Boehner's 'cry' for common ground
What people will be talking about most from John Boehner's 60 Minutes interview Sunday night--besides all the crying, of course--is his comment about compromise. Boehner (R-Ohio), the incoming Speaker of the House, told a baffled Lesley Stahl that he "rejects the word" compromise. "When you say the word 'compromise,' a lot of Americans look up and go 'oh, oh they're going to sell me out.' Finding common ground I think makes more sense."
At first blush, Boehner's comment may sound like little more than semantics--or worse, political double speak made in an effort to have it both ways. Such a statement comes off like he's trying to sound both tough and unyielding to the Tea Party members he now leads, while simultaneously flexible to independent voters who want to see politicians work together.
But in fact, there is some truth to Boehner's point. He is actually quite right that the two are different: Compromise implies that leaders have to give something up, while finding common ground means seeking areas where two sides already agree and then working on those issues. Where he's wrong is believing that there will be enough of it to get Washington functional again.
The notion of a "sell out" will ring true to both the right and the left. Whether they're liberals angry about Obama's caving on tax cuts for the wealthy or Tea Partiers upset about the unemployment insurance extension, both sides believe their own leaders made big sacrifices. That's an inherent part of compromise, after all--giving up something of value in favor of something worth even more.
The problem with focusing on "common ground" is that there isn't enough of it to go around. While it worked for Bill Clinton--the former president's "triangulation" strategy meant he ended up working with Republicans after his own party was trounced in the midterms--many of those areas of common ground were criticized as small bore. Washington has only gotten more partisan since then, and topics where the right and left are on the same page, or at least on the same planet, are growing fewer and farther between.
Whatever distinctions Boehner may draw, he did compromise in the tax cut bill by not getting everything he wanted. And most will see little evidence of common ground in the deal as it sits now, other than that everyone hopes it will help to stimulate the economy, especially if it's going to add to the deficit.
Boehner may be right that people don't like to give anything up when negotiating a solution--that's why we look to leaders, after all, to hold firm on our most important principles and values, even if it means giving up something of lesser significance. To reject outright the notion of compromise may make the incoming speaker sound like a tough fighter. But if he's left with little common ground, he won't be successful as a leader, either.
December 13, 2010; 12:24 PM ET |
Federal government leadership
Save & Share:
Previous: President Obama: The next Clinton, Carter or Truman? | Next: The contradiction of Richard Holbrooke
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: ceflynline | December 14, 2010 6:37 PM
Posted by: sux123 | December 14, 2010 5:19 PM
Posted by: davidbronx | December 14, 2010 5:02 PM
Posted by: Evenfoolsarerightsometimes | December 14, 2010 4:19 PM
Posted by: corebanks1940 | December 14, 2010 3:53 PM
Posted by: DaveHarris | December 14, 2010 3:25 PM
Posted by: Angryman | December 14, 2010 3:12 PM
Posted by: pgibson1 | December 14, 2010 3:01 PM
Posted by: m_richert | December 14, 2010 2:49 PM
Posted by: demtse | December 14, 2010 2:13 PM
Posted by: fgominho | December 14, 2010 2:13 PM
Posted by: Runeer1987 | December 14, 2010 2:10 PM
Posted by: BettyW1 | December 14, 2010 2:06 PM
Posted by: lindalovejones | December 14, 2010 1:09 PM
Posted by: Sirius2 | December 14, 2010 11:58 AM
Posted by: sbuck | December 14, 2010 11:15 AM
Posted by: JWTX | December 14, 2010 10:17 AM
Posted by: clarenceshaynes1 | December 14, 2010 9:44 AM
Posted by: nonag | December 14, 2010 7:53 AM
Posted by: miesque | December 14, 2010 6:27 AM
Posted by: darkasnight1234 | December 14, 2010 5:44 AM
Posted by: conepatus | December 14, 2010 4:42 AM
Posted by: billnbillieskid | December 14, 2010 2:43 AM
Posted by: labman57 | December 13, 2010 9:46 PM