The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 14, 2013

Who says politicians can’t be friends?

By Brian Graves, Staff Writer

Monday, January, 14, 2013 — There was a time when members of Congress actually spoke to each other.

Without regard to party affiliation, they would travel, eat and socialize together.

The late Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, a Democrat, spoke at the memorial service for his good friend Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens.

He recalled how the two of them found much common ground and became fast and good friends.

They would visit each other’s homes, their children became friends and, most amazing of all, they campaigned for each other.

There are other such stories throughout political lore and it proves just how much our politics have degraded into one giant yell fest that has given little or no results.

The late Tim Russert once said a major reason for the downturn in comity in Congress was the advent of air travel.

Times were when Congressional members didn’t take the first VIP jet home. They actually got in cars and drove the sometimes hundreds of miles together.

The late Rep. Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois was at one time the most powerful Democrat on Capitol Hill.

He was chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee which wielded power and money when budget time came.

The Republican leader of the House at the same time was Rep. Robert Michael, who also hailed from Illinois.

When these two men went home during recess, they got in a car and drove the 1,000 miles together.

Along the way they discussed their families, good fishing spots, life in general and by the time they would return to Washington, there might have been some disagreements, but they found ways to compromise and work together.

Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, when needing some help on the Hill, would often place a late night call to Senate Republican Minority Leader Everett Dirksen.

Dirksen would go to the White House where LBJ would have some scotch or bourbon ready that the two men would enjoy while swapping lies with each other.

Then, LBJ would say something like, “Ev, I know you want those nominees approved and I need votes on the bill up tomorrow. What can we do for each other?”

And, it got done for both sides.

These were people who became good friends and although they may have served on the philosophical opposite sides of the aisle, they realized that to get things done they didn’t have to hate or personally attack one another.

The truth is there is no one party or person that holds the copyright on the solutions to the problems the country faces.

Both parties seem to have gone further to the extremes as they fight one another.

It’s time they start toning it down.

Just as a medical operation requires the skills of several different physicians, so it is with politics.

The need is great for people in office to have the skills of constructive debate, common sense, a moral compass and a large dose of reality.

It also wouldn’t be a bad idea for the public in general to find those same skill sets.

There will be no easy, comfortable or fast solutions to America’s woes; however, it is through the political system our democracy works.

Politics is the art of compromise. No one can promise everything they want will happen and there is no one person everyone will agree with totally.

But, there must be some good, decent people who can do the jobs without rancor or bitterness.

The fighting and fussing needs to stop or nothing will change, much less improve.

Abraham Lincoln could have well been speaking of our times when he said, “A house divided against itself will not stand.”

That cautionary statement still holds true.