Sen. Bob Corker tells Politico that the famous dinner talks President Obama held with him and other Republicans last year “were never serious” and actually “tore down trust.” On the other hand, he really enjoyed golfing with the president.
“We haven’t had the ability to solve the major problems of the day because he’s afraid of his base,” Corker said at a Christian Science Monitor Breakfast in downtown Washington. “So I would say to him: ‘Please don’t do that again, OK? Unless you’re in earnest wanting to solve a problem, don’t do that again. You’re better off not acting like you want to solve a problem when you really don’t want to solve it. That breaks down trust.’”
Obama seems to be taking that advice. With the exception of a private meeting with Speaker John Boehner earlier this week, Obama hasn’t reached out much to the GOP so far this year. He used the State of the Union address to say that he will take action using his executive authority if he can’t get past congressional Republicans.
While Corker was highly critical of the White House’s negotiating style, he praised Obama as a golf and dinner partner who “conducted himself very, very well” during meetings with his political opposition.
“I enjoyed it. People back home [in Tennessee] didn’t enjoy it so much, but I did,” Corker said of his golf outing with Obama. “We had to quit on [hole] 15 because we had a Senate vote and the president was visibly wanting to play three or four holes and finish this. And I enjoyed collecting the 20 bucks from him that he lost.”
Corker has, at times, played a conciliatory role by working with Senate Democrats on legislation and voting to move Obama’s nominees through the chamber. But he indicated that the Senate GOP’s dance with Obama last year has actually hurt bipartisan relations — and made him more distrustful of the White House.
“The last meeting that we had with them was about this one thing: Is the White House really interested in doing those things in a transformative way to save Medicare?” Corker said of the last meeting between the senators and Obama in August. “What they said is: The reason we got nowhere is because Republicans wouldn’t raise taxes. That wasn’t what the meeting was about!”
He added: “I wouldn’t engage in those conversations if I were them. Because I don’t think they were ever earnest. I think it was optics. It was disappointing.”