This anecdote perfectly symbolizes the fear that prevents compromise in Washington these days: Last November, President Obama invited five Republicans to the White House for an informal screening of the movie “Lincoln,” with its A-list director and stars also in attendance. Pretty good night out for most of us. Great movie, good popcorn and a really comfortable seat. Not one of the Republicans came. Both John Boehner and Mitch McConnell sent their regrets.That the movie is about one of the great political compromise of all time, the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, of course, only adds to the irony.
According to the story about this snub of the president’s invitation, Republicans may be influenced by their fear of appearing too close to Obama. They fear the 30-second spot, or the YouTube video that places them at the scene of the crime making nice with the perpetrator. This fear is nothing new. In 1994, Republicans ran TV spots, morphing their opponents face into Bill Clinton’s; in 2006, Joe Lieberman’s hug of the dreaded George W. at the state of the union helped defeat him in the Democratic party; and Charlie Crist’s hug of Obama is cited as major reason he lost his primary.
There may be a simple solution to overcome Republicans’ fear of Obama’s political contagion. The president’s social office could simply issue a disclaimer on the invitation that for whatever night Republicans are invited, it will be a hug free zone. If that’s not enough, handshakes and even slight bows of the head could also be forbidden. The president could even issue a statement after the evening for the members’ district or state that the evening was one of least enjoyable he had ever spent and he hopes never to see that particular legislator again. Maybe this would offer enough assurance to the members that they would feel safer, and they could come inside and feel free to watch a movie, have a beer, even jump up and down on Lincoln’s bed.
Oh, the things a president must do these days in search of compromise.