Saturday, 30 January 2010


Obama spoke yesterday to the entire Republican House Caucus at their annual retreat, answering their questions for over an hour. Check it out:

(Hint: you can click through to various highlight moments on the White House page...)

I found it riveting, a real and substantive back and forth that rises above the level of the"Death panels!" "You hate America!" shout fest that politics so often descends to these days.

Obama's main theme here was clear, and has been consistent since the pre-campaign days: there are some clear disagreements between us, but also a lot of areas where we can all agree. It shouldn't be that hard to work together on the stuff that's constructive and to be polite in working out where we differ. As an example of failure in the former, he pointedly mentions House Republicans who voted against the Stimulus package, but then attended ribbon cuttings for stimuls programs in their districts.

On that latter, he argues that the crazy rhetoric often used in opposition actually gets in the way of being able to influence governing:
If the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don’t have a lot of room to negotiate with me.... You’ve given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion. Because, what you’ve been telling your constituents is: this guy’s doing all kinds of crazy stuff that is going to destroy America.
 Great stuff. And very British - I've been saying for years that I'd love to see the President face the opposition in a question time format.

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