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Compromise? That's some other guy's problem, right?

Sep 6, 2012 - The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- It's a fact of life in Washington that what one party considers a principled stand, the opposition considers pigheadedness. Compromise? That's the other guy's problem.

But when former President Bill Clinton took the stage at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, he portrayed President Barack Obama as a pragmatic compromiser who has been stymied at every turn by Republicans. There was no mention of the role that the president and the Democrats have played in grinding compromise to a halt on some of the most important issues facing the country.

That was among the lines by the former president and others Wednesday that either cherry-picked facts or mischaracterized the opposition. A look at some of them:

CLINTON: "When times are tough, constant conflict may be good politics but in the real world, cooperation works better. ...Unfortunately, the faction that now dominates the Republican Party doesn't see it that way. They think government is the enemy and compromise is weakness. One of the main reasons America should re-elect President Obama is that he is still committed to cooperation."

THE FACTS: From Clinton's speech, voters would have no idea that the inflexibility of both parties is to blame for much of the gridlock. Right from the beginning Obama brought in as his first chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a man known for his getting his way, not for getting along.

One of the more high-profile examples of a deal that fell apart was the outline of a proposed "grand bargain" budget agreement between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in 2011.

The deal would have required compromise from both sides. It slashed domestic spending more than most Democrats wanted and would have raised some taxes, which most Republicans oppose.

Boehner couldn't sell the plan to tea party factions in the House or to other conservative activists. And Obama found himself accused of going too far by some Democratic leaders. The deal died before it ever even came up for a vote.

In another instance, Obama appointed a bipartisan group, known as the Simpsons-Bowles Commission, to recommend ways to fix major fiscal problems like Social Security and Medicare. The commission issued its recommendations but fell three votes short of formally endorsing them. And Obama mostly walked away from the report. He later incorporated some of the less contentious proposals from the report into legislation he supported.

But that ensured the tough compromises would not get made.

The problem with compromising in Washington is that there are few true moderates left in either party. The notion that Republicans are the only ones standing in the way of compromise is inaccurate. Democrats, from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama, play their role in gridlock as well.

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