Obama Reaches Out to Congressional GOP
SCOTT SIMON, host:
President Obama spent more than a couple of hours meeting with Republicans in Congress this week, though this didn't seem to win many votes for his economic package. It follows a dinner that conservative pundits enjoyed with Mr. Obama. Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, was one of the guests at that dinner. And Rich, did you in fact enjoy it?
Mr. RICH LOWRY (Editor, National Review): I did. It was enjoyable and fascinating and a very memorable evening.
SIMON: What's he like?
Mr. LOWRY: He's pretty much in private what you see in public. He's an extremely impressive guy. One thing I was struck by, he's just very comfortable in that kind of setting because he's really one of us, and by that I don't mean a conservative columnist, obviously, but a writer and someone who's interested in the world and interested in ideas. And I came away with an overwhelming sense of his self-confidence, which is really rather extraordinary and perhaps a little disturbing.
SIMON: Ooh, I guess we got to follow up on that, and here I just thought you were liking him.
Mr. LOWRY: (Laughing) Well, you can just see it fading into hubris, and he's someone who has zero sense of neediness. It's the exact opposite personality type of Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton would have gone into that room and needed absolutely every individual to come away loving him and thinking that he agreed with them on everything. There's none of that to Barack Obama at all.
SIMON: He didn't change your mind on anything?
Mr. LOWRY: No, and it really wasn't that kind of - you know, he wasn't actively lobbying us. I think he just wanted to give us a sense that he's serious about wanting to listen to all comers.
SIMON: And do you think this meeting with House Republicans, meeting with folks like you, is this an important step in making the atmosphere more civil?
Mr. LOWRY: Yeah, I think the atmospherics are important, but as we saw on that stimulus vote, there's still no substitute for substance, and the Republicans on the Hill who have met with him come away liking him and saying he's sincere and they really appreciate that he takes time to see them, but they don't see the effects on the actual legislation.
And it's a very interesting phenomenon we've seen in the last week, Scott, where Republicans are opposing Obama without explicitly opposing Obama. They're voting yes to the package and saying, oh, it's not because of Barack Obama. It's all Nancy Pelosi's fault, which is, among other things, a reflection of the president's popularity at the moment.
SIMON: And let me ask you this. Governor Sarah Palin has launched a political action committee called SarahPAC. Her staff says it's not an exploratory committee for anything but we might be seeing some bumper stickers. Is Governor Palin someone who you look to to carry the torch of conservatism?
Mr. LOWRY: It remains to be seen. She's one of the most famous Republicans in the country. I think any Republican with national aspirations would envy that kind of recognition and fame that she has. But so she has a window of opportunity, but she has to take advantage of it by saying something substantive and distinctive about conservatism and the way ahead, and it remains to be seen whether she'll say that or not. In other words, she's not going to take advantage of this window just by showing up and winking, winsome though that may be.
SIMON: Rich Lowry, editor of National Review. Thanks so much for joining us.
Mr. LOWRY: Thanks a lot, Scott.
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