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New Adversaries Learn Same Old Lesson

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's by no means a done deal as the compromise on the Bush tax cuts reached Monday may still face bitter opposition from Pelosi-camp Democrats. It is nonetheless a remarkable moment, more so perhaps, than media coverage has suggested.

After all, the package -- which, among other critical provisions, extends the cuts for two years while maintaining a 13-month federal unemployment benefits filing option --- was negotiated a mere month after a staggering Republican victory that could have encouraged even greater intransigence on the right or at least a more vociferous insistence on an extension of the cuts beyond the two years stipulated by the current compromise.

Our hope is that the immense human suffering caused by this economy has had a more compelling impact on the negotiating parties than their respective ideological commitments. There have been moments in our historical experience -- certain points during the darkest days of the Great Depression, perhaps, or during the systemic breakdown of 1968 -- when compromise hardly seemed an option. The good news is that the current crisis does not apparently rise to that intractable level.

It thus seems an opportune time to revisit a man whose entire career underscores the healing power of self-transcendence -- not only in politics but also in how we conduct business in a global marketplace. Our discussion with him is excerpted from the recently published book, The Communicators: Leadership in an Age of Crisis, by Richard S. Levick and Charles Slack.

Throughout his political career as a U.S. Representative and Senator from Maine, and as a Republican Secretary of Defense in the Democratic Clinton Administration, William S. Cohen developed an exemplary reputation as a leader able to put partisan differences aside in the pursuit interest of greater collective benefits.

"My entry into politics was on a nonpartisan basis," Cohen says. "I ran for City Council in Bangor, Maine. You didn't run with a party label. If you had a pro- or anti-business attitude, they would know whether you were left wing or right wing, but there was no partisanship in terms of organizing your campaign. You were simply 'Cohen for City Council' or 'Cohen for Mayor.' I learned something during that experience in terms of building a consensus to achieve the best results."
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