Doing our business over dinner
by Kelvin Wade
In Robert Draper’s book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives” he describes a lunch that took place on Jan. 20, 2009 during Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration. The lunch was attended by GOP pollster Frank Luntz, Newt Gingrich, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Sen. Jim DeMint (SC-R), and others.
At this meeting they agreed on a strategy to oppose President Obama by denying him any legislative achievement. Frank Luntz is a language expert. He’s the man who created phrases like “job creators” to describe the wealthy. He came up with calling the health care bill a “job killing government takeover of health care.” These men devised a plan to oppose President Obama on everything. They figured if they could do that, they could ride back into power in 2010 and seize the White House in 2012.
In the fall of 2010, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pronounced that his most important goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president.
It was one of the most cynical ploys in our country’s history. At a time when we were at our lowest, shedding 750,000 jobs a MONTH, the auto industry in crisis, the banks on the brink, and the housing market in the toilet, one political party gathered to play politics. This isn’t an opinion. It’s a fact.
Well, Republican intransigence succeeded in taking back the House of Representatives but failed at making Obama a one-term president. But we don’t have time for that bullshit anymore.
I think a second dinner is in order. This time they can leave Frank Luntz and Gingrich out of the equation. The first item of business should be doing away with Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Two hundred and seventy nine members of the House and Senate have pledged to never raise taxes. This allegiance to Norquist cost the U.S. its AAA credit rating.
Everyone remembers during the GOP primary when the candidates were asked if they’d accept a deficit reduction plan that consisted of ten dollars of cuts to one dollar of new taxes and NO Republican would sign on to it. You can thank fear of Norquist for that asinine response.
The Republican refusal to put taxes on the table is the primary impediment to governance today. Imagine if the Democratic Party signed a pledge to never cut spending. Ever. That’d be crazy, wouldn’t it?
At this second dinner, Republicans should agree to strive to find compromise with and work with the President for the benefit of their constituents since his reelection is now a moot point. It is in their self-interest. Americans are going to grow tired of paying these people $174,000 a year plus benefits to do nothing. Talk about people who want something for nothing and won’t take responsibility for themselves!
There should be another dinner in addition to the Republican dinner. And that dinner should be a weekly one hosted by the President for the Congressional leadership of both parties. They need to spend that time together and develop personal relationships and hash out, over gourmet food and good wine, principled compromise to do the people’s business.
There have been stories that President Obama doesn’t like to do these kinds of personal back-slapping meetings. Tough. He’ll have to get over it. They’re there to work for us. They need to see each other on a regular basis. It’ll grow harder to denigrate each other in press conferences when you have to sit with each other every week.
This needs to be truly bipartisan. Failed GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, the man who said pregnancy by rape was God’s will, famously told reporters “I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.” Thank God this man is not in the Senate.
That’s not bipartisanship. Bipartisanship is compromise. It’s giving up something in order to get something. It’s not one side caving in. And this is a lesson progressives hope President Obama has learned. It’s not one side compromising all the time. It’s not one side being snookered by fake deals. How many times are you going to try to kick that Lucy-held football? Both sides won’t get everything they want. But a half a loaf is better than no loaf, Ted Kennedy used to say.
You want the leadership to get off their ass, then get off yours. Write and/or call the President and Congressional leadership and urge them to meet regularly. If you’ve got the time to be on Facebook, text friends or read blogs, then you have time to drop an email to the leadership.
The President and leadership need to have regular dinners to build trust and a rapport. We loved seeing President Obama and Gov. Chris Christie working together because that’s what our leaders are supposed to do. Lead. Or get the hell out of office.