Commentary: Obama, GOP need to face off more often

February 3, 2010 

Friday's face-to-face confrontation between President Obama and Republican lawmakers gave viewers a taste of what it might be like if the United States had the equivalent of the British question-and-answer sessions between the prime minister and the House of Commons.

This was not a formal session like the British version. But it was a real, unscripted exchange of views between the president and GOP House members.

And neither side minced words.

The site of the exchange was a Republican gathering in Baltimore. Obama's presence was the result of something like a double dare.

Republicans were eager to demonstrate that they were open to working with the administration on points of agreement. Obama was eager to welcome bipartisan cooperation and to try to refute some of the accusations about his programs made by congressional Republicans.

So, when invited, the president came. And when he suggested letting the cameras run during the question-and-answer session, Republicans agreed.

The result was a back-and-forth interchange lasting more than an hour during which GOP lawmakers lambasted the president for failing to listen to their ideas, and the president chided Republicans for offering unworkable solutions and unfairly characterizing his proposals to voters. Some observers said the event was almost unprecedented in U.S. politics.

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