he is really trying to bring parties together
here is an interesting news article of good debate and becoming closer as understanding one another
By PETER BAKER and CARL HULSE
Published: January 29, 2010
BALTIMORE — President Obama denied he was a Bolshevik, the Republicans denied they were obstructionists and both sides denied they were to blame for the toxic atmosphere clouding the nation’s political leadership.
Luke Sharrett/The New York Times
President Obama addressed the G.O.P. House Issues Conference in Baltimore on Friday, sharing a dais with, from left, Representatives John A. Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mike Pence.
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At a moment when the country is as polarized as ever, Mr. Obama traveled Friday to a House Republican retreat to try to break through the partisan logjam that has helped stall his legislative agenda. What ensued was a lively, robust debate between a president and the opposition party that rarely happens in the scripted world of American politics.
For an hour and 22 minutes, with the cameras rolling, they thrust and parried, confronting each other’s policies and politics while challenging each other to meet in the middle. Intense and vigorous, sometimes even pointed, the discussion nonetheless proved remarkably civil and substantive for a relentlessly bitter era, an airing of issues that both sides often say they need more of.
But if it was at times a wonky clash of ideas, it also seemed to be a virtual marriage-therapy session — with the most pointed exchanges shown again on the evening news — as each side vented grievances pent up after a year of partisan gridlock. Mr. Obama complained that the Republicans were painting him as a radical, making it harder to compromise.
His health care plan, he said, was not “a Bolshevik plot.” The Republicans, for their part, complained that he did not listen to them and instead sat back while the Democratic “attack machine,” as one called it, demonized them.
“I am not an ideologue,” Mr. Obama said at one point, drawing skeptical murmurs from the crowd that seemed to surprise him. “I’m not,” he insisted.
But if he rejected the Republican labels for him, the Republicans rejected his for them.
“I can look you in the eye and tell you we have not been obstructionists,” Representative Jason Chaffetz, a freshman from Utah, told him.
The encounter at a Baltimore hotel was unlike any of Mr. Obama’s presidency, or very many other presidencies, for that matter. Such a sustained and public dialogue with a hostile audience is rare for a president. Instead, Friday’s back and forth resembled the British tradition where the prime minister submits to questions on the floor of the House of Commons — something Senator John McCain had promised to do if elected president.
For Mr. Obama, the lion’s-den strategy of addressing a Republican audience reinforced his effort in the State of the Union address this week to reclaim a more bipartisan image and reach out to disaffected independents. Although he and other presidents have addressed opposition caucuses before, they usually close the doors for questions, but this time the White House insisted on letting the news media record the give and take.
That worked to his benefit as he took advantage of the staging that comes with being president. He commanded the lectern with the presidential seal and the camera was trained mainly on him, while his interlocutors were forced to look up to him from the audience. Moreover, Mr. Obama gave long, confident and informed answers and felt free to interrupt questioners, while it is typically harder for others to interrupt a president.
But Republicans said they believed they had achieved a victory as well, demonstrating that while Democrats might not like some of their policy ideas, they had advanced some proposals as evidenced by the president’s acknowledgment that he had read them and even incorporated some of them into his initiatives.
“For him to say, ‘I have read your proposals and they are substantive proposals,’ that is a huge thing for Republicans,” Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, said afterward.
Just to make the point that they have been more than the party of no, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, as he introduced the president handed him a booklet called “Better Solutions” compiling a variety of Republican ideas that they said the president had ignored or resisted over the last year.
“We don’t expect you to agree with us on every one of our solutions,” Mr. Boehner said, “but we do hope that you and your administration will consider them.”
The meeting came just 10 days after a special election in Massachusetts cost Democrats their 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, but on a day of rare good news for Mr. Obama as the government reported that the economy grew by 5.7 percent in the final quarter of last year, the strongest rate of growth in six years.
Mr. Obama opened with a speech saying voters wanted bipartisan cooperation. “They didn’t send us to Washington to fight each other in some sort of political steel-cage match to see who comes out alive,” he said. But he was tough and even defensive at times, giving no ground on policy and five times using the phrase “not true” to describe Republican statements.
He argued that his health care plan was “pretty centrist” actually. “But if the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don’t have a lot of room to negotiate with me,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Chaffetz challenged the president on what he characterized as a series of broken promises to change the system, including the fact that health care talks were not broadcast on C-Span.
Mr. Obama conceded failing to televise the closed talks. “It’s a legitimate criticism,” he said. “So on that one, I take responsibility.”
(Even before the questions-and-answers concluded, reporters and commentators were hoping that the sessions — catnip for TV producers everywhere — would become a regular feature. C-span made plans to replay the event in prime time, and at times on Friday afternoon the level of interest in watching video of the event strained its Web servers.)
He was pressed on other issues. “Will you consider supporting across-the-board tax relief, as President Kennedy did?” Representative Mike Pence of Indiana asked.
“I’m going to look at what you guys are proposing,” Mr. Obama answered.
“Would you support a line-item veto?” Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin asked.
“This is an area where we can have a serious conversation,” Mr. Obama said.
The president grew more exasperated when Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas challenged him on the spending plan he will unveil next week. “Will that new budget, like your old budget, triple the national debt and continue to take us down the path of increasing the cost of government to almost 25 percent of our economy?” he asked.
Mr. Obama called the question “an example of how it’s very hard to have the kind of bipartisan work that we’re going to do because the whole question was structured as a talking point for running a campaign.”