Obama signals he will tap his rivals
Many presidents have vowed to end partisanship. Few succeed.
Will he build a team of rivals?Skip to next paragraph
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As President-elect Obama crafts his transition to the White House, he’s reaching out to former adversaries like Hillary Rodham Clinton for potential cabinet posts and across the partisan aisle to people like GOP standard-bearer John McCain to try to forge alliances.
It’s a governing style used by Abraham Lincoln, whom Mr. Obama says showed “wisdom there and a humility.”
In Washington, where partisanship often grinds action almost to a halt, the approach is being eyed warily. History shows that most new presidents vow to reach across the aisle and end partisan rancor, to little avail.
It even has a new tag: “transpartisanship.” The idea is to bring together people with differing ideologies around aspects of issues on which they can agree – from economic stimulus to a more transparent government.
“The country is tired of hyperpartisanship and would love a vacation from it – and that’s what it would be, a vacation, because it will be back,” says Larry Sabato, a political analyst at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. “But it’s worth a try. The question is, can you bring people into the tent and keep them there? These are gigantic egos, and it’s not going to be easy.”
In a Monday meeting with Senator McCain, Obama has signaled his intent to work across party lines on a variety of issues. “We’re going to have a good conversation about how we can do some work together to fix up the country,” he told reporters before the meeting.
McCain, asked whether he would help Obama with his administration, responded, “Obviously.”
After the meeting, they issued a joint statement that read in part: “[W]e had a productive conversation today about the need to launch a new era of reform where we take on government waste and bitter partisanship in Washington in order to restore trust in government, and bring back prosperity and opportunity for every hardworking American family.”
Government transparency a priority
During his tenure in the Senate, Obama made government transparency a priority – opening government processes to citizens. He took a transpartisan approach, working with Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma on a piece of transparency legislation. That may be a guide map of how Obama will operate with Congress after he becomes president.
Working with transparency advocates – a diverse group of liberals, progressives, conservatives, and libertarians – the two senators wrote a bill requiring the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to create a searchable website of all government spending. Congress eventually approved the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. Now, Americans can go to USAspending.gov to learn exactly how their tax dollars are being spent.