Swearing Off Resolutions… Kind of

BY Gwen Ifill  January 3, 2013 at 9:45 PM EDT

I have never been much for making promises that I know will be impossible to keep. But if you read this blog regularly, you will know that I am more of an optimist than anyone who covers Washington has any right to be.

Like most political nerds, I watched closely as Congress went back into session this week. On this day, Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, could hug new Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a Democrat he’d helped raise millions of dollars to defeat.

On this day, Republican Sen. Tim Scott, the Tea Party darling from South Carolina who would also become the chamber’s first black member from the South since Reconstruction, could take the oath of office from Vice President Biden and look him in the eye during a firm congratulatory handshake.

Over on the House side, it came as no surprise that John Boehner was re-elected as Speaker of the GOP-controlled House, but the odor of recent procedural upheaval still hung heavy in the air. The roll call vote was surprisingly tense as 12 Republicans jumped ship or skipped voting entirely. Boehner, who has been battered by his own caucus of late, held onto his leadership post, but was deprived of the unanimous vote he received last time.

These types of days are usually celebratory. Lawmakers brought their yawning children to the floor for the ceremonies and posed for pictures across party lines. In her remarks, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi talked about the need to increase civility (even though she could not bring herself to look the speaker in the eye when she handed him the gavel).

It was possible to imagine, if only for a moment, that everyone has made fresh resolutions to just … get … along.

But as I mentioned, I am not that into resolutions that cannot be kept.

Still, the optimism thing almost always wins out. So herewith, I offer you five promises I will try to pledge to keep in the coming year.

1. No talk of 2016.

Yes, it can be too soon to talk about presidential politics. The year after the last bruising round would be that time.

2. No cynicism.

This is harder than it looks. But I’ve made it a professional rule to remain skeptical about politics without being cynical about it. That way, I don’t rule out the possibility of surprise.

3. Explain, don’t opine.

What difference does it make what I think? My job is to help you understand, not to get in the way by telling you what you ought to think.

4. Smile more.

No one wants to see you frown. There are important reasons to be sober in delivering the news (most of the time), but I’ve discovered even the most baffling turn of events — think fiscal cliff — benefit from looking for the silver lining instead of focusing entirely on the cloud.

5. Listen more.

It’s hard to learn anything new when you can only hear yourself.

Wish me luck with these, and I will count on you to accept my optimism in the spirit of a new year, a new Congress and a president’s second term.

Happy 2013.