|Or 'How To Not Win Friends and Influence Congress'|
by President Barack Obama
Some things you don't want to repeat in polite company. Some things were so confidential you couldn't believe the virtual stranger told you such things.
The first thing you have to understand about people working on Capitol Hill is that they are human beings, just like you and me and anyone you deal with every single day.
They can be Members of Congress, US Senators, staff people, janitors, elevator operators, clerks or sergeant-at-arms. They are human beings first and foremost before they are public servants serving in the public trust as Thomas Jefferson was so fond of saying.
Since they are humans, they have feelings and emotions just like you do. The only difference is that what they do on a daily basis affects you and 310 million other Americans plus billions of folks around the world. Sometimes it is negatively. Hopefully it is mostly good, or else what are we doing with our government anyway?
With the last 6.2 years of the Obama Administration as a backdrop, we thought we would listen in to some of the conversations you might hear around a Republican chief-of-staff meeting with perhaps maybe 5-10 chiefs-of-staff in attendance.
We think it might be helpful to you to understand the critical difference it makes having a President in the White House who is not only 'comfortable' dealing with the US Senate and Congress but who might actually 'enjoy' the give-and-take and the banter and the struggle that goes on in our representative democracy.
Ronald Reagan did it. He played a lot of gin rummy with Democrat Speaker Tip O'Neill when he faced a recalcitrant US House that was opposed to much of the Reagan Revolution agenda in 1980 and 1984.
George H.W. Bush did it in 1989-1993. Got the 1990 Budget Act passed and signed that led to PAYGO, discretionary caps and entitlement spending moderation for the rest of the decade.
Bill Clinton did it from 1995-2000. In 1997, he signed a budget deal with Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay and Dick Armey, the Three Spawns of Satan in many Democrats' book at the time, that actually balanced the budget for the last 4 years of the 90's and probably for the last time in any of our lives now living to be honest about it.
The Bush 43 years were not known for their bi-partisanship on Capitol Hill and look at what that got the Republicans? Lost the Senate and Congress in 2006, big-time. It took the election of Barack Obama in 2008 to unite the Republicans again.
These such conversations among chiefs-of-staff or legislative directors or other staff could be at a formal meeting; in a Member or Senator's office; at Bullfeathers or on a golf course (if playing golf with lobbyists was allowed anymore which it is not in which case it has become a 'small fundraiser' in which case it is legal).
The key point to try to see in such conversations is where the loss of comity and respect for individuals and the institutions of Congress, the Senate and the White House have seriously eroded our capacity to govern in Washington nowadays.
It is going to take some unusually gifted people to enter elective office and reverse these damaging trends. Much of it is basic 'common sense', 'deal-making' and the ability to 'Make Friends and (Therefore and Thereby) Influence Capitol Hill', to paraphrase Dale Carnegie.
President Obama apparently has not read the book on how to win friends on Capitol Hill.
The sooner we find new people to run for public office, though, the better we will all be.
Conversations Over a Beer on the Golf Course
'Didja see what Obama just did? He appealed to the Iranian people directly to urge them to tell the Ayatollah to support his nuclear deal?'
'C'mon! Are you serious? He did what again? Didn't he just get all involved with the Israeli elections and meddling in their political game? Who does he think he is..the Messiah of The World or something?'
'And then he told people that he wanted the United Nations to ratify this nuke deal with Iran but not the United States Senate! What is his deal anyway?'
'Yeah. We asked his legislative liaison to come to our office so we could discuss some amendments we are considering to the ACA this summer so that when the Supreme Court strikes down the exchanges in King vs. Burwell, we have some backstop ready to go legislatively which will plug the gap for the people who thought they were getting federal subsidies but won't under this decision.
All we heard was 'crickets'. Nothing.'
'Yeah. That is the same experience we have had with this President and his staff people for the past 6 years! Did you know my Senator has NEVER even met President Obama yet?'
'That is because your guy is from Idaho, Bub! No one even knows where Idaho is anyway.'
'Shut up! Sammy!' 'Shut Up Henry!'
