Jon Meacham: Socializing as a Political ToolRoundup: Historians' Take
Jon Meacham is the author of “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power.”
IN this hour of reflexive partisan division, with Americans frustrated by Washington’s seeming inability to address significant fiscal questions, among other issues, an inevitable question arises: Can President Obama do anything to create enough good will to pass some lasting reforms?
Here is a modest proposal, one drawn from the presidency of another tall, cool, cerebral politician-writer: use the White House and the president’s personal company to attempt to weave attachments and increase a sense of common purpose in the capital. Dinners with the president — or breakfast or lunch or coffee or drinks or golf — won’t create a glorious bipartisan Valhalla, but history suggests that at least one of our greatest presidents mastered the means of entertaining to political effect.
During both of his terms, on the eve of each Congressional session, President Thomas Jefferson warned friends that, in our vernacular, he was about to go offline. “As Congress will meet this day week, we begin now to be in the bustle of preparation,” he wrote a family member. “When that begins, between the occupations of business and of entertainment, I shall become an unpunctual correspondent.”...
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