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Job No. 1 for Obama — compromise

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February 04, 2014 | 18 Comments

The latest presidential message is that he is not concerned about the nation’s capital but about moving the country forward on the strength of its grass roots. Barack Obama is expecting to set an agenda to do that and then use executive orders and the bully pulpit to accomplish it.

What’s new about that?

This is a president who always has been more comfortable campaigning than pursuing the nitty gritty of Washington politics in achieving his goals. As a consequence, he seems to have failed to develop the skills necessary to accomplish great things (with the exception of the Affordable Care Act) in a divided Congress. More time spent learning the art of political compromise and manipulation, as coarse a word as that may seem, would have served him well.

Now Barack Obama obviously faces severe challenges at a time when his overall approval with Americans is at its lowest, leaving him to face a coming midterm election that could end the congressional division in favor of the Republicans. That would, of course, make his last two years in office miserably benign with his only hope for historic redemption the things he has set in motion for a successor to accomplish like immigration reform, the end of two wars, health-care reform and a better economy.

The dilemma he finds himself in, for instance, is trying to satisfy the left of his own Democratic Party and the right of the GOP at a time when moderate Republican leaders like House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio have indicated a willingness to tear up the party’s “just say no” polices of the last five years and present him with opportunities for compromise. The first of these would be immigration. To his credit, the president has said he is willing to soften his own demands and move forward.

Another would be a positive decision on the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada through the center of the nation to the Gulf Coast. The project, which Republican proponents claim is of great benefit to America’s domestic oil needs, has been solidly opposed by conservationists and the Democratic Party left as potentially environmentally disastrous.

But the State Department last week released a report finding that the pipeline would not “significantly exacerbate” climate change through greenhouse emissions, giving Obama a perfect chance to approve the plan and show he is eager for some bipartisan accommodations.

The pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Alberta, and Obama said last summer that he would favor the project if it did not further worsen the climate. Another factor Obama must consider is that if the pipeline is not approved, the oil will be loaded into railroad tankers for transportation, a potentially dangerous method since rail lines run through urban areas. On at least three occasions recently there have been derailments that cause oil spills, including one recent fire.

Yet the president seems still reluctant contending he wants to have more investigation by other Cabinet members and agency heads  – leaving his critics to logically conclude he wants to study the matter to death and to put Secretary of State John Kerry between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

One of the initiatives the president’s men have emphasized in his determination to bypass the Congress through executive action is expanding broadband service to 20 million American students in 15,000 schools over the next two years. The Federal Communications Commission has announced that it will double from $1billion to $2 billion the amount it spends on adding high-speed Internet connections in schools and libraries. The money will come from restructuring the $2.4 billion E-rate program for advanced telecommunications and information services. The program is supported by fees paid by telecommunications users.

How much time the president spends campaigning for individual Democrat candidates over the next nine months until the November elections is problematic. Clearly his lower poll ratings have made him less desirable on the stump. On the other hand he clearly expects to be taking his agenda to the people and advocating for party candidates is routinely a part of that.

The president’s State of the Union pledge to spend less time warring with Congress and more with assuring Americans that he will move forward is hardly news. It’s been that way since he was first elected in 2008 and it hasn’t worked terribly well

Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: thomassondan@aol.com.

Dan K. Thomasson

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Discussion | 18 comments

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  • DanielFebruary 04, 2014 - 4:47 am

    Obama lacks the skills to compromise besides he's too beholden to his maker Soros, If Soros wasn't so evil and greedy and Obama non delusional and honest with himself, he shouldn't have accepted the job that the DNC controlled lame stream propped him up for in the first place. He's in way over his head without a club and his lack of intellect doesn't allow him to learn any on the job training

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  • S KFebruary 04, 2014 - 7:25 am

    I guess that you and the columnist need to go back and read all the back news article, all the way when, A__H_LE, Mitch McConnell, said that they would make the President fail. There is a reason these Repugs are known as the, "PARTY OF NO." So infuriating that my wife and I gave up being Republicans, and I was one since I began voting more than 40 yrs. before. Compromise????? Tell that to, "THE PARTY OF NO!!!"

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  • Salty DogFebruary 04, 2014 - 11:22 am

    SK What about the Senate that is controlled by Harry Reid and the Democrats not allowing any of the several budgets from the House of Representatives (that are controlled by the Republicans) to even be brought to the floor of the Senate for a vote and President Obama him self saying their will be no comprise. Or did you forget that. But it's the Republicans that are the party of no.

