One of the political positives of 2008 has been a willingness for some on one side of the aisle to give fair hearing to those on on the other. This was accomplished by none other than Nancy Pelosi, Donna Brazile et al telling those of us not willing to get on board with the new Democratic Party to “stay home.” Or “get lost” depending on your perspective. In that vein, while I might not always agree with conservative Charles Krauthammer, in his latest article, It’s nonsense to say the U.S. is ungovernable, he has the integrity to say something good about some Democrats. Most fascinating is who he took the time to praise:
In the latter days of the Carter presidency, it became fashionable to say that the office had become unmanageable and was simply too big for one man. Some suggested a single, six-year presidential term. The president’s own White House counsel suggested abolishing the separation of powers and going to a more parliamentary system of unitary executive control. America had become ungovernable.
Then came Ronald Reagan, and all that chatter disappeared.
The tyranny of entitlements? Reagan collaborated with Tip O’Neill, the legendary Democratic House speaker, to establish the Alan Greenspan commission that kept Social Security solvent for a quarter-century.
A corrupted system of taxation? Reagan worked with liberal Democrat Bill Bradley to craft a legislative miracle: tax reform that eliminated dozens of loopholes and slashed rates across the board — and fueled two decades of economic growth.
Later, a highly skilled Democratic president, Bill Clinton, successfully tackled another supposedly intractable problem: the culture of intergenerational dependency. He collaborated with another House speaker, Newt Gingrich, to produce the single most successful social reform of our time, the abolition of welfare as an entitlement.
Krauthammer hits the nail on the head:
It turned out that the country’s problems were not problems of structure but of leadership. Reagan and Clinton had it. Carter didn’t. Under a president with extensive executive experience, good political skills and an ideological compass in tune with the public, the country was indeed governable.
One needs experience, depth of knowledge on policy and the workings of government as well as specific understanding of the needs of Americans in order to move this country forward. Tone deaf policies that do little to solve those needs will not lead to a good result.
It’s 2010, and the first-year agenda of a popular and promising young president has gone down in flames. Barack Obama’s two signature initiatives — cap-and-trade and health-care reform — lie in ruins.
Desperate to explain away this scandalous state of affairs, liberal apologists haul out the old reliable from the Carter years: “America the Ungovernable.” So declared Newsweek. “Is America Ungovernable?” coyly asked the New Republic. Guess the answer. [snip]
Yet, what’s new about any of these supposedly ruinous structural impediments? Special interests blocking policy changes? They have been around since the beginning of the republic — and since the beginning of the republic, strong presidents, like the two Roosevelts, have rallied the citizenry and overcome them.
Krauthammer goes on to dissect the latest liberal complaints about Republican’s use of the filibuster pointing out Democrats did the same in blocking GW Bush’s judicial appointments. Their complaints that Congress’ structure impedes progress is likewise blather to provide cover for an administration that has lost control of its message.
…Indeed, the Senate with its ponderous procedures and decentralized structure is serving precisely the function the Founders intended: as a brake on the passions of the House and a caution about precipitous transformative change.
Krauthammer took time to praise another Democrat along the way:
Leave it to Mickey Kaus, a principled liberal who supports health-care reform, to debunk these structural excuses: “Lots of intellectual effort now seems to be going into explaining Obama’s (possible/likely/impending) health care failure as the inevitable product of larger historic and constitutional forces. . . . But in this case there’s a simpler explanation: Barack Obama’s job was to sell a health care reform plan to American voters. He failed.”
He failed because the utter implausibility of its central promise — expanded coverage at lower cost — led voters to conclude that it would lead ultimately to more government, more taxes and more debt. More broadly, the Democrats failed because, thinking the economic emergency would give them the political mandate and legislative window, they tried to impose a left-wing agenda on a center-right country. The people said no, expressing themselves first in spontaneous demonstrations, then in public opinion polls, then in elections — Virginia, New Jersey and, most emphatically, Massachusetts.
That’s not a structural defect. That’s a textbook demonstration of popular will expressing itself — despite the special interests — through the existing structures. In other words, the system worked.
I also read an interesting piece by Joe Scarborough yesterday, discussing his own conservative principles. He stated that while he may not agree with President Obama’s agenda, he prays for him daily to find a successful way to lead for the sake of our country. He said “if his grandmother could pray for Carter, he could pray for Obama.”
My prayer is that the President starts paying more attention to the message Americans are sending him and less attention to those like Nancy Pelosi who are arrogant in continuing to tell the rest of us to get lost. Perhaps he would then find the country is governable.