The road to bipartisanship

This is no criticism of anyone on the current White House staff. It is a suggestion that President Barack Obama do what successful presidents have often done: bring to his government very high-level Washington hands with friendships, contacts and vast credibility.

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The enormous body of work from the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) dramatizes again the importance of personal relationships, trust and vast experience to achieving great goals in public service.

The road to renewed bipartisanship can begin again if the president brings to his inner councils the highest-level advisers with the wide relationships, immense experience and institutional memories that have served previous presidents so well.
Obama wants to heal the great divides in Washington. To accomplish this, there is no substitute for personal relationships of trust and long experience resolving high matters of state that James Baker-like advisers bring to the high councils of government.

There is good reason that many presidents have done this. What I suggest is traditional, with the twist of bringing to the White House a very prominent Republican, as well as a Democrat, at this historic moment.

The president was right considering Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) for Commerce secretary. However, with the divisions between the parties today, this role is best suited not to an executive implementer but to a very high-level inside adviser and outside ambassador seeking opportunities for bipartisanship.

There are strong candidates for the role of über-Democratic White House counselor. Two former Senate Majority Leaders, Tom Daschle and George Mitchell, and Kennedy confidant and former Democratic Party leader Paul Kirk, are three.

A high-level Republican such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) or former Sen. Warren Rudman (R-N.H.) would bring clout, credibility, experience, judgment and respect across the aisle to the president.

We live in extraordinary times, with persistent crises and national divisions that have resurfaced only months after the inaugural of our new president. It may be that our divisions are so deep we are doomed to permanent campaigns in which insults are hurled across the aisle.

However, the overwhelming majority of people throughout the nation hunger for honorable attempts for the parties to work together, to address problems that create deep worries that are only heightened by vindictive and demeaning name-calling and posturing that corrupt our civic discourse.

Obama can do what Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan and other presidents have done. Every Democrat and Republican that I have mentioned here has a long history with vast experience, high credibility with both parties and a strong history of achieving major success at the highest levels of government.

The road to great presidential success has been paved by presidents who have come before. The road to bipartisanship might begin anew, if the president brings to the center of his government the kind of Super Bowl-magnitude statesmen who have served so well, when called to action by presidents throughout our history.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.