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Brokering a peace plan in Washington

A protester demonstrates for peace.
A protester demonstrates for peace.
Getty Images

Two bitter enemies. One bent on the other’s complete destruction, they lob multiple daily attacks from every conceivable direction. They care not about their nation’s best interest; only on annihilating the other side. Victory to them lies not in negotiation and peaceful co-existence, only in total repudiation of the status quo and their own return to power.

While that could be a description of Israel and Hamas, it is just as apt a description of President Barack Obama and Republicans.

And yet, just like the enemies of Israel, Republicans cry out for a one-sided cease-fire. In the current case, Republicans are whining for President Obama to cease his political fund raising efforts during this time of international crisis. Which would be fine if Republicans were willing to play by the same rules. But they aren’t.

It’s no surprise that Republicans want to hold the president hostage in the Rose Garden during the election cycle. That’s always been a recipe for the president’s party to lose. But recent presidents have learned that bitter lesson from Jimmy Carter. Being cooped up in the Oval Office does not equate to looking presidential. It equates to a bunker mentality.

The reality is that the White House is not a physical center of presidential power so much as a symbolic one. The presidency goes wherever the president is; he is just as capable of working the phones and monitoring world events from Air Force One as from the Oval Office. As Mr. Obama’s opponent Sen. John McCain learned all too painfully in the 2008 presidential campaign, rushing off the campaign trail to a make-shift D.C. photo op is not necessarily good politics or good leadership.

And let’s be clear, what Mr. Obama is doing is not simply “playing politics.” He is the president and the leader of his party, and it’s his job to lead – both in foreign and domestic arenas. To do the job he was elected to do with any degree of effectiveness, he needs at least one chamber of congress with whom he can work...or at least count on not to sue him for doing his job. Moreover, a Congress totally controlled by Republicans could lead to a mob mentality snowballing toward impeachment. And that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

So more is riding on the fall elections than just some short-term political posturing. Abdicating the midterm elections and allowing the Senate to turn Republican wouldn’t just be a political loss for Mr. Obama, it would be dereliction of duty.

Yet we know that if Mr. Obama were to forsake this key fundraising and campaigning stretch leading into the fall elections, his political enemies would still ramp up their daily attacks. Like Hamas, they will continue to rain thousands of political missiles his way, regardless of what the president does.

They want a one-sided cease-fire. One-sided wars are easier to win.

So if Republicans are really concerned about the ability of the president to focus on his job in this time of crisis while simultaneously campaigning for his party, let me proffer a peace plan:

If Mr. McCain, Sen. Lindsey Graham and their Senate and House colleagues would stop lobbing their verbal bombs at the president for a month, maybe Mr. Obama would feel safe to do the same. If the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove’s Super Pacs and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus would offer to stop shaking the Republican donor money tree for a month, then Mr. Obama should agree to do likewise. Let the Republicans promise to hold their fire at the president for a week and maybe he’d be inclined to live in somewhat peaceful co-existence with them.

Think of it as a campaign cease-fire.

Mr. Obama would be well-advised to put that symbolic peace offer on the table. Because we all know that his sworn enemies will never ever accept.

Then, just like in the middle east, it will quickly become obvious which side really cares about its country and the well-being of its people, and which side is just out to destroy the other at any cost.

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