Clinton, LBJ mastered art of compromise
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Few political observers have compared the 42nd president of the United States with the 36th.
But what former President Bill Clinton intoned last week at West Texas A&M University well might have brought back memories of the late President Lyndon Johnson.
It is this, quite simply: Rigid ideology must not stop progress on behalf of the country.
Clinton, speaking as part of WT's Distinguished Lecture Series, told a packed First United Bank Event Center that "we can do lots of stuff to grow the economy, but if we spend most of our time making ideological arguments ... we're not having the right debate. We're talking about whether to do something, instead of how to do it."
Bingo, Mr. President.
Clinton helped craft a successful presidency from 1993 until 2001 by working with congressional Republicans who took control of Congress after the landmark 1994 mid-term election. The president's tax policies, coupled with GOP-led spending restraints, helped bring about a balanced budget for several years running.
Does that remind anyone of LBJ? It should.
The Texan also worked well with congressional Republicans. Some of his better friends in the Senate were the likes of the late Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois, with whom he had a tremendous working relationship, owing in part to LBJ's own time as Senate majority leader. Johnson would fight publicly with Republicans, then work privately with them on ways to reach compromise.
That kind of "back-room dealing" has been missing in recent years. It has resulted in stalemate after stalemate in Congress, with both sides blaming each other for the other side's intransigence, stubborn adherence to ideology and an inability to think of the common good.
People get elected all the time by professing to hold to their principles. It falls on those elected officials to ensure their principles jibe with those of a majority of their constituents. It also falls on them to determine how and when to work toward compromise without surrendering their ideology.
It's a complicated process at times, which is the very nature of legislating.
Clinton gets it.
So did Johnson.
And so should those who serve the nation today.