The empathy of Barack Obama

What I wanted to know was whether Barack Obama really understands me. Sure, we’ve had our differences. He’s a Democrat and I’m a Republican. Admittedly, I’ve criticized the President on several occasions. But maybe I’ve been unfair. Maybe he really understands why I’m concerned and why I don’t always agree.

As it turns out, the President nailed my concerns on the head. After announcing his upcoming freeze on government spending, he acknowledged that those on his left may think we need to spend more to help Americans through the current economic crisis. Then the President spoke candidly about the potential objections of those on Republican side of the aisle:

From some on the right, I expect we’ll hear a different argument -– that if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts including those for the wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away. The problem is that’s what we did for eight years. (Applause.) That’s what helped us into this crisis. It’s what helped lead to these deficits. We can’t do it again.

It’s funny, just before the State of the Union address, I was thinking about posting a short list of important reforms our country needs. There were four main items on the list.

First, make fewer investments in the American people.

Second, preserve tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Third, eliminate more regulations.

Fourth, maintain the status quo on healthcare.

If we just do those things, I know that we can rein in the federal deficit. Although I don’t expect the President to follow my recommendations, it means a lot to me that he understands them. That is the spirit of bipartisanship that can bring real change to Washington. I think the President understands that, too. As he said in his speech,

What the American people hope -– what they deserve -– is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics…

Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it’s time to try something new…

What frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can’t wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -– a belief that if you lose, I win…

Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game. But it’s precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it’s sowing further division among our citizens, further distrust in our government.

So, no, I will not give up on trying to change the tone of our politics.

In closing, I say to my Democratic friends, I hope that you will live up to the example of fair-mindedness and candor set by your President. To my Republican friends, I say let us unclench our fist, since it is clear that our President is ready to extend his hand across the aisle. Last year was tough, but things are looking up for 2010.

(I hope my sarcasm wasn’t too obvious.)

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