'Seriously. In your wildest dreams, would you have ever imagined that a US President would be playing so footloose and fancy-free with the US Constitution?'
'Nixon did a pretty good job of that, didn't he?'
'He was a paranoid schizophrenic when it came to his political career. He covered up his involvement in Watergate which was a dumb thing to begin with. But at least Nixon respected the constitutional prerogatives of Congress and he stayed pretty much preoccupied with foreign affairs such as opening diplomatic relations with China and all that.'
'Yeah. I wish all Obama did WAS bug the RNC Headquarters in 2012! At least we coulda blamed Romney's loss on that and now we would be having impeachment hearings to get rid of Obama today! McGovern must have been laughing his rear end off during the while Watergate hearing mess.'
'President Obama pretty much has made it clear he doesn't like the US Constitution very much. It is too 'binding', he says. It prevents him from getting done for the American people what 'he wants to get done for the American people'. He is signing executive orders like they are orders for cheeseburgers at McDonald's except no one is paying for them!'
'This Iran nuclear deal is just like an 'executive order' to Obama. He could bring it to the US Senate for ratification which would build public and bipartisan support for it...but he won't. Why?'
'That is the $64 million question, then. Did you boneheads know that the President does not have to bring any treaty or international agreement to the US Senate for ratification if he doesn't want to? The Constitution says the President 'shall' have power 'by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make Treaties....' but that doesn't mean he has to submit anything for a treaty unless he wants to. Otherwise, it just becomes a bilateral or multi-lateral agreement that can be easily overturned when the next President comes around.'
'Yeah. You can bet Hillary Clinton will overturn everything Obama has done in these 2 terms. She was right there with him for the first 4 years of all this mess to begin with!'
'Did you know that no Democrat has replaced an incumbent Democrat in the White House by election since James Buchanan replaced Franklin Pierce in 1856?'
'Wow. And he was one of the great ones ever, wasn't he? Buchanan was such a terrible President that no one in Congress wanted to commemorate his legacy with anything so his niece left money in her will to build him a park north of the White House on Meridian Hill'
'Who are you...the travel guide for the Travel Channel in your spare time?'
'Shut up, Henry!' 'Shut up Sammy!'
'Boys, boys! Calm down! We have a real constitutional crisis here with this President! From his sealed records before he ran for the White House to his ramming-through of Obamacare down our throats when the Democrats were in control of Congress and the Senate from 2009-2011 to the IRS harassment of Tea Party groups to the NSA tapping of phones to Benghazi to this 'secret' Iran deal to his snubbing of our only true ally in the Middle East, Israel, we have a real problem with a rogue President who really doesn't think the Constitution applies to him!'
'Well, one thing is for certain. We sure as heck would not be in the majority of the US Senate, the US Congress, number of Governors and state legislatures in record numbers since Harry Truman without Obama being in office, that is for darned sure! We have over 1000 more legislative and executive Republican offices now across the nation than before Obama became President in 2008!'
'Well, thank God for little miracles then!'
'Well, here's something the Democrats and Obama have not thought of yet: Every precedent Obama is setting right now can and will be used by every Republican President elected from now on! Turn-about is fair play, right?'
'Maybe. But Republicans like to play by the rules so we are probably going to go back and honor tradition such as restoring the filibuster in the US Senate and forgetting all about Harry Reid's insane 'nuclear option' to get people confirmed to various positions in the federal government.'
'Yeah. Republicans like to follow convention. They are like the guy who not only tucks his shirt in his pants; he tucks his undershirt into his underwear before he tucks his shirt into his pants!'
'Doesn't everyone do that?'
'Shut up Henry!'
'Well, I gotta get back to the office now. You know how complicated this budget mess is and entitlement reform and health care and financial services regulation and all that. Just a few of the 'little' problems facing us today as a nation.'
'Yup. Go get 'em, Sammy! I am sure this President will turn things around and the next 1.8 years will be smooth-sailing for everyone!'
'Yep. Sure it will. Sure it will.'