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Will John Boehner, President Obama master art of humility before 'fiscal cliff'?

John Boehner and President Obama continue their 'fiscal cliff' tussle over tax increases and spending cuts. But negotiating requires a healthy dose of humility. America's Founding Fathers, especially Madison and Franklin, knew this lesson well. We should look to them for guidance.

House Speaker John Boehner winces while talking to a reporter at the Capitol Dec. 18 on the way to a closed-door meeting with House Republicans as he negotiates with President Obama to avert the 'fiscal cliff.' Op-ed contributor Kyle Scott touts James Madison's humility when he justified his 'change of heart' on the First National Bank he had previously opposed 'by saying that the bank was what the nation needed.'

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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John Boehner and President Obama continue their tussle over tax increases and spending cuts that would be part of budget deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. Neither Democrats nor Republicans are eager to concede ground, lose face, or give up what their parties stand for. To some extent, each side has a vested interest in protecting their position, as doing otherwise means they could lose the support of voters, prominent positions within their party, or financial backing.

Beyond politics, each of our officials generally has a committed view of what’s right, just like most of us. What we all need is a healthy dose of humility. The general public, opinionmakers, and elected leaders need to realize that they’re not as right as they think they are, and they need the other side to help show them where the weakness in their view lies. Those who were responsible for founding the nation and its early success knew this lesson well. We should look to them for guidance.

One of the most divisive issues early in our nation’s history was the national bank. Championed by the first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, the debate over the national bank divided George Washington’s administration. Hamilton was on one side, while Washington’s Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, and his ally in Congress, James Madison, led the opposition. In 1791, the first national bank was established, and the first party system began to take shape, with Jefferson and Madison going one direction and Washington and Hamilton going the other.


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