Gwen’s Take: Taking Yes for an Answer

Posted: Thu, 12/19/2013 - 3:08pm

It is apparently safe to use the word “compromise” again.

Vladimir Putin is granting pardons to his enemies (it took a decade, but still).

Nine U.S. senators this week dared to stray from the Republican fold to endorse a modest government budget that raises revenues and cuts spending.

“Mr. President, this deal is a compromise,” Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said. “It doesn't tackle every one of the challenges we face as a nation, but that was never our goal.”

The Senate passed a two-year budget deal struck by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray [above] and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan [Photo: Senator Patty Murray].

A leading Republican, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, agreed. “The legislation we have before us is the embodiment of compromise, something that has unfortunately been absent in Washington as of late,” he said on the Senate floor.

It should be noted that Murray is in the majority, and Chambliss is retiring. That makes compromise -- taking yes for an answer -- easier. But it’s still a step in the right direction.

Secretary of State John Kerry is hoping a little of that spirit wafts over to negotiating tables in Europe in coming months, as he tries to plot a path through a thicket of conflict that includes Syria, Iran, Israel and the Palestinians. The word “compromise” seems too tiny to describe what it will take to make progress on those issues.

But is Kerry going to try? You bet he will. And are the people on the other side of those tables listening? For now, yes.

Now compromise is probably too big a word to describe what Putin has been up to this week, playing kingmaker in Ukraine and granting legal concessions to his top political foe and to members of the punk band Pussy Riot.

President Vladimir Putin will pardon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of his best-known opponents, after a decade in jail [Photo: CNN].

It’s likely Putin’s surprise actions had more to do with awareness of the impending Sochi Winter Olympics than with brandishing an olive branch to critics, but still, it’s something.

Perhaps it’s the holidays. Perhaps it’s impossible to hold on to pessimism when you have Christmas carols running through your head. But I’ve decided we are all turning a corner.

I may decide something else tomorrow.

That’s because I am well aware politics will always thrive. Tradeoffs will also be elusive. But for the first time in calendar year 2013, middle ground seems to a possibility once again. Even if only once in a while, and for a brief flash of time.

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