Karl Douglass: Breaking ice?

April 13, 2013 

Talk about irony. In the same week that President Barack Obama released a budget proposal that includes cuts to Social Security and Medicare, Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson both voted to allow the gun rights debate to proceed in the Senate. Liberals are appalled at the president's actions and conservatives cannot believe that the Senators from Georgia voted with the Democratic majority.

Irony aside, both of these instances suggest there may yet be hope for our leaders in Washington.

It is certain that neither Senator Chambliss nor Senator Isakson wants to abridge the Second Amendment. Both are avid supporters of gun rights.

Their votes on Thursday, however, signal that they are also supporters of reasoned debate about the issues that challenge our country. Neither senator has indicated how he will ultimately vote on the gun control legislation put before the Senate. But both have indicated that they are willing to have an open and honest debate about it. Fair enough.

Likewise, President Obama does not want to be the one who curbs the benefits many seniors have earned over a lifetime of work. His track record is filled with efforts to save entitlement programs for seniors and other groups.

He recognizes, though, that there are tough fiscal decisions that must be made to ensure the sustainability of our economy and our country. By laying out a budget blueprint that addresses reducing or redefining social safety net spending, the president is indicating that he is willing to talk about it. Fair enough.

Being open to honestly debate the issues is half the battle. When our leaders take the position that a conversation is at least worth having, they start moving towards a resolution. The road may not be straight or smooth, but that is okay.

Seeing Democrats upset with the president and Republicans upset with Georgia's senators does seem odd in today's hyper-partisan environment. It feels like we have all passed the last decade living only on our respective side of the tracks. Hopefully, this week's actions in Washington are early indicators of a new reality. I am sure we all would welcome a spring thaw in relations between our representatives in the nation's capital.

Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.

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