Lawmakers should channel Lincoln on bipartisanship

CMF played a small role in the session, helping to coordinate a presentation in conflict resolution by Wendy Swire, an expert on the topic of “Getting to Yes.” I had the privilege of attending the session and was struck by the interest of the lawmakers in the topic. Committee members sat around tables, seated Democrat next to Republican, with placards at their seats with blue donkeys and red elephants.

Members listened to rules of conflict resolution, such as the value of looking past an opponent’s stated position, and how these principles contributed to the Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel in 1978. A relevant lesson was to be “soft on the people, hard on the problem” — a message that carried added poignancy in the aftermath of the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on Jan. 8.

The facilitator ended with a quote from Abraham Lincoln. Toward the end of the Civil War, Lincoln was at a gathering and offered a degree of praise for Southern secessionists. A woman in the crowd angrily confronted Lincoln. “How could you say such things about our enemy?” she asked.  Lincoln responded:  “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.” What would the 112th Congress look like if all members followed the example of Chairman Smith and President Lincoln?