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Mike Bonifer Headshot

The President's 'Question Time' Scene, Analyzed

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If if you've never seen it, you ought to. The British Parliament's 'Prime Minister's Question Time' is brilliant political theater. Below is a video so you can watch some of this:

Now, compare that spectacle to this, you'll notice quite a difference.

The first is improvised. The second is scripted.

Improvisation is active. It is alive. Members of Parliament are energetically engaged in the conversation about the matter at hand, supportive of, but not bogged down by, their various ideologies and positions. Their actions and reactions are immediate, emotional and visceral. This honors the problem. American politicians dishonor a problem, and obfuscate it, when they use it as a foil for politicking, which is how almost every problem faced by the federal government is regarded now. An excuse for campaigning.

This is the big point President Obama underlined yesterday in his meeting with the Republicans. That 66-minute conversation may be the best thing that's happened in American politics since the Watergate hearings. Obama changed the game by calling out the current political game for what it is. Let's call the current game "Our Way or No Way." It is played by Democrats and Republicans alike, with equal vigor. This game is toxic. Limiting. Stultifying. Divisive. And ultimately it's unproductive. This is not about blaming one party or the other. The bad game is to blame.

Yesterday, Obama not only called out the current game for the quicksand pit it is, he suggested a better, more liberating, more productive game. You might call the game he's proposing, 'Part of a Pie is Better Than None.' In other words, the invitation to the Republicans (Dems, you're next!) is to find an area of agreement and agree on it. Do it knowing that some, but not all, and probably not not 80% of what you've scripted, will come to pass. Don't be greedy. Be generous instead. Don't place blame. Accept responsibility. Don't point fingers. Shake hands. And then come out fighting. Let's relish the good fight, one where we fight together to solve the problem, not the bad fight, where we fight over who's right and who's wrong about how to solve it. Let's pick battles we can win instead of battles we can make the other guy lose.

Cheers to the GameChanger in Chief for changing the game once again. Our political discourse needs more of the kind of energetic, intelligent, articulate, performances that the Brits demonstrate in their 'Question Time' and Obama and the Republicans staged yesterday. It will be a healthy transformation. It'll make great TV. Nothing we Yanks like more than that.

Do not get locked into your script for success. Be prepared, instead, to toss your scripted narrative, your preconceptions about how the future has to unfold, and improvise your way there. Remember that other people have scripts, too. When all we do is fight over whose script we're going to follow, the show does not go on.