The President of the United States can pretty much pick anyone he wants to invite over to dinner. There aren’t a lot of us who would not be willing to rearrange our schedule to dine at the White House. Sure, there are some who stay away to make a political point. (If you are reading, Mr. President, I’m not one of them. I’m available for the next 3.3 years, maybe more.) So while most of us would come to dinner at the White House, we are still waiting for that elusive invitation. Except for five interesting citizens. Guess who’s coming to dinner at the White House these days? These five names may surprise you.
Tuesday night, Mr. Trump hosted a bipartisan group of senators for dinner. Yes, you read that correctly – “bipartisan.” The agenda was to discuss tax reform, but that’s not important. Well, it is important, but it’s really not that important. It was three specific senators on the RSVP list that make the dinner important, not the topic, nor the menu.
Then, Trump surprised the next day. Last night, he hosted two more politicians for dinner. Again, it was not the topic nor menu that mattered, but the names of his dinner guests.
Are you ready for the names? There were the five men and women who came to dinner the last two nights. And notice what they all have in common – a “D” after their name.
- Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)
- Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
- Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
- Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Manchin, Heitkamp, and Donnelly were the only three Democratic senators who did not sign a letter to Trump that rejected any cooperation with him on a tax plan that included a cut for the top one percent. Schumer and Pelosi, as leaders of the minority, represent any chance of bipartisan – there’s that word again – cooperation with the White House.
Donnelly said, “I had another good conversation with President Trump about my proposal to address the outsourcing of American jobs.”
Heitkamp said, “Any chance to talk with the president about issues important to North Dakota is an opportunity I welcome. Tonight, we had a good conversation.”
This sudden foray into bipartisanship follows Trump’s agreement with Schumer and Pelosi from last week that secured a raise of the federal debt ceiling and funding of the government for the next three months, along with funding for Hurricane Harvey relief.
Republicans don’t quite know what to think of this. Some have criticized the bipartisan effort. Others, such as popular blogger Ben Shapiro, have redefined the president. Shapiro says, “Trump is our first independent president; he is not a Republican.”
So what are we to make of this new outreach to the other side of the aisle? I mean, we haven’t seen this kind of effort to work with the other side since way back in the days of President George W. Bush. Ah, remember the days when a different Clinton of a different era worked with the Speaker of the House from a different political party to balance the federal budget? And remember when President Reagan worked with a Democrat named Tip O’Neil, who was also House Speaker from the opposing party?
Those were the days, my friend. At the time, I thought they’d never end. But end they did. We have become accustomed to presidents passing laws with zero outreach to the other party. Both sides have been doing it.
So now, here comes that genteel man of all things reasonable and calm – President Donald J. Trump – to still the waters, unify the nation, and build bridges rather than walls.
What does this mean, exactly? Will the president be content to simply stick his toes into the pool of bipartisanship, or will he dive in all the way? And if he does dive in, will he even know how to swim in such unfamiliar waters? Where he now sees cute dolphins, he will find sharks. Where he now sees the inviting calm of still waters, he will find storms ahead. And the boat in which he seeks refuge may well have a leak.
But I say it’s worth the effort. What we’ve been doing for the past nine years hasn’t worked. Whether the president’s efforts turn out to be more than a couple of nice dinners is still to be seen. I gave up predicting his next move several moves back. But this could be the dawn of something new.
For now, we’ll just have to wait . . . and pray.