In a passage from his 2006 book, "The Audacity of Hope," [Obama] sounds like a Republican complaining about the stimulus. "Genuine bipartisanship," he wrote, "assumes an honest process of give-and-take, and that the quality of the compromise is measured by how well it serves some agreed-upon goal, whether better schools or lower deficits. This in turn assumes that the majority will be constrained -- by an exacting press corps and ultimately an informed electorate -- to negotiate in good faith.
"If these conditions do not hold -- if nobody outside Washington is really paying attention to the substance of the bill, if the true costs . . . are buried in phony accounting and understated by a trillion dollars or so -- the majority party can begin every negotiation by asking for 100% of what it wants, go on to concede 10%, and then accuse any member of the minority party who fails to support this 'compromise' of being 'obstructionist.'
"For the minority party in such circumstances, 'bipartisanship' comes to mean getting chronically steamrolled, although individual senators may enjoy certain political rewards by consistently going along with the majority and hence gaining a reputation for being 'moderate' or 'centrist.'"
For all of Mr. Obama's eloquence on the need for Democrats to be more respectful of religion, more willing to confront the teachers' unions, and more open to the opportunities of the market, when it comes time for action it's a different story. On issues from abortion to free trade, Mr. Obama's votes suggest a man careful not to do anything to offend the Democratic Party's most entrenched interest groups.