Take a look at this picture taken yesterday (and offered at high resolution by change.gov) of Obama and Biden's visit to the Supreme Court.
Consider two things this picture and visit reveal. First, this is the third time in recent decades that a president- and vice president-elect have paid a pre-inaugural visit to the court. (Understandably, W. didn't go in 2001. He had a much briefer transition, was therefore busier, and probably wanted to avoid the appearance of impropriety given that it was the court that crowned him.) All well and good, but I'm less impressed by the visit than I am this photograph.
If you don't have your Supreme Court trading cards handy, the man to Obama's right is Antonin Scalia, arguably the most conservative and certainly the most outspoken justice. This is the guy who cited Jack Bauer when talking terror and excusing torture. This is the guy who went duck hunting with Dick Cheney before considering the GAO's lawsuit to retrieve records of Cheney's secret energy policy meetings in the spring of 2001. (Meetings, at which, we've since learned that detailed maps and analyses of Iraq's oil resources were presented and discussed. Just sayin'.) Scalia's the guy who argued that habeas corpus rights weren't meant to extend beyond the borders of the United States. Hooo-kaaaay. Score one for the Freedom Agenda.
In short, Scalia is a hard-line opponent of most of the Democratic, and certainly the Left's, principles and agenda.
And this is who the next president strolls out of the meeting with, still chatting. (And if Alito had shown up yesterday, it is not hard to imagine him rather than Ginsburg to Obama's left.)
If you've been following Obama's story, you'll know that this is par for the course with him. At Harvard, it was the conservative Federalist Society that helped vote him in as president of the law review. Members at the time have been quoted as saying that Obama was the only one who sat down and talked with them during his campaign. He could articulate their reasons, for instance, for opposing affirmative action better than they could, they said.
And, again: A coule nights ago, he went to dinner at conservative columnist George Will's house along with a handful of other conservative writers like Bill "Palin Roolz" Kristol and Fred "Bush Was Awesome Because He Exceeded His Authority" Barnes. With the mild exception of Will and Peggy Noonan, these writers poured out gallons of poison ink over the last year to prevent Obama's election. And yet he breaks bread with these people. Could you imagine a P-E McCain sitting down with Paul Krugman, Chris Hayes, and Eric Alterman? Hardly.
The trend we see from Obama, the pattern, is one in which he gravitates toward the person who's most likely to disagree with him. It's fascinating to see it repeat. He's simply not afraid to expose himself to contention, but in fact, appears to want it. We all should want to, of course, for the obvious benefits in learning something new and the opportunity to teach others. But how many of us actually make a point to spend time reading or talking to people we may dislike or who have said things about us that were damaging?
In other words, just take a look again at this post's title. This is what he said he would do during the campaign. It's why the vengeful part of me resisted supporting his candidacy initially. I wanted a fight, not negotiation, not compromise or appeasement. But, it turns out, that doesn't work. That needs to end.
Obama's extended his hand to that 75% of Republicans (!) who currently say they approve of the job George W. Bush did. If they slap it away, that's on them. But they can't say he wasn't willing to hear them out. That he wasn't willing to walk with them rather than away from them.
It'll take some getting used to.