Mitt Romney and President Obama are set to lunch together on Thursday. This might just be a show of unity — a superficial way to demonstrate to the nation that our politicians can still behave in a civil manner (even if it only happens after Election Day.)
Or maybe it will lead to something more? After all, during a November 14 press conference, Obama hinted that Romney might have some “ideas that could be very helpful.”
And while a post-election partnership — even an unofficial one — seems unlikely (given the acrimony that surrounded the election), it has happened before.
In 1940, a businessman with no political experience named Wendell Willkie ran an aggressive campaign against incumbent Franklin Roosevelt. (Yes, Willkie and Romney have been compared before.)
Willkie campaigned hard against the New Deal — and also accused FDR of being (a.) not ready for war and (b.) a warmonger who secretly plotted to get America into World War II (he was a businessman and a flip-flopper!).
He also warned against the dangers of granting Roosevelt an unprecedented third term (an RNC flier from the campaign reportedly advised Americans to, “Vote against a third term and dictatorship …”)
But after losing by a wide margin (sound a tad familiar?), Willkie became an unofficial ambassador for — and a key ally of — FDR.
As Richard Riis recalls, after losing the election,
Willkie called for greater national support for some of Roosevelt’s controversial initiatives, such as the Lend-Lease Act, and embarked on a new campaign to awaken America from its isolationist slumber. He joined with Eleanor Roosevelt to found Freedom House, an organization devoted to research and advocacy on democracy, freedom and human rights. As Republicans grumbled, Willkie grew in international stature, eventually becoming Roosevelt’s personal representative and America’s unofficial ambassador-at-large, traveling to Britain, the Middle East, the Soviet Union and China, and escorting personal letters between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.
If World War II were a cause for leaders to come together and cast aside differences, today’s economic environment might also warrant such cooperation.
Could Obama — a fan of “Team of Rivals” — humble himself enough to invite Mitt Romney to serve? And might Romney answer such a call?
A column appearing in the Oregonian suggests history could repeat itself:
The fiscal and economic crisis we now face is arguably the greatest challenge to America’s future since World War II. Whether it’s the so-called fiscal cliff, entitlement reform, tax reform or global competitiveness, Romney is well-positioned to help bridge the gap between Republicans and the Obama administration by assuming a role similar to that which Willkie played in the crucial months leading up to Pearl Harbor. And, like Willkie, he can do it without taking a formal position within the administration.
Wolf Blitzer recently suggested Obama should name Mitt Romney his “Secretary of Business.” That would be quite an interesting development.
Or maybe they’re just having lunch?