As politics go, it was a great photo op: Barack Obama and John McCain, sitting down in Chicago to bury the hatchet and pledging to cooperate. We’ll see if it really happens. Promises of bipartisanship in Washington are almost as long as the national debt, but I do think Obama has a unique opportunity to try. Here are some places to start:
Joe Lieberman – The Democrats should allow him to stay on in their caucus if he wishes. He should also keep his Chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee. For Democrats to punish Joe Lieberman would be petty. What? Should Republicans censure Colin Powell in return? People, including high ranking officials, should have the freedom to support whomever they wish. The election is supposedly a celebration of our freedom. Let it be.
Ted Stevens – This is a trickier matter, because he has seven felony convictions. If he loses his tight Senate race in Alaska, then just let him finish out his term on January 3. There’s no need to be mean and vindictive here. If he wins, he should be pressured to do the noble thing and resign. Expulsion from the Senate should only be the final resort.
The Cabinet – Obama should be true to his word and appoint some Republicans. Keeping Robert Gates at Defense is a likely start.
Hillary Clinton – The more I think about her as Secretary of State, the more it makes sense for Obama. Whether it makes sense for international relations remains to be seen. The world is a minefield.
Legislation – This is where Obama really needs to emphasize bipartisanship. Given their huge majorities, Democrats can steamroll just about anything through Congress. Such margins can lead to hasty and bad legislation. Obama needs to have the guts to wave his veto pen, even at his own party.
Issues – For starters, immigration reform never came up in the campaign. Never! I don’t think the issue was even raised in the debates. It’s a critical issue for economics; and it’s a critical issue for national security. Heck, it touches everything, from health care to education. Something concrete needs to be done - not only on border security, but also on how to handle the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants who are already here. The last Congress and President failed to come to any agreement. Yes, it was a flawed bill, (most are), but it was a start. Doing nothing is a disgrace to both parties.
John McCain – Perhaps immigration reform is where John McCain enters the picture. As a moderate, he supports some of the same reforms as Democrats. But he also has the influence to make sure some of the Republican reforms are put in the package. Heck, lead a filibuster, since Democrats failed to win the 60 seats necessary to block one. Generally speaking, the GOP has called for far tougher measures on border security than the Democrats. McCain can be the compromiser. It’s hard to imagine this critical issue can pass without him. And if Obama truly wants to show he’s bipartisan and not afraid to step on some constituencies in his own party, then immigration is a good place to start.
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