The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Maybe the single step was the invitation of Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN), chairman of the Republican Conference , to President Obama to address the Republican retreat in Baltimore today. The President spoke for twenty minutes, then took questions for an hour.
He ended his introductory remarks this way: ”We've gotten caught up in the political game in a way that's just not healthy. It's dividing our country in ways that are preventing us from meeting the challenges of the 21st century. I'm hopeful that the conversation we have today can help reverse that.”
The session was—as diplomats describe difficult negotiations—frank. Even combative. But both sides—the President and the 140 Republican congressmen—appeared to listen. There was real conversation going on. The President wrapped up the session with this:
“And so the question is, at what point can we have a serious conversation about Medicare and its long-term liability, or a serious question about -- a serious conversation about Social Security, or a serious conversation about budget and debt in which we're not simply trying to position ourselves politically. That's what I'm committed to doing. We won't agree all the time in getting it done, but I'm committed to doing it.”
The ideal of Niebuhr—the political fight waged with good temper and integrity—seems a little closer today than it was yesterday. Clap your hands if you believe.