Obama says Washington vitriol is still a solvable problem
President Barack Obama thinks Washington’s political climate of vitriolic partisanship could start to wane over the next few years. Republicans just have to calm down, and Democrats have to stop playing the same silly political games as their opponents.
“A party that’s out of power, often times in those first few years of being out of power and reacting very negatively, their base ends up being very agitated. And it may take the next election or the next presidential election before things settle down,” the president told NBC’s Today show.
One problem is the media, and not just the mainstream media with its 24/7 news cycle but the cable-TV and radio talk shows, the Internet and the blogosphere — “all of which tend to try to feed the most extreme sides of any issue instead of trying to narrow differences and solve problems.”
Obama, who was once called a liar by a Republican lawmaker during a joint session of Congress, didn’t say which way he thinks the next elections would have to go to calm the savage partisan breast. But he didn’t seem to be predicting GOP victories.
“If we can demonstrate, as an administration, that regardless of whatever the day-to-day news cycle is saying, that we’re staying focused on the big picture and helping families, and the results are good, then I think that will show that it’s possible to be principled and stick to your convictions and not worry about the polls and ultimately be rewarded politically,” he said.
The problem with the way things work in Washington today is that one side will exaggerate the situation and target the opposition for ad hominem attacks.
Republicans do it. But they’re not alone: “There’s no doubt that Democrats are known to play the same game, which is to exaggerate the venality of the other side.”
If only people would recognize that it’s possible to “disagree without being disagreeable” and see the other side as wanting what’s best for America, too: “My hope is that the Republican leadership will take that tone. Certainly, that’s the tone that I want to take.”
What about the conservative Tea Party movement that wants to drive unsympathetic Republicans and Democrats from office?
It’s not monolithic. A “core group,” which has been around for a long time, includes those who question his citizenship and call him names like “socialist.” They’re unlikely to stop. But he says they’re not the only Tea Partiers.
“There’s a broader circle around that core group of people who are legitimately concerned about the deficit, who are legitimately concerned that the federal government may be taking on too much,” the president said.
And those might be persuaded to see things differently over time.
“Some of them have some mainstream legitimate concerns, and my hope is that as we move forward and we’re tackling things like the deficit and imposing a freeze on domestic spending and taking steps that show we’re sincere about dealing with our long-term problems, some of that group will dissipate,” he said.
And what of the vitriolic partisanship in general? “I do think it’s solvable.”
Photo Credits: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama at bipartisan healthcare summit); Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi (Tea Party protester in Texas)
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