Power Players

In his second term, Obama could take a tip from Jefferson

Power Players

Politics Confidential

With his second inauguration just a few days away, Jon Meacham has some advice for President Obama: Take a lesson from your long since deceased predecessor Thomas Jefferson.

Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, says one of the keys to Jefferson's success was that he built personal relationships with senators and members of Congress. He says Obama "has not been particularly good at this."

Every night Congress was in session, Jefferson would invite members to the White House for dinner and managed to forge friendships with even some of his staunchest critics.

"He wanted to weave attachments," says Meacham. "There's a wonderful story about a New England Senator from New Hampshire, a federalist, who came in 1803 two years into Jefferson's term believing Jefferson to be evil incarnate. And he came to dinner so much that by the end of the term they're exchanging pecan recipes."

In gaining personal friendships within Congress, Meacham says Jefferson was able to get the votes he needed to pass his agenda.

"He passed what he needed to do and...he was winning big popular victories in the country," Meacham says.

Meacham says the president should also look to Jefferson's example of openly acknowledging the political divisions in the country, while working to build a sense of common purpose to move the country forward.

"Just say we all disagree all the time," Meacham says as advice to the president. "I know there are members of this Congress who do not wish me to be here...But we had a vote, this is the way it came out. My success is your success. The country's success is all our success. Basically, treat us like grown-ups. And Jefferson did that."

To learn more about how Jefferson got his way politically and find our how Jefferson's second inauguration was different than Obama's will be, check out this week's Politics Confidential.

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