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What Obama should have said

Here is what President Barack Obama should have said when he addressed the American people after his party's massive losses in Tuesday's election:

"The American people have spoken. I made this election a referendum on my policies, and now both houses of Congress are under Republican control. All of which leaves me with two options: (1) Continue to govern by the unilateral modus operandi I have followed for the last six years; or (2) Work with the Republicans to move the country forward, wherever and whenever possible.

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"To be blunt, the former is far less viable now that Harry Reid can no longer do my blocking and tackling in the Senate. Harry was a wall of granite, but my extended losing streak in the Supreme Court was getting to be an embarrassment; even Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were hammering me on executive pre-emption.

"Accordingly, I've decided to channel Bill Clinton circa 1995 — you know, the one who morphed into a moderate after getting his lunch eaten in the 1994 mid-terms. That Bill Clinton could sign welfare reform and negotiate a federal balanced budget — even begin negotiations on Social Security reform — before the Lewinsky scandal shut down his bipartisan push.

"Truth be told, there are a number of substantial issues on which I could strike a deal with the GOP. Corporate tax reform (even a tax code overhaul) is a possibility here. Both parties want to cut America's job killing top corporate rate of 35 percent. I might even get some one-time revenues for infrastructure (a priority for my base) in exchange for 'revenue neutrality' — Washington-speak for no new taxes (a critical element for conservatives). In the process, a tax regime that allows more corporate profits to be kept at home might generate additional domestic jobs.

"On immigration, our unpreparedness for last summer's mass border crossings was a disgrace. But so is 12 million undocumented aliens hiding in the shadows. Betcha the Republicans will negotiate over legalization (if not citizenship) in exchange for serious border control.

"Another area ripe for compromise is trade. American manufacturers, farmers and consumers would benefit from pending trade deals with Europe and the Pacific Rim. Pro-trade Democrats would welcome such a move, although I would need to negotiate a few labor and trade assistance provisions to sweeten the pot. This would require horse trading with members of Congress — not one of my strong suits — but I've decided to do it anyway. After all, I have the time — no more fundraisers for this lame duck, and golf season doesn't begin for another three months!

"Fatherlessness is another bipartisan issue. Everyone knows an epidemic of kids without fathers has led to generation(s) of (predominantly) men suffering from under/unemployment, addiction and high rates of incarceration. I hosted a White House conference on this very issue this past summer. This critical cultural challenge will now be a priority issue for the remainder of my term. I know we can save many of our most vulnerable kids — but it will be a heavy lift. Count me 'all in' on this one.

"Of course, my most difficult challenge will be to become a war-time president. This not a natural role for me. I believed in my heart that Iraq was the 'wrong war' — and I was intent on ending our involvement there. Yet, I've seen the pitfalls of letting status of forces agreements slide. And I do understand that guerilla wars are only ultimately won with seasoned ground troops. For these reasons, I've decided to listen to my military chiefs — even if it means sending American special forces 'boots' on the ground to Iraq and Syria. I believe ISIS to be an existential threat in a famously unstable region. The defeat of such a barbaric enemy must be accomplished in uncompromising terms — with all necessary force.

"Alas, I know such militaristic talk will not go over well in the faculty lounges and campus coffee shops that are my political comfort zones. But being commander-in-chief is a lot more complicated than organizing against community banks and demonstrating against obscene corporate profits. Look, I know campus cops can be a rough lot — but have you seen how ISIS treats 'apostates'?

"Call it lessons learned the hard way. The world's sole superpower can't always lead from behind. Sometimes, good just needs to confront evil — whether that evil is a terrorist army murdering innocents in its path or a former KGB agent intent on recreating the Soviet Union. Repeated demonstrations of weakness in response to such miscreants is guaranteed to invite trouble. Such is a foundational lesson of history — one America must never forget.

"Now, for the really hard part…where did I put John Boehner's and Mitch McConnell's numbers?"

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around" and "America: Hope for Change" — books about national politics. His email is ehrlichcolumn@gmail.com

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