Reporter's Note: President Obama had a pretty hard core sit down with the GOP crowd over their differences. It produced a wild array of headlines, and of course, a subject for my daily letter to the White House.
Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
This meeting you had with the Republicans created quite a stir in D.C., and I must say I like the idea of more like it. Throw the whole bunch, Dems, Repubs, and Indies into a room; toss in an idea like a fumbled football, and let them thrash it out under the TV lights. What fun! It kind of goes along with my longstanding idea that political races should actually be “races.” But that’s for another day.
Back on topic: There is a widespread sense that this was a case of you taking on the opposition; standing up in the lion’s den, refuting their most egregious false claims, and calling them to join in a new effort of honesty, openness and cooperation. Now, I have a one sentence suggestion that, I suspect, can make all the difference in whether that initiative proves effective: Do the same thing with the Democrats.
You don’t have to spend more than a day chatting up the power players in the Capitol, to realize that each party has an ample supply of folks who are quick to blame the opposition for anything that goes wrong, who readily cite incomplete statistics or evidence, and who raise the sword of false accusations in a heartbeat. A president who challenges such behavior in the opposing party is really nothing new. A president who will do the same in his own party…well, that would be interesting.
Imagine if you held the exact same televised event that you had with the Republicans, but this time with the room full of Democrats. Imagine yourself, just as strongly, excoriating them for the things they have done to discourage bipartisanship, mislead the public, and undermine civil debate. Show just as much fervor, just as much passion, and just as much distain for the behavior that has kept progress waiting. I know it’s your own party, and philosophically you would tend to agree with more. But the health care debate alone proves that there is plenty of room for you to take your own party to task.
I think voters need to see you strenuously ripping into the stalemated, power-greedy, and small-minded players who so often drag our governmental process into the mud, and you need to do that regardless of their affiliation. And if voters witness that kind of political courage and commitment to the common good, over party expediency, you will be astonished at how quickly the polls turn in your favor, and the wind of public support starts filling your sails again.
The simple truth is the problem in Washington has never been that the parties don’t see bad behavior across the aisle. The problem has always been that they are unable, or unwilling to see it among their own. The extremist forces on the left, can only be contained by the moderate forces on the left. And the same applies on the right. When Democrats police their own ranks, and Republicans police their own, too…then, maybe, you’ll start seeing the changes you called for. But right now, you’re the most powerful Democrat in the land, and unless you are willing to take that step with your own party, don’t expect anyone else too, and don’t expect much to come of your latest calls for change.
Speaking off calls, I really am beginning to think we’re going to make it all the way through January (again!) without you giving me a buzz. Is this possible? I fear you are even busier than I imagine…
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