Last night, President Barack Obama called Sen. Lindsey Graham. They spoke for about 20 minutes, which suggests that the president didn’t make very many such calls.
Graham told reporters in Columbia today that the president wanted to find a way to work with him and other Republicans so that the next two years aren’t just a continuation of gridlock of the last two.
Obama wasn’t looking for miracles. He wanted “a medium or small-sized deal” or two that could build confidence, persuade everyone that it’s possible for the two sides to work together for the good of the country and then who knows? Maybe a big deal would be possible.
“The President wanted to find ways to create momentum for problem-solving because he believed rightly that it would help the American people, restore their belief that the government is not hopelessly lost, and would increase our standing overseas,” said Graham. “And I think he’s right about that.”
What sorts of things might constitute such a modest deal? The first thing Graham mentioned was the fact that the highway trust fund is depleted — as on the state level, the gasoline tax no longer brings in enough to meet the nation’s infrastructure needs. He said he and Barbara Boxer are already working on a deal that would put a 10 percent tax on money earned by American corporations overseas, to replenish the fund.
He said he and the president also spoke about port modernization, the Keystone pipeline, tax reform — and immigration.
The senator suggested that Republicans would be wise to accept the president’s offer:
“President Obama’s biggest problem is that he campaigned as a centrist, but he’s governed from the left ditch,” Graham said. “Here’s gonna be our problem: If we take the car from the left ditch to the right ditch, we’re gonna be in trouble, too. People want the car in the middle of the road — they want it in the right-center lane of the road — and not in the right ditch.”
Could the two sides ever reach that big deal on the major challenges facing the country? Graham doesn’t know, but “Without the small and medium-sized compromise, there will never be a big deal.”
“So, Mr. President: Here I am. I’m ready to go to work…”
He said as soon as he got done with the presser, he was going to return a call to Harry Reid…