More Beltway dinner parties = friendlier politics

It must be noted that the city’s social scene takes its cues from the White House, and this president does not seem to understand the value of making friends with the other side. Bipartisan presidential friendships such as those of Ronald Reagan with Tip O’Neill and of George H.W. Bush with Edward Kennedy prove the value of knowing and respecting one’s ideological opponent and looking hard for places where agreement can be found. Recent events have shown that one round of presidential golf with House Speaker John Boehner cannot produce the basis of trust needed for the two leaders to address mutual political challenges. (Of course, it wouldn’t kill Boehner to attend a state dinner once in a while.)

Politicians have an obligation to know their opponents and understand their views as communicated by them directly so that they might seek common political ground. Washington is a local community with global impact; to come here in government service is to require prolonged and intense interaction with others who have the same responsibilities. A dinner out can become a political opportunity for the individual open-minded enough to employ it. And by skipping parties where journalists may be found, politicians are forgoing opportunities to informally shape the debate; for their part, journalists, too, may find it more difficult to savage a politician if they’ve broken bread with him.