Can Obama launch “peace talks” with Republicans at Camp David?

November 30, 2010

Camp David may be getting ready for another round of peace talks — of the domestic variety.

President Barack Obama is emphasizing bipartisanship after the midterm election shellacking dealt by Republicans and today decided to wave a olive branch — the possibility of a summit wiith congressional leaders early next year at the presidential retreat. OBAMA/
He offered the invite at a White House meeting with leaders of both parties where they discussed tax cuts, the START treaty, and other issues Obama wants to see resolved during the remainder of the “lame duck” session of Congress.

An invitation to Camp David is considered an honor. In fact, Obama said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid mentioned to him that despite 28 years in Congress, he had never been to Camp David.

“And so I told him, well, we’re going to have to get them all up  there sometime soon,” Obama said.

Obama has long cast himself as a bridge builder but the post-election call for bipartisanship has been greeted skeptically on both the right and the left. The president himself acknowledged that a “hyperpartisan” environment could make any effort to work across party lines extremely difficult.
He also said even the idea of bipartisanship can fall victim to insincerity and showmanship as each side tries to “win the news cycle instead of solving problems.”
“A lot of times coming out of these meetings, both sides claim they want to work together, but try to paint the opponent as unyielding and unwilling to cooperate,” he said.
The hurdles in convening Tuesday’s two-hour meeting underscore the challenges.
Obama had initially proposed a meeting on Nov. 18 that would have included a working dinner, but that fell through when Republicans cited scheduling conflicts.
Both sides called Tuesday morning’s session productive but they remained far apart on issues like taxes, though they agreed to put the debate over the Bush-era tax cuts on a fast track. A working group that will include Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, White House budget director Jack Lew along with key lawmakers will convene to try to strike a deal. 

As difficult as the tax cut issue will be to resolve, the Camp David meeting is likely to deal with issues that are broader and a lot more challenging. Those include finding a way to jumpstart the economy and rein in the huge U.S. budget deficit.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama after meeting with congressional leaders)

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