Wisdom From President Obama On “Compromising”

This video of President Obama talking to the college students in Massachusetts back in March is showing up all over the internet. There is one passage that I particularly liked that will hopefully help to educate some of the people who bristle at every compromise with Republicans…(emphasis mine)

“And so, one of the challenges of this generation is, I think, to understand that the nature of our democracy and the nature of our politics is to marry principle to a political process. That means you don’t get a 100% of what you want. You don’t get it if you are the majority; you don’t get it if you are in the minority.And you can be an honorable in politics understanding that you are not going to get 100% of what you want.

“And that’s been our history. You think about our greatest presidents — Abraham Lincoln, here is a guy who didn’t believe in slavery, but his first priority was keeping the Union. I’ve got the Emancipation Proclamation hanging up in my office, and if you read through, it turns out that most of the document is: those states and areas where the Emancipation doesn’t apply because those folks were allies with the Union so they can keep their slaves. Think about that. That’s the Emancipation Proclamation.

“So, here you’ve got a war time president who is making a compromise around probably the greatest moral issue the country ever faced because he understood that, ‘Right now my job is to win the war and to maintain the Union.

The Tea Party on the right and the Firebaggers on the left have both staked out intransigent positions. In my many years of obsessing over politics, I’ve never seen anything like it.

It’s astounding that this unprecedented polarization has effectively changed the way our government functions. It’s been perpetuated primarily from the Republican side of the aisle where the President has been thwarted at every turn. Watch our very wise President in explaining this to a politically mixed group of college students, it once again proves that we elected the right man for the job and need to reelect him in 2012.

In a press conference last week, President Obama referred to this craziness and how it puzzles him that Republicans can oppose ideas they once supported, just because he now supports them. Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly picked up on that line and wrote a great post about it. Here are some of Steve’s thoughts on this puzzling situation…

It is, to be sure, quite a pattern. For two-and-a-half years, Obama has run into congressional Republicans who not only refuse to take “yes” for an answer, but routinely oppose their own ideas when the president is willing to accept them.

This seems especially relevant in the context of the current debt-reduction talks. At a certain level, it’s almost comical — here we have a Democratic president agreeing with a conservative Republican House Speaker on a massive deal that would lower the debt by over $4 trillion over the next decade. It would tilt heavily in the GOP’s direction, and address the problem Republicans pretend to care about most. Obama is even willing to consider significant entitlement “reforms,” which should be music to the ears of the right.

And yet, in the latest example that “puzzles” the president, Republicans aren’t interested.

I think the President has adapted to this strategy and is exploiting the Republican intransigence by making offers that help to reveal this stupidity and also help him politically by making him seem like the reasonable one. The debt ceiling debate is a perfect example how he has adapted. The President’s position from the beginning has been to get a clean raising of the debt ceiling and after his masterful negotiating, it looks like that is exactly what he is going to get.  Go back and watch Lawrence O’Donnell’s great rant on this from last week, he nails it to the wall.

The truly amazing thing is that President Obama has accomplished a ton in this atmosphere, can you imagine how much more he could have accomplished if the congress had just operated the way it has for the last….well, how about since our country’s founding.