Hosting the nation's governors at the White House, Obama singled out Gov. Bill Haslam as a flexible leader House and Senate Republicans should imitate. The mention came right after the president slammed fiscal hawks for refusing to bend on $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to begin Friday.
Nine congressional Republicans call Tennessee home and consider Haslam an important political ally. But unlike them, Obama hinted, governors know "compromise is essential to getting things done."
"That's how Governor Haslam balanced his budget last year in Tennessee while still investing in key areas like education for Tennessee's kids," Obama said. "Like the rest of us, [he knows] we can't just cut our way to prosperity. Cutting alone is not an economic policy."
I admit, I laughed. Who knew "compromise" entitled vetoing fewer than a handful of bills and otherwise going along with whatever the state legislature wanted? But let's be real. This isn't so much about Obama's love for Haslam and his policies as it is Obama causing a little trouble for the Republicans' "star you've never heard of."
After all, if there's one thing conservatives hate — locally and nationally — it's Obama. (Though, strangely, for as much as they hate him, who can forget how Marsha Blackburn wants to vacation with him?) So Obama is doing Haslam no favors by getting up and talking about how much he loves the governor's positions. All that does is slip the splinter of suspicion in conservatives' minds about Haslam. How conservative can he really be if Obama likes him?
Obama's got it figured out that the way to slow a Republican star's ascent within the party is to embrace him. After all, it worked on Chris Christie.