Checks and balances. Ensuring that no branch of the federal government gains control over the others. That's the cornerstone of our system of government. Unfortunately, the Clinton administration and the 104th Congress did too good a job of checking and balancing each other. On some occasions, it was more like body-checking and throwing each other off-balance.
In any case, the result was a federal government that—except in its last few weeks—couldn't pass a kidney stone.
Issues important to the rubber industry, such as product liability reform and Superfund reauthorization, either were vetoed or got lost in the shuffle.
After the Nov. 5 election, America is blessed with the same situation: a Democratic president confronting a mostly hostile House and Senate; a Republican Congress without enough of a majority to override presidential vetoes on its most cherished initiatives.
At this point, the rubber industry and allied businesses can say sincerely, ``We feel your pain.''
There is, however, a chance the 105th Congress won't be a repeat of the 104th.
Groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers are using the word ``bipartisan'' a lot since the election. With any luck and a little civility, some important legislation may gain enough bipartisan support to pass and be signed into law.
Several factors are at work to support this thesis.
There is no imminent presidential election, which immediately cuts down on the amount of partisan posturing.
A lot of incumbents who backed issues important to the rubber industry won re-election. And since President Clinton no longer faces re-election, he may actually be less dependent on those special-interest groups which helped finance his campaign, such as trial lawyers.
In the rash of Cabinet-level resignations after the election, Mr. Clinton said he may even consider Republicans to fill some of the vacant spots.
On the other hand, industry's post-election dismissal of labor's influence on Congress may be premature.
Although the unions didn't achieve their stated goal of regaining the House for the Democrats, they remain very good at keeping their concerns in the public and governmental eye. Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., for one, knows this.
That the 105th Congress will usher in a new era of political cooperation and good will is too much to hope for.
But the federal government got things done in the early 1980s, with a Republican president and a Democratic Congress; it's not impossible to imagine a Republican Congress and Democratic president doing the same.
Mr. Moore is TIRE BUSINESS' Washington correspondent.