If our country is to avoid another embarrassing federal budget crisis, the two sides need to come to the table with the appropriate seriousness. Elected officials and their partisan boosters prefer to stand tough and focus on what they won’t negotiate. The Wall Street Journal recently had an article about liberal Democrats in Congress digging in their heels, for example. But William Galston, an analyst at the Brookings Institution and a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, said the important thing is to signal what is up for negotiation. Speaking in regard to Democrats, he said, “The White House and the congressional Democrats have to reach some sort of understanding upfront about what’s discussable and what’s not. There should be some clarity at the beginning. Otherwise, we’re going to waste a lot of time and create a lot of bitterness.” Exactly so.
Whether Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, winds up making any serious changes in his country’s foreign policy has yet to be seen. But his difficulty in making headway against the regime’s biggest hard-liners was evident as soon as he returned to Tehran from his recent trip to the United Nations. As he stepped off the plane, a crowd of demonstrators held placards and chanted “Death to America!” The protesters included members of the Basij militia, a paramilitary organization under the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.