Something very unusual happened at the White House yesterday: President Bush and the Democratic leadership in Congress met and reasoned together. Granted, it took the Los Angeles rioting to break the election-year standoff between Capitol Hill and the White House. For months these politicians had decided it was in their partisan interest to deadlock over the urgent domestic problems confronting America; now they have concluded that, as incumbents all, they share a common interest in coming up with an urban agenda.
For the long-suffering citizenry, this is an occasion that calls for thanks for small favors. Their public servants are finally of a mind to do something. They even are in tentative, cautious agreement on some of the things they might do: Emergency aid for devastated Los Angeles, enterprise zones for the inner cities, job training, public works, unemployment benefits, summer jobs -- almost anything that might give the despairing black underclass a sense of hope and spare the white middle-class a sense of growing insecurity.
What remains at issue is how the deficit-ridden federal government will pay for such programs. Neither the White House nor the Democratic leaders would set a price tag. Instead, they reached for consensus, ratcheted down their rhetoric and generally acted like politicians who finally realize the voters are sick and tired of the Washington establishment and the games it plays. Not only is Los Angeles in the background of the new mood inside the beltway; so is Ross Perot.