Start Tough and Negotiate
At the outset if his presidency, Ronald Reagan took a hard line against the Soviet Union, calling it the evil empire and daring its leader at the time, Mikhail Gorbachev, to tear down the Berlin Wall. A few years later, the wall was down and the Cold War was effectively over.
By starting from a position of strength and then showing a willingness to compromise, the two leaders were able to advance their own country’s interests while allowing the other side to do the same, renowned journalist Bob Woodward told thousands of REALTORS® Wednesday.
“You have to give as well as take,” Woodward said at a political forum during the 2016 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.
It’s a lesson President Barack Obama could have benefited from when he took office in 2009 because he conceded too much power by downplaying the country’s military strength and pinning its security on the strength of its moral rightness, Woodward said. The result, he added, was a loss of negotiating position. “No one was afraid of him,” Woodward said, sharing what a key American ally had told him. “Toughness is absolutely essential.”
Congress might have the opposite problem: It relies solely on toughness with no compromise. Woodward quoted a leader in the House who said Republican lawmakers weigh every decision they make based on how it will play in conservative media: “Every action taken now is driven by whether they get beaten up by conservative radio.”
Woodward called on leaders to take the time to engage today’s problems in a spirit of wanting to do what’s best for the majority of people, and to have the courage to make the decisions they feel are right.
He credited former President Gerald Ford with trying to do the right thing when he pardoned disgraced President Richard Nixon shortly after taking office. At the time, Woodward said, he shared the views of many that the pardon was the result of a deal Ford had struck with Nixon. But years later, he came to believe that Ford sacrificed his political career in an attempt to heal the country by moving past Watergate to focus on other daunting problems.
With the country now preparing to vote for the next president, it’s important to learn as much about presumptive nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as possible, Woodward said, because the presidency is an office that wields more power than ever before.
He called Trump a “skilled reader of people’s reaction to himself” and someone who is always “gauging how what he’s saying is going down.” And he suggested Clinton is someone who passionately believes in the power to shape the future.
Regardless of who wins the election, Americans must never stop demanding transparency from their leaders. The next president, he said, must “understand the office is a trust that the holder gets temporarily” and has a responsibility to ask, “What do people need?”
—Robert Freedman, REALTOR® Magazine