Historians and lame-duck officeholders abetted by the cultural currency of a new Lincoln movie fill the tube with talk about the traditional role of (gulp) compromise in American politics.
Ideological purity is pushed offstage in favor of praising negotiation, deal-making, tradeoffs and even bribery to get to a legislative yes.
Steven Spielberg’s film dramatizes a Great Emanicipator pursuing lofty goals with low methods, ending slavery by wheeling and dealing—-exemplifying, in David Brooks’ words, that you achieve greatness “only if you are willing to stain your own character in order to serve others--if you are willing to bamboozle, trim, compromise and be slippery and hypocritical.”
Idealism may eventually stage a comeback, once rescued from Tea Party clutches, but the new pundit mood calls for Obama to emulate his predecessors in political back-dooring.
On “Face the Nation” Bob Schieffer elicits from biographers of Lincoln, Jefferson and Eisenhower evidence that they were all “great negotiators” and “great compromisers” in a mode often associated only with LBJ. (Jon Meacham notes Jefferson sought a Constitutional amendment for the Louisiana Purchase but, when Napoleon wavered, glibly denied he needed one and went ahead to double the size of the country.)
Now that wheeling and dealing are trendy, who knows how far the reelected President can go if he stoops enough to conquer? His Congressional opposition seems more than ready to join him in backpedaling to the future.