Despite the political divisiveness in Washington, former Secretary of State James Baker is "fundamentally optimistic" about the potential to get stuff done, he told The Dallas Morning News.
"Compromise has become more difficult — and sometimes, it seems, impossible, but we should not despair," Baker, a former White House chief of staff under ex-Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the latter of which he served as Secretary of State, told the Morning News. "I am fundamentally optimistic about our country's future.
"I'm old enough to remember how we met challenges during the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War — and triumphed."
Regardless of his optimism, Baker did warn about the danger of the spiraling national debt.
"While I would prefer a grand bargain addressing our alarming fiscal position, I would support any substantial initiative to begin tackling it," he concluded to the Morning News. "And, yes, both tax increases and budget cuts should be on the table. As President Reagan said: 'If I can get 70 or 80% of what I want, I'll take that and then continue to try to get the rest in the future.'
"But let there be no doubt: If we don't address our ticking fiscal time bomb now, we risk a crisis that will cripple the economic future of our children and grandchildren."
It will require negotiating and "listening" to your enemies, according to Baker.
"Bipartisanship means talking to your political adversaries — and, more importantly, listening," he told the Morning News. "President Reagan and Speaker O’Neill may have disagreed across a range of issues. But they knew and liked each other. And this led to trust, a vanishingly rare trait in Washington today."
Like Alan Dershowitz argued to Senate Democrats to apply the "shoe on the other foot test," Baker did the same for getting things done for America in Washington, D.C.
"An important aspect of successful negotiations is the ability to climb into the shoes of the other parties at the table and understand what motivates them personally, politically, and professionally," Baker told the Morning News. "After all, it’s understandably hard to get something from someone if doing that will hurt that person more than it helps them."
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