Obama Needs Less Lecturing, More Debating

Perhaps the president has learned from the likes of Bill Safire after all.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson blog

Last week, I wrote about the passing of my friend Bill Safire—part of a dying breed of conservatives, along with Jack Kemp and Irving Kristol, who enjoyed debating the other side and winning opponents over, rather than each simply preaching to his own choir—in my column for U.S. News Weekly. Here's what President Obama could learn from them:

President Obama seems to talk all the time now and isn't doing much listening, and his poll numbers reflect it. Back in the 2008 campaign, he was a pretty good debater; now he's more of a lecturer. Perhaps it's the law professor in him. When he did his recent tour of the Sunday morning talk shows to promote healthcare reform, he pointedly chose not to appear on Fox News Sunday. That's too bad. Fox was the one network he should have done—by accepting its invitation, he could have engaged his opponents on the issues, changed a few minds on the other side, and made a statement about the "us vs. them" mentality in politics. He could have followed the example of Kristol and Kemp and Safire. Instead, he preached to his own supporters.

In that column, I referenced Peggy Noonan's epithet for Jack Kemp: "The Happy Warrior." A few days later, she wrote a similar send-off for Safire and his fellow "Elders," as she calls them, which is worth reading in the Wall Street Journal.

There's good news this morning: The president invited a bipartisan group of congressional leaders to the White House last night—for the first time in months—to discuss the future of the war in Afghanistan. I'm not sure where the policy is headed, but at least the two sides are talking to each other. Maybe this is a sign that there will be less lecturing and more debating the issues of the day.

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