Compromise is the grease that lubricates the workings of democracy.
The past month, we’ve seen compromise in action.
The President needed to prove that he could lead. The Republicans wanted to prove that they could do more than just oppose the President. The Democrats were going to lose a majority in the house and a super majority in the Senate, so they had a number of issues that they wanted to get through before the road became tougher in January. A number of those who lost their seats still had an opportunity to case one last vote to support legislation that was important to them. A ticking clock is one of the best incentives to getting something done.
The tax deal was the best example. Republicans got what they wanted, which was an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The President got what he wanted which almost $1B in additional stimulus funding for a struggling economy.
The Democrats accused the President of selling them out because he took what they perceived as a potent political issue (Republican support of the rich) off the table. The Republicans were criticized by the right wing media because they fell off the fiscal discipline wagon again. The left wing media reminded the Democrats that if the President hadn’t made this compromise, the Republicans extended all the tax cuts in January anyway or maybe even make them permanent. If they did that, they would also have been able to take credit for getting something done which would have taken a different potent political issue off the table for Democrats. It’s also likely that a Republican tax extension would not have included the generous stimulus funding in this bill. Finally, the right wing media criticized the Republicans for handing the 2012 election to Obama.
This last point is the most troubling.
When the right wing media says that the prospect of accelerated economic recovery is bad for Republicans, we have reached the point where partisan politics has trumped what is good for the country
First, there is nothing wrong with Republicans working hard to elect a Republican President in 2012. We’ve jumped the track, however, when a party is willing to put the country at risk in order to score political points.
Unfortunately, we are seeing that play out this week with the debate to ratify the Start Treaty.
This new treaty is fairly simple. It extends the previous agreement to slowly dismantle US and Russian nuclear stockpiles. The original agreement was proposed by Reagan and signed by Bush I. This extension is supported by all past Republican and Democratic secretaries of state as well as all of the current military commanders.
What is at risk if it doesn’t get ratified is our relationship with the Russians and our ability to negotiate future treaties. The Russians for example are unlikely to come back to the negotiating table if they are unsure about this President’s ability to deliver on his promises.
The Russians are also our primary ally in controlling Iran’s nuclear ambitions. They are key to the long term stability in Afghanistan. Ongoing inspection of their nuclear facilities is also vital to preventing any weapons grade materials from falling into the hands of our enemies. Because the current Treaty has expired, inspections of those facilities have stopped.
You don’t have to go much further than to listen to Senator Graham last Sunday. He had previously said that he would support the treaty but changed his mind when the Democrats successfully repealed the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” provisions controlling the status of gays in the military. He declared the current lame duck session of congress as poisoned and blamed the Democrats.
What’s happening now is that Republicans are working hard to defeat this treaty solely because it would be an international embarrassment to this President. They are threatened by his recent success and his newfound ability to compromise. They would prefer to continue the narrative that this is failed Presidency because Obama is weak, indecisive, inexperienced, and out of touch. They won’t be able to do that if he proves that he CAN govern from somewhere between his party and the Republicans.
The Russians have already sent a clear message that any modifications to treaty language will kill the compromise that led to their signature.
The military professionals have also confirmed that this treaty will not weaken the inspection regimen, limit our ability to develop missile defenses, or impact our tactical use of nuclear weapons. Some Republicans have also suggested that they need more time, but Democrats point out that previous ratification debates took less than the two weeks remaining on the congressional schedule and that Republicans were the ones who originally requested that this debate be delayed until after the fall elections in order to reduce the level or partisan politics that would come into play.
My hope is that the treaty will be ratified and that the American people will continue to keep pressure on all their elected officials to keep the good of the country as their top priority.