I admire Obama’s rhetoric about changing the tone in Washington and seeking consensus to overcome corrosive polarization. But consensus requires compromise. On which of his liberal positions would Obama compromise? Abortion? Taxes? Growing government? He hasn’t said. Maybe if he gets the nomination he will. One plays to one’s base (in his case a very liberal base) during primary season and then races toward the middle after receiving the nomination.
Others before Obama have come to Washington with the announced intention of “changing the tone.” No one changes Washington. Washington changes them. The Congress, of which Obama is now only a freshman member with no legislation he can point to that has his name on it, checks and balances legislation proposed by the chief executive. No president can dictate policy. Hillary Clinton failed in her attempt to impose universal health care on the country when a Democratic-majority Congress refused to go along.
Flirtations are fun and make people feel good, but at a time of turmoil in the world and serious threats to our nation, to indulge in feelings over substance can be costly. The last time we put feelings first, we got Bill Clinton (and before him, Jimmy Carter). President Clinton mostly ignored the terrorist threat, preferring instead his own physical satisfaction. That preference contributed to 9/11. Don’t we have it backward? Shouldn’t a president’s policies make us feel good?
To promote feelings instead of policy is pure self-indulgence. We can’t afford that luxury in a president.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Cal Thomas' column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.