In the painstaking debt talks ongoing in Washington, leaders including John Boehner and President Barack Obama would be wise to turn back the clock, taking cues from a previous day when Trent Lott and Bill Clinton were in charge.
Political gridlock has been an issue in Washington for years now, but it's shown to have fallen to an all-time low during the debt talks, threatening to throw America into financial emergency mode.
Republicans don't want to give. Democrats don't want to give. And all the while, Americans get taken from. Businesses are wary. Global markets are wary. And U.S. citizens, particularly retirees, are concerned.
Odds are still better than not that some agreement will be reached before the looming Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling and reach agreement on how to tackled the nation's $14 trillion deficit but even if that happens the ongoing process has been costly to the nation, in terms of global respect and domestic angst.
More than a decade ago, Clinton, a Democrat, and Lott, a Republican, did it differently.
They didn't particularly like each other personally, and they didn't often agree -- but they made one deal after another swiftly and decisively in the 1990s while Clinton was in the White House and Lott was in the Republican party's majority leadership role, keeping America moving forward, balancing the budget, and quickly moving beyond potential legislative potholes.
I had lunch with Lott in Washington a couple of years ago, not long after he had retired from public service to become a Washington lobbyist. He talked in tones of political admiration of Clinton for this very thing. I tell that story every so often and people are surprised.
How could they like each other, with the impeachment proceedings and all?
I explain how Lott and Clinton were not the best of friends then and still are not now. But politically, they had and have a lot of respect for each other because they understood each knew what had to be done. Give, get -- make a deal and move on.
They got the job done as political brokers because that's what America needed. Each had the strength within their own parties to say "it must be done" so they cut a deal, and got agreements and legislation in place, leaving others to debate how it might be right or wrong.
"Move the bill and move on," is how CNN once described Lott's political style.
Clinton flourished with the very same style. He understood America worked best when the political process advanced.
Historically, their actions go down as one of the most productive America's political process has ever been. Every law, and every action wasn't perfect, but the action was decisive -- just what America needed. The federal budget got balanced, even yielding a surplus. And they did a lot more.
Clinton and Lott were pragmatic, seeking to broker change without poaching the people of America. Boehner, Obama and others would be wise to take a leadership lesson from how it was done then.
They may take heat within their own political parties for doing it that way, as Clinton and Lott often did. But they'll be ably serving the America people if they do. And that's all that matters.
Each side has to give, make a deal, and move on.