Obama says Washington vitriol is still a solvable problem

March 30, 2010

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 USA-HEALTHCARE/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.

USA-POLITICS/TEAPARTY“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)

Click here for more political coverage from Reuters

3 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

It has to start with Obama not being such a TV hog

Posted by Story_Burn | Report as abusive

The president is quite correct in that both sides tend to exaggerate the negative points of the other side for their own benefit.

He is correct that if this doesn’t stop there will be no way to work on solving problems. He has shown that he is committed to helping American people/families. An intelligent, articulate, centrist leader is exactly what the nation needs right now. He is also correct that if the administration can show good results regardless of the garbage being spewed out in the media, that the people will take note and reward the administration (by reelecting them).

I’m trying to get through school. And the efforts of the current administration have made it possible for me to attend a school that I have waited for more than seven years to be able to get into. I didn’t have the money before. But now because of the work that has been done by this administration, I can afford to go to school and get the skills that will put me in a better position to offer a better future for my children. And that means a lot to me. He will get my vote next election if he keeps on doing what he’s doing.

Posted by Benny_Acosta | Report as abusive

This President, like the congressional majority handed to his party two years previously, was expected to tackle three things:

- stop the wars, without a moment’s delay
- prosecute the war criminals & fire all uppity war-drunk generals
and
- end the white-collar crime spree that has been sucking money, jobs and education out of American society’s grass roots

I assume he’s working on these, because that’s what he was elected to do. He shouldn’t be worrying about how loud the guilty will squeal before he’s even begun dropping the axe on them. By golly, Obama – let the damn thing drop now! The applause of America will drown out any lamentation of fools.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive