The year is 1995. Acrimony rules as Clinton and new House Speaker Newt Gingrich joust along Pennsylvania Avenue. In November, the war of words hits reality as the government is shut down. Public opinion of boths sides reaches its nadir.
The year is 1996. Clinton and the Republican congress reach a historic compromise to "end welfare as we know it". Modeled after successful state programs like Wisconsin's, it is a comprehensive plan to move welfare mothers into the work force and break generations of government dependancy. Clinton rises from the lowest point of his administration to re-election. Republicans in congress retain control.
The year is 2006. Welfare has ended as we know it. With exception of a few on the left, the 1996 Welfare to Work act is universally seen as a success and one of the crowning achievements of the Clinton administration.
The year is 2006. Democrats take control of both houses of congress for the first time in 12 years. Although President Bush no longer faces re-election, he faces a place in history scarred by the failed Iraq war.
Why bring this all up? My brain sparked like a car battery on a cold night by an exchange in President Bush's November 8th press conference.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. On immigration, many Democrats had more positive things to say about your comprehensive proposal than many Republicans did. Do you think a Democratic Congress gives you a better shot at comprehensive immigration reform?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I should have brought this up. I do. I think we have a good chance. Thank you. It's an important issue and I hope we can get something done on it. I meant to put that in my list of things that we need to get done.
Bush and the new Democrat congress have a historic opportunity. They have a chance to avoid the time lost by Clinton and the newly minted Republican congress in the 90s. Time that roiled the nation and caused the electorate to seethe like pitchfork wielding peasants at the castle gate.
President Bush and the Democrats agree on the basics of immigration reform. As with welfare reform they simply need to smooth out the edges. Find places to compromise. Show the American people that they indeed can work together.
It's a unique opportunity for everyone to win. The Democrats pass important bi-partisan legislation demonstrating they can work with the President. President Bush has something besides Iraq on which to hang his legacy hat.
If it's obvious to me, it must be obvious to the Washington power players. January is almost here. Get to work boys and girls.