If you missed the president’s final State of the Union message a few weeks ago, don’t worry. It might have been billed as historic, but you didn’t miss much. There were no surprises. No shocks. No awe. Nothing historic or memorable.
It was the usual Obama setup — “We have to find a way to come together, end the government gridlock and make America better and stronger” — followed by the implication that Washington isn’t working the way it should because Republicans in Congress are mean, stubborn or stupid.
In seven years Obama hasn’t changed the country, not for the better anyway. He hasn’t changed his leadership style, either.
Remember back in 2009, three days after he was sworn in, when Barack Obama, his egocentric advisers and the congressional leaders of both parties met to discuss how to frame a gigantic stimulus bill working its way through Congress? That’s when Obama famously said to Republican Whip Eric Cantor, “Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won.”
We didn’t know it then, but that snippy quip betrayed a lot about the way the hope-and-change president plays ball. It’s my football, damn it, and if you’re not going to play the way I want, I’m going to take my ball and go home.
Obama has run his administration for seven years with that “I won, you lost and I get what I want” game plan. He’s right. There is a great divide between the two parties in Washington. He ought to know, because he’s as much to blame for it as anyone.
It’s hard to find an example where he was willing to sit down and come to terms with conservatives and Republicans in Congress. And how many times did he go home after he didn’t get what he wanted from Congress and sign an executive action that got him what he wanted?
My father looked at politics like a football game, too. But he understood throwing Hail Marys all the time wasn’t a winning strategy. He knew you actually had to move down the field slowly and if you got 10 yards each play, eventually you’d reach the end zone.
The great liberal-conservative political divide that supposedly harms our country is not going to be closed between now and November. It’ll have to start with whoever the new leader is in January of 2017. Whoever it is, the next president will have to act a lot more like Ronald Reagan and a lot less like Barack Obama.
My father disagreed greatly with Tip O’Neill and Ted Kennedy, but he always looked at the big picture. He was always asking, “How can we work together to get this done?” If Ronald Reagan doesn’t sit down with Tip, we don’t get the tax break of 1981. If Bill Clinton doesn’t sit down with Newt Gingrich and a Republican Congress in 1994,
we don’t get welfare reform and a balanced budget.
Early next year, President Trump, President Sanders or President X will be all fired up about fixing immigration. Whoever it is, when he meets with Congress he should not take the “all-or-nothing” Obama approach but do what Ronald Reagan or even Bill Clinton would do. He should bring everybody in and find areas in the immigration bill where there is bipartisan agreement.
Then Congress should write a new bill covering those areas of agreement, pass it, have the president sign it and immediately begin the process of a writing a better, more comprehensive immigration bill.
Everyone likes to see a long Hail Mary thrown into the end zone. But as QB Obama should have learned after seven seasons — but didn’t — they almost never win the game.
Michael Reagan is a political columnist. He is the eldest son of President Ronald Reagan, and is heard daily by over 5 million listeners via his nationally syndicated talk radio program.