In recent weeks, there have been many metaphors and analogies from President Obama in describing the negotiations on the debt and the deficit. He's used terms like "shared sacrifice," "eat our peas," and putting aside "our sacred cows" in the name coming to an agreement. And during a town hall on Friday, he invoked Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation to urge for compromise in the debt talks.
Speaking at the University of Maryland, Mr. Obama said Lincoln had his convictions, but he was constantly making concessions and compromises. "[T]he great emancipator was making a compromise in the Emancipation Proclamation because he thought it was necessary in terms of advancing the goals of preserving the Union and winning the war," Obama said.
The proclamation signed by Lincoln in 1863 did not abolish slavery all together. It applied only to states that had rebelled against the Union, leaving slavery legal in the border states during the Civil War. Total abolition of slavery was finalized by the 13th amendment which took effect 3 years later.
Obama brought up the proclamation, which he says is hanging in the Oval Office, after being asked a question by Mary Wagner, a school teacher in the audience. Wagner explained that she is teaching her students about the two-party governmental system and the importance of compromise. But Wagner asked "[A]re things changing?...Do we not use compromise anymore?"
The president said that Wagner was correct to question it because culture is now pushing against compromise. But "if Abraham Lincoln could make some compromises as part of governance," Obama said, "[T]hen surely we can make some compromises when it comes to handling our budget."
With the August 2 deadline to raise the nation's debt ceiling quickly approaching, President Obama is running out of time trying to convince the American people that Congress will compromise and decide to lift the limit on the nation's debt. But he explained that if everybody is demonizing the other side and becoming more extremist and untrustworthy, it's not going to be possible. "In that kind of atmosphere, it's pretty hard to compromise," Obama said. "So we have to wind back from that kind of political culture."
But by the end of the day Friday, there was no compromise and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced he would stop negotiating with the president and instead turn to Senate leaders to continue the talks.