Fearing the 'kiss of death'
By Joseph Sabino Mistick
Published: Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Families that regularly break bread together understand that ancient ritual. And that might explain the recurring lament from some quarters that our nation's problems could be solved if only President Obama hosted a few more socials with Republican leaders.
Last week, when asked about these claims again, Obama talked about playing golf with House Speaker John Boehner and posing with congressional families at the annual picnic, all to no avail on the political front.
The president said that while he and the first lady enjoy those generally friendly times with Republican members of Congress, it doesn't prevent his opponents from going onto the floor of the House and “blasting me for being a big-spending socialist.”
Even invitations to state dinners, holiday parties and movie nights at the White House, surefire icebreakers in the past, have few Republican takers. No longer is it unthinkable to pass on a chance to loaf with the president simply because you belong to different political parties.
It seems that no Republican official can forget the Charlie Crist bacio di morte , or kiss of death. In 2009, the then-Republican governor of Florida embraced President Obama at a public event and photos of that were used to deny Crist the Senate nomination the following year and drum him out of party prominence.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie rolled the dice and hugged Obama during Hurricane Sandy. He immediately drew the ire of fellow Republicans who are hellbent on keeping humanity out of national politics. It could cost him the 2016 presidential nomination.
Still, bread-breaking had a good run on the national scene. Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill shared lunch during their bitterest battles and worked things out for the sake of the country. John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, fellow World War II veterans, remained friends in the Senate until their final showdown for the White House.
In “Eisenhower in War and Peace,” author Jean Edward Smith describes the accommodation reached by three of the wiliest political denizens of Washington. Ike, Speaker Sam Rayburn and Senate Leader Lyndon Johnson “did not trust one another completely and they did not see eye to eye on every issue but they understood one another and had no difficulty working together.”
And while Ike continued to meet with Republican leadership, “his weekly sessions with Rayburn and Johnson, usually in the evening over drinks, were far more productive.” Together, they brought us the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Interstate Highway System, changing the face of the nation.
It was an age in which personal relationships still counted for something in national politics, when the common good prevailed over party politics, before fear of the kiss of death. The answer is still out there — if any of today's national leaders grow weary of the gridlock.
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Analysis: Kesler remains on Penguins’ radar as Shero looks bring back ‘Big 3’ formula
- Starkey: Steelers know when to say goodbye
- NFL notebook: Jaguars reunite DT Bryant with coach
- Penguins GM Shero’s deadline deals: Addition by subtraction
- Pirates’ big risk with pitch-heavy draft focus might soon pay off
- Ex-Colts executive Polian: Approach free agency with caution
- NHL notebook: Capitals sign Russian forward
- Valley wrestlers take unprecedented step at PIAA tournament
- With so many needs, Steelers can ill afford to miss in draft
- Manufacturing course opens Knoch students’ eyes
- Eastern European military officers say security, economic ties blunt Russia’s war threat in Ukraine