus package — immediately after President Obama spoke to the Republican House conference. What a stunning example of the bipartisanship for which the GOP has been clamoring. Nothing like doing as you say.

We then have the same Cantor creating a YouTube video, patting himself on the back for succesfully shepherding each House Republican away from principled pragmatism and actual bipartisanship. Does this look like someone interested in sitting down and having a serious conversation?

Yes, this all depends on the stimulus being successful. But right now, is there any better clarification out there for the difference between the two parties? President Obama, who again, has done more than he’s needed to do to include Republicans in constructing policy, is given a unanimous rejection by the House Republicans. President Obama easily appears to be the forward-looking leader on the side of the American people. Congressional Republicans are channeling Newt Gingrich. This is a big difference.