Andrew Rudalevige of Bowdoin College has an excellent post on The Monkey Cage marshaling the evidence against the latest pundit argument that the President needs to cultivate better personal relations with Republican members of Congress in order to succeed in his deficit reduction talks and other policy priorities. The title sums it well" "Dinner won't do it."
Yes, good personal relations can help somewhat, but structural and megapolitical factors matter more. Republican leaders are constrained by their own colleagues who in turn are constrained by their home voters and the promises they made to them in their campaigns. Sharing a beer is not the same as sharing an ideology. A willingness to talk civilly is not the same as a willingness to compromise.
While better personal relations can't bridge the partisan divide between Congress and the White House, I still believe that more civility and social interaction could still improve the situation within Congress, where most members spend little time in Washington except Tuesday-Thursday, when they are insanely busy with legislative business and fundraising. Members of Congress still have an incentive to make the institution work, and to achieve legislative accomplishments -- and those goals require cooperation beyond party lines. Thus in Congress, habits of breaking bread together and getting to know other members as human beings can still help.