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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Obama and Reagan Have Similar 100 Days

January 25, 2009

President Barack Obama is taking a cue from one of the most successful Presidencies of the Twentieth Century - Ronald Reagan’s - by actively courting members of the opposite party to support his economic program which he is counting on to lift the country out of the current economic recession.

This, too, was Ronald Reagan’s first priority in 1981, and he counted on bipartisan support from Democrats to win passage of his economic idea which included tax cuts, less regulation, and a smaller government.

While Democrats control both Houses in the current Congress, Obama knows that he needs the entire country to back his plan – and that means support in Congress from both political parties. This is why he is working so hard to cross party lines and get Republican support for his plan.

President Reagan also worked hard at developing good relations with Congress and was determined to reach across the aisle to get his policies passed. Reagan always maintained an agreeable personality and this made it difficult for Democrats in Congress to dislike him. In the end 63 Democrats crossed over and voted for Reagan’s economic plan.

President Obama has taken this page from the Reagan play book and is making a strong pitch for Republican votes. He has gone out of his way to be non-partisan, congenial, and inclusive of Republicans. It's important for Congressional Democrats to understand what Obama is trying to do - and not interfere with partisan statements or actions.

Obama invited traditional Republicans to participate in his Inaugural including evangelical Pastor Rick Warren to provide the benediction at his swearing-in ceremony. He also spent two hours meeting privately with Republican pundits at a Georgetown dinner party hosted at the home of conservative columnist George Will.

Many remember that Ronald Reagan went out of his way to cross party lines leading up to his own Inaugural swearing-in when he and Nancy Reagan graciously attended a reception in his honor hosted by then Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry.

Once in office the political differences between President Reagan and Democrat House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O’Neil were well documented. But the two talked regularly and they forged a personal relationship that enabled them to work effectively despite the fact that they were miles apart philosophically.

O’Neil said that during the debate of Reagan’s economic plan he received more letters than he had ever seen in his entire career asking him to give Reagan’s program a chance. "One factor was Reagan’s enormous personal appeal, especially after the attempt on his life. He quickly became a folk hero, and he performed so beautifully on television that he could sell anything," O’Neil said.

Reagan was famous for courting Congress - in person and on the telephone. He once invited Democratic House members to Camp David for a barbecue to show his appreciation for their support of his economic plan. One such Democrat was asked if it meant that by attending his vote could be "bought." "No," the Congressman replied, "but it can be rented".

It took two years after passage for Reagan’s economic plan to bring the country out of the 1981-82 recession but when it did - the country never looked back - and went on to enjoy 86 straight months of unparalleled economic expansion.

So it is today that President Obama has the support of the American people for his economic stimulus program and he is anxious to receive Republican ideas for the plan - and hopefully their votes. Once passed the country will need to be patient and give the President's plan time to work and stimulate the economy.

It’s yet to be determined if Obama has the same kind of persuasion qualities that Reagan possessed - but he has an even-keeled personality that plays well in the country and he is going out of his way to remain non-partisan with members of Congress. This could result in a bi-partisan stimulus package that both parties can support.

How successful he is could very well define his Presidency.