Intentionally or unintentionally, my sense is that the White House came out of Baltimore thinking they are now on to something, and I hope the Republicans took the same lesson away.
Constructive good faith political engagement in Washington actually works.
It is just incredible that House Minority Leader John Boehner has had not direct contact with the White House for about a year. A pox on both their houses for that. The party leadership never talks to each other--save being across the table from one another on talk shows. The two sides just level charges and counter charges at each other apparently never caring whether they actually accomplish some good policy for the rest of us.
But a funny thing happened in the midst of Friday's photo-op meeting between the President and the Republican House caucus. Good faith, an airing of ideas, and a mutual respect of each other's views actually resulted in both a political coup for both sides and some very first level progress on important issues--not the least was health care.
Can you believe it? Good manners and good intentions actually have a political value!
I will suggest that the next best step is for the President to take the lead in inviting the Republican and Democratic leadership to the White House on a regular basis in an attempt to broker some real progress on the important issues. If the President wants to turn his job approval ratings around that kind of good faith leadership would take them to the stratosphere.
I am not suggesting that the very thin Republican "play book" has any big ideas for health care reform. But I do believe that many of the Democratic ideas to cover 30 million people could be embraced by lots of Republicans if the two sides could show each other some respect and not just try to jam the majorities' ideological ideas (Republican or Democratic) down the other's throat. It wouldn't also hurt the Democrats to concede some points to the Republicans.
As bad as the left has been recently in thinking they were just going to ram a health care bill their way because of the results of the last election, I saw the right do exactly the same thing when they had control in recent years. (Remember the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee who tried to get the minority Democrats arrested for boycotting a meeting?) That kind of "take no prisoners" approach to government is what is really at the heart of gridlock while the country just continues to drift downward.
Worst case, if we did see a real effort and it eventually broke down, the side that would lose would be the side that didn't behave themselves. Now that would be a political outcome we could all live with.
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