Back in the Day "When Politics Worked"
I am reading Chris Matthews’ book, “Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked.” Remember the days when Congress legislated and Presidents led? Remember the days when approval ratings for Congressmen and the President were higher than those of say Bernie Madoof? Those days weren’t so long ago. Certainly, we all still disagreed with either the congressional or Presidential agenda, but for all of their dysfunction, it still worked. Then House Speaker Tom “Tip” O’Neill was known for his tough handed leadership of the House for while Ronald Reagan viewed as a narrowly focused, people’s President. Both were larger than life characters respected by the members of their parties. Regardless of your political views, MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Matthews book focuses on the gamesmanship that each played and it was that gamesmanship that made Government work and the lack thereof creating today’s dysfunction.
In a September interview about the book, Matthews says, “Reagan was fond of Tip and completely believed that Tip wanted to help the little people. He just disagreed about how to do it. Reagan was his party. Tip was his party. It wasn’t like (John) Boehner trying to deal with people who are a little different than him” referencing “Tea Partyers.”1
Matthews who served as one of O’Neill’s top aides says that each understood that deals were part of Washington and that each had to give to receive. “There was a tremendous respect for deadlines in those days. You had to get the budget resolution in the spring, then you had to get the appropriations bill done by Oct. 1. There wasn’t this thing about brinkmanship. You had to get this stuff done. … There was a respect for each other and a respect for institutions. There were rules in those days,” Matthews said. “Tip would say, ‘I’ll cut a deal on Social Security if you let me focus on taxing the wealthier people.’ There was always a deal. It’s not that they always found common ground, it’s that they each got something out of every deal. … A lot of times it was just getting something from the other guy.”1
Think of this type of relationship brinksmanship, demagoguery and total lack of decorum that we face today and for the last 20 years. As I read about a possible bipartisan committee agreement between Budget Committee leaders Paul Ryan and Patty Murray, I can only hope that something meaningful will come from it. Recent budget deal “Grand Bargains” have blown up as the lack of the art of making the deal has been obvious. “Winning” has become the goal for each side versus “dealing.” Government doesn’t work that way and we have 20 years of proof.
The day is fast approaching when stalling for an additional two or three months will no longer be tolerated. Rating Agencies, investors and foreign countries namely Japan and China floating our massive refuge of debt are losing their patience. It’s time we might lose ours and demand a time when politics worked. If we need to start over, let’s hire all new ones. All the hangs in the balance is our children or our grandchildren’s futures.
1 “Chris Matthews book: Tip O’Neill, Ronald Reagan bond.” Patrick Gavin. 9/30/2013. http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/chris-matthews-book-tip-and-the-gipper-when-politics-worked-97585.html
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