Contradictory promises from politicians

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

There's a contradiction in political campaigns that I find somewhat amusing and largely infuriating.

Democrats and Republicans will spend millions upon millions of dollars on shameful ads that constantly remind us not to trust the other guy. Then once the votes are counted, the big guns on both sides promise to work together for the good of all concerned.

The cooperation promise is what amuses me. The infuriating part is that the oath is utter tripe. And as we saw yet again last week, this empty tradition remains alive and well.

Following the most expensive and perhaps ugliest campaign season in our nation's history, we watched two leaders who can barely stand the sight of each other predict crimson and clover going forward.

Kentucky's Mitch McConnell – the presumptive next leader of the Senate – assured us he respects the power of the White House. If there's going to be trouble next time, he won't be a party to it, he predicted.

“Let me make it clear: There will be no government shutdowns and no default on the national debt,” he said. He said he also realizes he does not have enough votes to overturn a presidential veto, so it is impractical to expect Congress to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act.

What he didn't say – and what is all but certain -- is that others from his party will do the dirty deeds instead. What the inevitable battles will ultimately mean for provider payments, accountable care organizations, employer insurance mandates and other issues that affect this field is anybody's guess.

For his part, President Obama said he was “eager to work with the new Congress to make the next two years as productive as possible.”

“We can surely find ways to work together,” Mr. Obama said. Well, stranger things have happened. But if he thinks the GOP is going to have a sudden epiphany about the merits of Obamacare, he's sadly mistaken. Actually, he's way too smart to think the other side will come around. And so is Mitch McConnell. But neither is above playing us for dummies.

It's a sucker's bet to accept the notion that our leaders will beat their ideological spears into plowshares for the sake of the commonweal. Most top officials are far more concerned with three other matters: their jobs, their power and their legacies.

So is there a chance leaders from both sides will work together in ways that are in the nation's best interests? Yes, so long as the actions also serve their own best interests.

Is that a cynical assessment? Perhaps. But here's something that's far more cynical: Promising before God and country that you'll work with your enemy, when a team of drum horses couldn't drag you to do it.

John O'Connor is the Editorial Director at McKnight's Long-Term Care News. Follow him @ltcritr.

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.

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