In the spirit of the Christmas season, let me highlight from last week's confusing Washington rhetoric a statement by the president that was shrewd -- even wise. On behalf of the spirit of compromise, he pointed out that even though, under the original constitutional compromise, he (implicitly, as a black man) "could not have walked through the front door" -- it was worth it because otherwise we would not have gained a union.
Of course, throughout history, calling for compromise may sometimes be a cover for sheer cynicism and lack of principle. Yet without the capacity to compromise at more or less the right moment, collective activity -- such as self-government -- is impossible.
I have been a convinced conservative now for almost a half a century of political activism (since I was 13 years old). And over that time, I have learned of the need to compromise. As a White House staffer for Ronald Reagan for six years, I had a chance to observe, close up, a principled conservative practice the art of compromise with rare excellence. I confess that at the time, as a new arrival to Washington, I often argued against the compromises. I was always concerned that we were about to sell out the principles we had come to Washington to vindicate.
But over time, it became obvious to me -- and virtually all my fellow compromise skeptics-that President Reagan was right and we were wrong. He had seen enough of life to understand the difference between a debate -- and getting something needed done.
And, importantly, he was so closely tethered to his convictions that he understood when to stand firm -- as he did in negotiations with the Soviets when he refused to give up our strategic missile defense (star wars) research and deployment.
There are many changing mental aspects to getting older -- not all of them good. But experience usefully reveals the sheer impossibility of imposing ALL of one's views on a conflicted world. Even totalitarian dictators eventually fail at such efforts.
And, if you are lucky, experience also teaches you to look through the surface of things to their inherent utility or disutility. For example, consider the legislative process. Viewed on the surface -- politician by politician, individual motive by individual motive -- all legislative efforts are squalid affairs. But legislating is potentially raised above such squalor -- even up to nobility -- by the facts that the politicians are elected by the people and that their horrid process is necessary for self-government.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.