President Obama came to prominence in 2004 with a speech in which he argued that there isn’t a red America and a blue America but rather a single United States of America. Looking back twelve years later, this may seem like a rather odd notion in a country riven by intense political polarization.
With all the hysteria going on in politics right now, it is hard for many mediators to know what to do. This article offers some great suggestions for finding a peaceable route in the midst of so much negativity.
President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the government will no longer threaten to criminally prosecute families of American hostages who pay ransom to get loved ones back from such groups as ISIS.
President Obama's speech to the United Nations this week is worth reading to study the evolution of the president's foreign policy views in response to new and continuing conflicts around the world. With respect to such crises as Russian aggression toward Ukraine, preventing a nuclear Iran, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the president reiterated his belief in finding cooperative, negotiated solutions.
For more than a decade, starting with a fellowship at the National Institute of Justice and subsequently conducting research in Europe and Israel, I studied hostage negotiations.
Most of us who are trained mediators learned the process of “Principled Negotiation”. It’s the theory behind Roger Fisher and William Ury’s Great work -”Getting To Yes”. It teaches how to negotiate without compromising principles but by examining each parties’ positions and exploring the underlying needs and interests to create options that can help reach fair and equitable solutions and settlements.
Is a willingness to negotiate a sign of weakness? That seems to be the thrust of the critique of Thomas Frank, the latest prominent leftist critic of the Obama administration. Frank charges that Obama gave away too much to the right, because he stressed the importance of bi-partisanship, when he should have been fighting harder on substantive issues, such as punishing Wall Street bankers, or achieving more economic stimulus.
A piece in the New York Times last week called How Liberals Win, reminds us of the deals that FDR and LBJ made with corporate power in order to enact their signature reforms. What President Obama did to pass health care reform followed that tradition. But when the Obama administration made a deal with pharmaceutical companies to obtain their support for health insurance reform, many of his supporters viewed that agreement as a sell-out.
With the Kyoto Protocol expiring at the end of this year, international lawmakers have been gathering to find a productive process for resolving environmental conflict. Their conversations are an example of where international conflict resolution is headed and who the key players will be.
Ryan Lizza's article, "The Obama Memos," in this week's New Yorker, contains some inside information explaining how candidate Obama's promises to usher in a new style of politics, ran into the realities of a Congress that is more partisan than ever before. Commentators like Paul Krugman have jumped on the bandwagon, chiding President Obama for being so naive in thinking he could "transcend partisanship."
In the budget negotiations going on in Congress, once again we see the president assuming the role of mediator.
In a sense, Obama holds himself out as a neutral, purporting to facilitate the Middle East peace talks as an outsider. When evaluating Obama's recent conduct using mediation methodology, however, Obama shows that he is anything but neutral.
As anyone who has observed history over the last century can attest, the handling of the situation in Egypt can yield results that range from the dire to the glorious. Obama’s conflict resolution skills may play a role in determining which way things will go.
President Obama gave an eloquent and inspiring speech last Wednesday January 12th at the Tucson Memorial for those killed in the massacre. Particularly impressive to to me were statements he made that captured the essence of conflict resolution principles and compassionate communication.
Mediators and negotiators are, after all, human. Notwithstanding this startling observation, however, many mediators seem to feel that their claim to “neutrality’ is somehow contaminated if their professional work is brought close to any discussion of politics---even if 98% of politics involves negotiation.
There it is again. In the New York Times today, William Daley, President Obama's new Chief of Staff, is described on the front page as "A Tough, Decisive Negotiator." If you read the article, they call him a "skilled negotiator" who is "blunt yet charming." Former Vice President Walter Mondale, says that Daley is "tough, but not a bully." Does tough really equal effective? No, I don't think so.
As President Obama negotiates his way through the myriad of difficult and complex issues, the public is observing his approach. Whether they see negotiation as the “cursed” process of the appeaser or sellout, as they have historically, or as an effective mode of conflict management that disposes people to negotiate or mediate difficulties in their own personal and business affairs, depends in large part on his example. This is a quick and dirty “arm chair” quarterbacking of his strategy---
or lack thereof.
The media seems preoccupied with trying to figure out which party gains politically and which party loses; who wins and who caves. Partisans on both the right and left seem anguished by how much each side had to "give up" to make a settlement. Watching the president explain the rationale for making a deal, I am struck by how hard he has to work to persuade these partisans of the necessity and justifications for the deal. It is remarkable how similar the president's rationales sound to the explanations lawyers and mediators have to provide for parties to a litigation, to justify the benefits of a settlement over the uncertainties of litigation.
(8/30/10)Lee Jay Berman
What this issue needs is a real dialogue, facilitated (mediated) by a professional who is expert at managing the emotions, the values and the discussion between representatives of the two groups. Give me Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and some of his leaders, along with some of the most vocal opponents, preferably from families of those who died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and I will guarantee you a dialogue where each walks away having heard the other and having had their eyes opened to things that they had not realized before this discussion. Televise it, put it on the internet, and broadcast it over the radio, and we will educate hundreds of thousands with one discussion.
John Judis in The New Republic: "Why has the White House failed to convince the public that it is fighting effectively on its behalf? The principal culprit is clearly Barack Obama. He has a strange aversion to confrontational politics...
The Open Government Initiative of the Obama Administration has given high priority to increasing the use of collaboration in the federal government. Yet many federal offices have not in the past encouraged the sort of collaborative mindset that is necessary for meaningful efforts in this direction.
This video was UTTERLY MEZMERIZING to watch. Really an incredible event in modern American politics - it begins: "Part of the reason I accepted your invitation to come here was because I wanted to speak with all of you, and not just to all of you. So I'm looking forward to taking your questions and having a real conversation in a few moments. And I hope that the conversation we begin here doesn't end here; that we can continue our dialogue in the days ahead . . ."
But that’s not just directed at Mr. Obama. It’s directed at all of us. What the president promised was a “global plan,” not an American plan. The same is true on all the other issues that the Nobel committee cited, from nuclear disarmament to climate change — none of these things will yield to unilateral approaches. They’ll take international cooperation and American leadership.
President Obama’s Plan on Health Care includes a provision on medical malpractice reform that instructs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award medical malpractice demonstration grants to states funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
(9/14/09)Diane J. Levin
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Here’s something for all of us, regardless of political persuasion, to think about as America debates the big issues: