The Washington Post
Nov. 20, 2012
In politics, there is an accepted script that follows a presidential election. With election-night optimism, the winning leader promises the American people he will reach out in a bipartisan fashion, work across the aisle and reject politics as usual.
President Obama has won reelection. Yet he still must win over the people who can help him govern effectively. To do so, he must translate the public words of bipartisanship into meaningful action in private negotiations with Republican leaders, so together they can break the partisan gridlock and address our fiscal challenges. That won’t be easy, but it can be done.
The president has taken an important first step by embracing his role as “Convener in Chief.” In doing so, he can build personal bonds with and between members of Congress. When I was elected Senate majority leader in 1989, I promised then-minority leader Bob Dole that I would never surprise him or criticize him, in public or in private. He responded in kind. We debated vigorously but kept it civil, and we compromised. It meant we didn’t always get 100 percent of what we fought for, but everyone took a step forward. It’s easier, after all, to solve problems with people you know and like.
But the patterns that historically enabled friendships and legislative partnerships are mostly absent in the current routines of Washington life. Gone are the days of senators from opposing parties having dinner together, as Bob Dole and I regularly did. Or working together on outside projects, as Bill Cohen and I did when we coauthored a book on the Iran-contra scandal. Now, many members of Congress sleep in their offices, fearful that setting down even temporary roots in the nation’s capital will somehow tarnish their reputation at home.
Read the full op-ed here
2012 Politics , Bipartisanship