A smart start

Our view: His first week on the job, President Obama sets new direction for the country and rightly pursues a broad coalition for economic stimulus package

January 28, 2009

President Barack Obama traveled up Capitol Hill yesterday to listen to Republican criticisms of his $825 billion economic stimulus package. It was the kind of trip President George W. Bush had never made.

The Republicans want more tax breaks and to eliminate provisions they view as liberal pork. Democrats, who enjoy a healthy majority in the House, disagree. Some liberals are wondering why the president is bothering to listen to the Republicans at all. But Mr. Obama is right to try to end the angry warfare that has increasingly defined politics, to the disgust of many Americans. It is in his long-term interest and that of the nation to seek consensus on how to deal with the economic and security crises that dominate the public agenda.

President Obama is a man of remarkable political gifts, but he was elected because he convinced a majority of Americans that he would be a smart, moderate leader, not the left-wing ideologue painted by Sen. John McCain.

In the first days of his presidency, he has lived up to the centrist image he cultivated during the campaign by inviting evangelical Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, having dinner with prominent conservative columnists and seeking counsel with and honoring Mr. McCain. . At the same time, he has acted quickly to fulfill campaign promises that moderates and liberals clearly favor. He set the stage for closing the hated Guantanamo prison camp and bringing home American troops from Iraq. He took action to reduce air pollution, opened the door to offering contraceptive aid around the world and imposed tough new limits on lobbying, among other steps. President Obama has shown a preference for coalition-building, while not compromising his ideals. That's a sensible course. He needs broad public support if he hopes to accomplish what Americans sent him to Washington to do, beginning with taking decisive action to spark the nation's economy back to growth.

Capital Hill stalwarts should realize that he has the majority of the country on his side.

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