Bi­par­ti­san­ship is a two-way street

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Cal Thomas

Why do Repub­li­cans con­stantly talk about com­pro­mise and bi­par­ti­san­ship when Democrats al­most never do and when they do, don’t mean it? Democrats rarely com­pro­mise when they are in the ma­jor­ity.

While John McCain promised those gath­ered at the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion in St. Paul that he would “reach across the aisle” and put Democrats and In­de­pen­dents in a McCain ad­min­is­tra­tion, Democrats are busy send­ing out fund-rais­ing let­ters ask­ing for do­na­tions so they can win a “grid­lock-proof Se­nate ma­jor­ity” and won’t have to com­pro­mise with Repub­li­cans.

Where are prin­ci­ples in this? Why aren’t con­ser­va­tives ar­gu­ing in fa­vor of the su­pe­ri­or­ity of their ideas rather than at­tempt­ing to win “Miss Con­ge­nial­ity” awards from lib­er­als?

Repub­li­cans who prac­tice pol­i­tics of con­cil­i­a­tion too of­ten get their heads handed to them. Re­call Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush who reached out to then­Speaker of the House Jim Wright at Mr. Bush’s In­au­gura- tion in 1989, promis­ing unity, har­mony and com­pro­mise.

Mr. Wright’s smile re­vealed he knew Mr. Bush could be had and that Mr. “Read My Lips, No New Taxes” seemed more in­tent on keep­ing his prom­ise to be a nice guy than in keep­ing his prom­ise not to in­crease taxes. When Mr. Bush com­pro­mised with Democrats and signed off on a tax in­crease, it doomed his re-elec­tion chances.

Bi­par­ti­san­ship should not be an end, but a means. In­stead of talk­ing about pop­u­lat­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion with Democrats and In­de­pen­dents, John McCain should list the prob­lems he in­tends to solve and how he in­tends to solve them. Only then should he re­cruit Democrats and In­de­pen­dents who agree on the prob­lems and his pro­posed reso­lu­tions.

A na­tional tele­phone sur­vey by Ras­mussen Re­ports (www.ras­mussen­re­, posted Aug. 27, finds just 9 per­cent of likely vot­ers gave Congress pos­i­tive rat­ings, while 51 per­cent said it’s do­ing a poor job. This is an is­sue Mr. McCain should em­brace. Harry Tru­man made the Repub­li­can “do-noth­ing Congress” an ef­fec­tive cam­paign is­sue in 1948. While light­ning rarely strikes twice in pol­i­tics, Mr. McCain might con­sider a sim­i­lar tac­tic.

Rather than just pledge to in­vite Democrats and In­de­pen­dents to serve in his ad­min­is­tra­tion, he should prom­ise to seek out those Democrats and In­de­pen­dents who agree with him on six big is­sues. Each one wouldn’t have to agree on all six, but each could be placed in po­si­tions where he or she could work in con­cert with, in­stead of against, a McCain ad­min­is­tra­tion. Such a strat­egy could di­vide the more con­ser­va­tive Democrats from their lib­eral con­gres­sional lead­er­ship. Democrats man­aged to gain their con­gres­sional ma­jor­ity in 2006 by run­ning more moderate and con­ser­va­tive candidates than lib­er­als. If new mem­bers want to keep their seats, they would sup­port Mr. McCain on the im­por­tant things. Those six big is­sues should be: (1) De­fense/Ter­ror­ism (Sen. Joe Lieber­man, who un­der­stands both, would be a fine sec­re­tary of de­fense).

(2) Im­mi­gra­tion. Let’s ef­fec­tively seal the bor­der, make English-speak­ing Amer­i­cans of those who are here il­le­gally and then get about the busi­ness of legally ad­mit­ting more highly-skilled and ed­u­cated im­mi­grants who could do more than slap up wall­board and mow our lawns.

(3) Ed­u­ca­tion. We wouldn’t need to im­port so many highly skilled work­ers if we pro­duced more of them in Amer­ica. School choice, which em­pha­sizes the stu­dent in­stead of teach­ers’ unions, is the place to start. Fea­ture tes­ti­monies from the par­ents of poor mi­nor­ity stu­dents to shame Congress into “let­ting our peo­ple go” from failed mo­nop­o­lis­tic gov­ern­ment schools.

(4) Health in­sur­ance. Make it na­tional in­stead of parochial. Why can you buy car in­sur­ance and it’s good in any state, but health in­sur­ance is good only in the state in which you buy it? Com­pe­ti­tion would lower costs, mak­ing it avail­able to more peo­ple.

(5) En­ergy in­de­pen­dence. Both par­ties know we need to be free of most for­eign oil. Let’s get a man-on-the-moon project go­ing and do it.

(6) So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care re­form. Mr. McCain can start by us­ing the 1997 Bill Clin­ton-Newt Gin­grich agree­ment, which, ac­cord­ing to U.S.News & World Re­port (, was never im­ple­mented due to the Mon­ica Lewin­sky scan­dal.

I am sure Mr. McCain can find Democrats and In­de­pen­dents who be­lieve in one, or more (or all) of th­ese six big is­sues and can work along­side Repub­li­cans to solve them, in­stead of in­dulging in the con­stant bick­er­ing and po­lit­i­cal par­ti­san­ship that does lit­tle to pro­mote the gen­eral wel­fare, but pro­motes in­stead the wel­fare of par­ti­sans. Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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