The President Breaks the Ice With Republicans

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The presidential charm offensive is in full swing:

Obama invited 12 GOP senators to dinner Wednesday at the Jefferson Hotel in downtown Washington, where they dined for two hours. Obama picked up the tab personally, and two of his guests, Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.), emerged flashing a thumbs-up.

“I think what he is really trying to do is just start a discussion and break the ice, and that was appreciated,” Mike Johanns (Neb.) told reporters as he left the dinner. “His goal is ours — we want to stop careening from crisis to crisis and solving every problem by meeting a crisis deadline.”

Obama picked up the tab personally! I don’t quite get that, but whatever.

This will be an interesting experiment. It certainly can’t do any harm, and in any case, it’s obviously something Obama should have been doing all along. Just part of the job, you know. At the same time, I doubt very much that it will accomplish anything. LBJ’s legendary schmoozing, the touchstone for this kind of thing, has always been overhyped, but even at the height of his powers he would have had little luck with the kind of Congress Obama has to deal with. It’s true that there have long been a few Republican senators willing to break ranks on taxes, but there’s little reason to think the rest of them will be swayed by any kind of sweet talk or detailed white papers. And that goes double for the House. It’s just not in the cards. This stuff is driven by policy and ideology, not by personalities.

But we’ll see. If this works, I’ll be gobsmacked, and all the pundits who kept demanding that Obama “lead” will be proven right. Anybody want to take bets?


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