Newspaper article Roll Call

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Newspaper article Roll Call

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Article excerpt

It's four years, two months and millions of rancorous words too late, but could President Barack Obama's outreach to congressional Republicans be the start of something big?

By big, of course, I mean serious efforts to reach a grand bargain on the national debt -- followed, maybe, by further bargains on immigration and steps needed to get the economy working for people besides big bankers and investors in the stock market.

Big moves would give Obama a chance to achieve a legacy of positive achievement -- maybe, even, of his original stated purpose of closing the partisan chasm dividing Americans.

If this is what he had in mind by going to dinner with 12 GOP senators, having lunch with House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan and scheduling visits to Capitol Hill next week, it would be a total reversal of his past pattern of aloofness richly mixed with hostility.

For months, he's been vilifying Republicans as uncaring about disabled children and the aged, interested only in protecting tax breaks for oil companies and private jet owners and willing to force schoolteachers, Border Patrol agents and first responders out of their jobs.

He waited until the Friday before the sequester took effect to meet with Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, when it was a foregone conclusion that $85 billion in what he later called "dumb, arbitrary cuts" would take effect.

At a news conference just five days before the dinner, he repeated estimates that the sequester might cost 750,000 jobs and said: "None of this is necessary. It's happening because of a choice that Republicans in Congress have made. They've allowed the cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful loophole ... for the well-off and well-connected."

So, the first test of whether Obama has really changed strategies (not tactics) will be: Does he stop the attacks? …

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