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  • S KFebruary 04, 2014 - 11:36 am

    Hey payback is H_ELL>>LOL

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  • rlw895February 04, 2014 - 9:43 am

    Good column, but I don't see the "dilemma" of working with emerging Republican moderates for compromises. Obama himself is a moderate. The problem we've had since 2010 is a Republican Party that thought the tea party movement was its future. If they are looking for a new way, it will be good for the American people and Obama welcome it and acknowledge it by doing deals.

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  • Salty DogFebruary 04, 2014 - 11:24 am

    rlw895 I ask you the something that i asked SK. What about the Senate that is controlled by Harry Reid and the Democrats not allowing any of the several budgets from the House of Representatives (that are controlled by the Republicans) to even be brought to the floor of the Senate for a vote and President Obama him self saying their will be no comprise. Or did you forget that. But it's the Republicans that are the party of no.

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  • rlw895February 04, 2014 - 1:47 pm

    I believe each of those budgets defunded ObamaCare or had some other poison pill in it. Obama has made it clear he won't "compromise" in a way that destroys the ACA. So those budgets aren't serious proposals. More recently, though, the Republican moderates, with Democratic moderate support, pass a budget out of the house that the Senate approved. The system has started to work again because the Republicans have decided to isolate their tea party faction.

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  • Mr. PracticalFebruary 04, 2014 - 5:41 pm

    Obamacare is defunding itself

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  • rlw895February 04, 2014 - 8:42 pm

    We'll see. If it can survive the incessant political attacks, it can survive anything.

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  • Mr. PracticalFebruary 04, 2014 - 8:48 pm

    You still want it to survive? Even with California now having over a half million less people insured then when Covered California opened for business?

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  • rlw895February 04, 2014 - 8:58 pm

    A temporary, transitional situation.

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  • Mr. PracticalFebruary 04, 2014 - 9:12 pm

    rlw, this is a similar scenario to when Mike said I apparently don't care if people die. It's neither temporary or transitional. It's going to get worse. Implementation of the employer mandate, in addition costing us jobs, will cause a major disruption and put millions more without insurance. Many employers are going to drop their health plans and pay the fine. Many are no longer going to cover spouses. Many employers under 50 employees are dropping plans because they can no longer afford to maintain contribution rates because of the increases in premium caused by essential benefits compliance. Your six months is almost up.

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  • rlw895February 05, 2014 - 8:56 am

    My six months was for counting enrollment, which you were making a big deal about early on. As for temporary and transitional, the same sort of thing happened in Massachusetts. But if you're advocating a single-payer system now, I'm with you.

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  • JBDragonFebruary 04, 2014 - 12:58 pm

    The Republicans, the party of no? Are you kidding!!! The Republicans are really just a wing of the Democrat party theses days, not much difference at all. When it's a Republican President, that's the true party of NO. Skipping all of that, the first 2 years Obama was in office, the Democrats controlled the senate nd house and cloud have done pretty much anything they wanted and the Republicans wouldn't have been able to do anything. How to you think this mess/garbage of Obama care got passed. Not a single Republican vote for that trash, which is now starting to come to light. Can't keep your doctors or health plan even after Obama said you could time after time after time. Where's that $2500 a year in savings people would see? Ops, that sure in hell didn't happen. By the way, there really is a death pannel. But so what right, it's Obama. A person with zero skill at running anything. You sucks just keep following him right off the cliff as he is screwing you also. It really is sad.

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  • JBDragonFebruary 04, 2014 - 12:59 pm

    Wish I could edit the minor spelling errors.

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  • CD BrooksFebruary 04, 2014 - 1:11 pm

    JBDragon, many of us agreed along time ago that spelling, typos and punctuation would not be an issue here. No worries, we got your point! :)

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  • Mike KirchubelFebruary 04, 2014 - 1:58 pm

    J. Dragon, We disposed of the fiction of "Two years of Obama's Congress" just a few days ago. Somebody mentioned it online here and then when asked to elaborate, he could only come up with like 40 or 50 days of Democratic majority - and then it was without considering the late seating of Al Franken and Teddy Kennedy's many days when he was too sick to attend. Let's drop the fiction of "Obama could have done anything he wanted." Or do you want to look it up for yourself and let us know what is right? Most of us want to move the conversation forward, not continue to fight over points long ago dismissed.

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  • rlw895February 04, 2014 - 8:44 pm

    And with a scant 60 votes in the Senate, the Democrats had to cater to their most selfish weak link. It's hardly "anything you want."

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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