How gracious of President Bush that now, after six years in office, and only after the opposition literally seized Congress from his party's control, he wishes to seek common ground with them.
Only a week before the election, Bush spat out one of the most vicious comments imaginable during what is supposed to be a civil political rivalry. "However they put it," Bush said during a Texas appearance, "the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses."
Such a comment can't be excused as mere political posturing, as one might dismiss the schoolyard taunts of children. Bush's slash at the opposition was a presidential declaration that a majority of America's voters (and now, more than half the members of Congress) are knowingly or unwittingly aligned with terrorists. That goes far beyond simply disagreeing on national policy; it suggested half of America deserves to be ostracized and demonized as dangerous to the nation's interests.
And now Bush seeks accord with those he depicted as virtual domestic devils just two weeks ago? Talk about your classic flip-flops.
If Bush today can advocate working with the opposition, why not six years ago? Or four? Or two, when he narrowly won his return to the White House yet audaciously claimed a dubious "mandate" and ownership of a treasury of political capital he intended to spend as only he saw fit?
Bush opted for megalomania over statesmanship. A true statesman would have listened to the opposition, weighed and responded to their concerns, acknowledged their patriotism and worthiness, and compromised at times, despite his position of political strength. Imagine how different the political atmosphere of this country might be today had Bush chosen that path.
Instead, Bush chose to play exclusively to his party's base, evidently presuming the opposition would remain forever neutered. Meanwhile, drunk with what they surely considered unchallengeable and ever-expanding power, the GOP imploded in hubris and scandal, featuring astonishing greed a la Jack Abramoff, and astoundingly poor judgment a la Mark Foley.
If Bush truly wants to set a new tone of political cooperation, dismissing Secretary of Defense and chief Iraq war architect Donald Rumsfeld is only half of the required purge. He must also fire Karl Rove.
Rove, Bush's top political strategist, has been most responsible for the GOP's "secure the base and scourge the opposition" strategy. Although one hopes the Democrats will respond in a more mature and diplomatic fashion now than did Bush after his party's success in 2004, who could blame them if they opted to give Bush the Marie Antoinette treatment? That's how the Republicans have played the game - taking no prisoners - the last six years.
Cooperating with one's opposition is the desired and preferable approach in a modern, functional democracy, but it isn't part of the Rovian playbook. It's hard to grasp just how destructive this approach has been to America, but it is aptly exemplified by Bush's inability to listen to his critics and dump Rumsfeld earlier, which might have mitigated GOP losses on Election Day, and by his outrageous Texas blurt virtually accusing Democrats of being al-Qaeda accomplices.
Thanks to Bush's dutiful march to Rove's cadence, millions of loyal Americans have been publicly and personally accused of hating America; of loving or siding with terrorists; of wanting U.S. troops to fail; of being motivated only by hatred and political expediency; of being disloyal, unpatriotic, even traitorous.
The importance of this latest election is not that Democrats won control of Congress, but that the current incarnation of the GOP was brought to heel by a disgruntled American public. No single party should ever be larger than America; nor should any segment of the populace ever be demeaned and rendered irrelevant, as Rove's strategies promoted.
Only by firing Rove can Bush begin to send a genuine signal to the nation that he is a changed and chastened man. After flipping the bird at his critics for six years, it will take much more than simply talking nice and inviting the incoming House speaker and Senate president to the White House for Bush to demonstrate his alleged new consciousness.
Until he breaks with Rove, Bush will remain a man in denial.
Robert Steinback is a former columnist for The Miami Herald, now on a one-year sabbatical.