Newly reelected President Barack Obama will host Mitt Romney for a lunch at the White House today. The two will participate in a long tradition of presidential rivals breaking bread after the election. Obama is fulfilling his promise he made on election night during his victory speech. He stated that he would like to meet with Romney to discuss ideas of how to help the country moving forward. Although the two were bashing each other along the campaign trail just weeks ago, they will have to put on their professional hats today.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that Obama has no formal agenda for the meeting. The two will have lunch in a private White House dining room, and the press will be closed off from the event.
"The president noted that Governor Romney did a terrific job running the Olympics and that that skills set lends itself to ideas that could make the federal government work better, which is a passion of the president's," Carney said.
This meeting may serve as an opportunity for the formal rivals to strengthen their relationship. Obama has had a history of including his opponents in his administration, as he did with Hillary Clinton’s appointment as Secretary of State. While this lunch may be beneficial, the situation just appears plain awkward. Will Romney be a member of the Obama administration? Very doubtful, because the two politicians could not be any more polarized. One can only imagine the type of conversation that will take place behind closed doors.
This awkward tradition has proven not-so-awkward for some past presidential rivals. Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush in 1992, and the two became close friends after their post election meeting. Another interesting relationship is that of Franklin Roosevelt and rival Wendell Willkie. When Roosevelt secured a third term in 1940, the two met several times. Roosevelt appointed Wilkie as his global ambassador. Even with these cases in mind, Americans are not likely to see Obama and Romney competing in a round of golf.
While the post-election meeting is seen as an erroneous and awkward tradition, it still serves somewhat of an important purpose. Opposition can be a powerful tool to a president’s administration. The president can plan his agenda by looking through a different set of lenses, and thus have broader appeal on policies. With that in mind, the Obama and Romney lunch may be more beneficial than people expect.