Feature

Editor's letter: Searching for flexibility

Could Congress learn something from a hard-line Islamic theocrat like Iran’s Supreme Leader?

Could Congress learn something from a hard-line Islamic theocrat like Iran’s Supreme Leader? Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made headlines last week with his paean to “heroic flexibility”—the idea that sometimes you’re better off yielding, letting passions cool, and waiting for a more auspicious moment to achieve your ends (Best columns: International). “A good wrestler sometimes shows flexibility,” Khamenei said, “but does not forget his opponent or his main goal.” With that far-from-cryptic metaphor, he fed new hope that Iran is ready to budge on its nuclear program—and strong suspicions that any concession now would be a tactical ruse.

Flexibility was clearly not a feature of this week’s brawl over Obamacare and the federal budget. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s 21-hour stem-winder to stall proceedings had a heroic aspect, maybe, but he sure wasn’t selling compromise. Neither was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “We will not bow to Tea Party anarchists,” he said. No doubt, a Supreme Leader answering only to Allah can play the crafty long game more easily than members of Congress sweating under intense political pressure and a looming budgetary deadline. But the bigger problem is that this battle, like so many others in Washington these days, has no middle ground; the pols want either no Obamacare or all of it, and the heroics are all at the extremes. Whether the government gets shut down next week or not, the two sides will gird themselves for a similar clash later this month over the even-higher stakes of raising the debt limit. Winning through patient compromise may appeal to the Ayatollah, but it’s just not a working strategy in today’s Washington.

James Graff

Recommended

Vatican slams Israel for attacking funeral of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images
Freedom of religion

Vatican slams Israel for attacking funeral of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

Ukraine says 264 'heroes' evacuated from Mariupol's Azovstal steel works
Ukrainian troops in Azovstal steel plant
'Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive'

Ukraine says 264 'heroes' evacuated from Mariupol's Azovstal steel works

Biden reverses some Trump restrictions on Cuba
A man drives down a street in Havana, Cuba.
a new era

Biden reverses some Trump restrictions on Cuba

McDonald's announces total withdrawal from Russia
Russian McDonald's
Mc-bye!

McDonald's announces total withdrawal from Russia

Most Popular

Russia's failed Ukraine river crossing has pro-Russia war bloggers griping
Failed Russian river crossing
Losing faith

Russia's failed Ukraine river crossing has pro-Russia war bloggers griping

Why 'the Russian army just isn't very good'
Vladimir Putin.
Briefing

Why 'the Russian army just isn't very good'

Watch Wynonna Judd and Brandi Carlile sing 'The Rose' at Naomi Judd memorial
Wynonna Judd, Brandi Carlile
Some Say Love...

Watch Wynonna Judd and Brandi Carlile sing 'The Rose' at Naomi Judd memorial