Both sides are now giving some lip service to working together, but judging from what each side has said this week (and the record of the past two years) there is not much room for optimism.
How to breach this hard wall and get something done? And if it can’t be done, how to highlight for the public which side is putting up a stone wall to compromise and progress?
Instead of President Obama saying that he will pursue his basic program, with the willingness to compromise “a bit,” as he did on Wednesday, I propose he say the following:
“The American people are hurting and they want results in solving our problems; if we are to do that, Democrats and Republicans must work together.
"For my part, I am willing to put everything on the table of compromise in an effort to find agreement, and I mean everything. This does not mean I will give up basic principles any more than I expect Republicans to.
"What it means is that we not stake out our bottom line in advance. Let us sit down and see how far we can get in meeting each other’s concerns. Where we can come together we will act on that and the American people will thank us both. Where we cannot come together, the American people can judge why not and if there is ‘blame’ to be assigned, it will be the voters who assign it.”
"Where we cannot come together, the American people can judge why not."
This would require that the president truly intends to move toward some Republican positions in significant ways—moving just a bit won’t accomplish either objective. But it would also put the GOP on the spot if they, for their part, didn’t move in significant ways.
The message from Tuesday was clear: Voters want results and if they threw the Democrats out this week, they are perfectly prepared in two years to throw the Republicans out if they judge the GOP has stood in the way of relief.
Sam Donaldson worked at ABC News for over 40 years as a correspondent and anchor.