The sound of political graciousness

h/t Peggy Noonan, in last Monday’s How to Win, and Lose, Graciously:

It will mean a great deal how the president handles all this.

Two weeks ago we lauded Bill Clinton’s handling of his 1994 midterm drubbing. In a news conference the next day he accepted responsibility and suggested the political meaning of the election was that the public was more conservative than he was. That took some guts and humility. Cleverness, too. By convincing those on his left that they had to face reality, he opened the door for his historic compromises with the Contract Congress. This in turn gave Clinton room to breathe and gather his forces.

I wasn’t able to quote a lot of George W. Bush’s press conference the evening after the second term midterm thumpin’ in which his party lost 30 House seats, six Senate seats, and control of both chambers.

But in his news conference you hear the sound of an old graciousness that has eluded President Obama, who has long said there’s little he can do with obstructionists in Congress who are stuck on hating him.

For those who think Mr. Obama has faced unusual levels of rhetoric, consider this question from a reporter to Mr. Bush:

“Thank you, Mr. President. With all due respect, Nancy Pelosi has called you incompetent, a liar, the emperor with no clothes and, as recently as yesterday, dangerous. How will you work with someone who has such little respect for your leadership and who is third in line to the presidency?”

This is how Mr. Bush replied. “I’ve been around politics a long time. I understand when campaigns end and I know when governing begins. And I’m going to work with people of both parties. You know, look, people say unfortunate things at times. But if you hold grudges in this line of work, you’re never going to get anything done. And my intention is to get some things done, and soon—we’re start visiting with her Friday with the idea of coming together.”

That is the sound of political graciousness. It would be nice to hear it from Mr. Obama on Wednesday.

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