The Washington Post
Nov. 20, 2012
When Barack Obama was a senator back in 2006, he once said “America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.” If past is prologue, we begin another administration with just as much partisanship and gridlock blocking the path ahead of us toward solving these two problems. The Republican House will feel like they must stop the excesses of the Obama administration, the Democratic Senate will want to advance the president’s agenda and the president will want to spend on his preferred programs. It is seemingly a recipe for disaster, but it can be avoided. It will take leadership, and leadership begins with the president.
This is not to say that leadership, as an entire concept, has gone missing. We have it in the form of iron wills, party loyalty, vision setting, unflinching principles—all of which can be leadership traits. But legislative leadership is the hallmark skill needed to make it in Washington. Without it, and a willingness from both parties to engage in negotiation, don’t expect results to differ from those of the past two years.
For more than 40 years I have closely watched Washington, D.C.—four years as a Democratic staff member, 16 years as a Republican House member and 19 years as a senator. One thing I have witnessed is that when one party controls all the levers of our nation’s capital, from the presidency to the House of Representatives to the Senate, they generally have overplayed their hand. It takes years to repair the damage.
Divided government has, in fact, worked on many occasions. President Reagan always had a House of Representatives controlled by Democrats, while President Clinton had six of his eight years controlled by Republicans. However, in order to work, the president has to have a love for the bargain.
Read the full op-ed here
Commission on Political Reform, 2012 Politics , Bipartisanship