Imagining the Obama-Romney Lunch

We don't know what the two rivals discussed, but here are three challenges that we hope came up.

The White House/Getty Images
The White House/Getty Images

(The Root) — Just before the election, I wrote a column for The Root:The 9 Debate Questions We Want to Hear.” The eighth question on the list was this:

If, on election night, your opponent offered to meet with you on a regular basis in a spirit of bipartisanship to discuss ideas for moving the country forward — the way many ex-presidents work together in solving issues across party lines — would you be willing to do it, regardless of which one of you wins?

The premise was that these were questions we all wanted answered but knew that we would never hear asked at a debate, let alone answered. But in his election-night victory speech, President Obama did what he has done throughout much of his political career: surprised people. He said, “From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service and that is the legacy that we honor and applaud tonight … In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Gov. Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.” 

And Thursday Gov. Romney did something surprising, too: He actually took the president up on his offer, joining him at the White House for an hour of conversation over turkey chili. In my previous post, I concluded:

Candidates pay a lot of lip service to things like “bipartisanship,” but that’s talk. You learn by watching what people do. For instance, John McCain (R-Ariz.) was one of the Senate’s greatest champions of bipartisanship, until he lost to someone he didn’t really like. But if Romney or Obama committed to working together in some way, regardless of who wins, that would tell us more about their commitment to bipartisanship than their speeches.

Though no one is expecting the two men to leave lunch as BFFs, the fact that they agreed to meet at all speaks volumes about their characters. Most presidential rivals don’t engage this way.

So below is a list of the topics that, in an ideal world, the two men will have covered in their lunch, even if it is unlikely that they did. But just as we learned from my previous column, we can always hope that they will surprise us. 

1. What can we both do to help heal the racial divide?

According to studies, race relations have actually become more strained since President Obama became commander in chief instead of better, as many had hoped and assumed they would. But as I have previously written, I believe in the long term that the Obama presidency, particularly his re-election, will prove a boost to race relations. But the president can’t do it alone. Though GQ magazine recently named Romney one of the country’s least influential people, millions of Americans did pull the lever (or fill in a bubble) for him at the voting booth, and Romney could help lead them by example.

For instance, there were hundreds of racist tweets written by Romney supporters in the wake of the president’s re-election. Just think of how effective it would be if Romney said, “I may not agree with President Obama on every issue, but I never agree with racism or racist comments in any context, including those directed at our president. I expect more from my fellow conservatives.”