Any long-time Washington correspondent will tell you that the sense of compromise on Capitol Hill is gone. And with it is one of the key points of international relations -- a political united front.
From the end of World War II, through the chaos of the 1960s, and even into the 1970s, politicians maintained the willingness to compromise. Perhaps it was easier to compromise then. Money was easy, the national debt was relatively low, the middle class was secure. And, we had a recognizable, common enemy -- the Soviet Union. The Red Monolith made it imperative that, when we spoke on foreign policy, we were united.
This past summer we saw Republicans (both traditional and Tea Party) battle President Obama over his decision to intervene in Libya, the debt ceiling, and budget cuts. During the debt ceiling debacle, all the parties involved continued fighting even when polls showed Americans wanted -- guess what? -- a compromise.
Just last week, House Speaker John Boehner dissed Obama by refusing his request to speak to a joint session of Congress. That looked bad, and the world couldn't help but notice the continued divisiveness.
Does this kind of open bickering hurt diplomatic ability? Sure, how can it not? The president and the state department cannot confidently pursue any but the most mundane policies for fear of non-support, and foreign nations can easily play American factions against each other to secure better deals.
During the debt ceiling crisis, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton even found herself having to apologize for the Washington drama. She reassured the world that such arguing was all just a part of living in an open democracy and that everything would be fine.
In truth, all the arguing and public division has diminished some of the leverage that the U.S. needs to conduct effective foreign policy -- the leverage that grows from a united front.
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