Talk with Americans anywhere in the county and they will tell you that they have little interest in being bombarded with negative ads, trivia and cynical news reports about the men and women who are running for President over the next two years. Given the political destructiveness over the last two election cycles, Americans are anticipating the 2008 presidential race with about the same enthusiasm as getting a root canal: We know the ultimate purpose is important, but does it have to be so painful?
Did you know that Sen. John F. Kennedy announced he was running for President on January 2, 1960? And when Ronald Reagan ran for President in 1975 and 1979, he began his campaigns in November on dates that would be considered laughably late by today’s consultants and journalists. But Ronald Reagan got the last laugh.
Our political process has come a long way in just 20 years — and not for the better. Already, on the Republican side, Senators John McCain (Ariz.) and Sam Brownback (Kan.), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Duncan Hunter (Calif.) have formally begun their presidential campaigns.
And as for the Democrats, Senators Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) and — just yesterday — New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson have all officially jumped into the fray.
Two Years Is Too Long for Presidential Politics as Usual
“Winning the Future” readers know that I’ve long argued that almost two years is too long for a presidential campaign. But if all these bright, talented politicians can’t be persuaded to put off their presidential ambitions for a year, then they should be persuaded to spend this extra year of campaigning in a way that would do some good: by focusing on positive, bipartisan solutions for the country rather then negative, one-sided, attack politics.
Let’s make 2007 a year of solutions and dialogue and leave the ambition and debate for 2008. But what does this mean in practice? It means candidates of different parties should appear together — on the same stage — to discuss solutions for America’s challenges. Just being in the same room with members of the other party would take 75 percent of the poison out of the process and force the candidates to focus on serving all Americans rather then pandering to a narrow slice of the country.
Obama and Clinton Talk the Talk, but Can They Walk the Walk?
But don’t just take my word for it. The two Democratic frontrunners — Senators Clinton and Obama — both announced their candidacies with rhetoric that appeals to this same spirit of bipartisanship and dialogue.
When he announced he was running for President, Sen. Obama promised “a different kind of politics.” He said: “Today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, commonsense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can’t tackle the big problems that demand solutions.”
And Sen. Clinton struck a similar tone Saturday when she announced. She spoke of her desire to “begin a conversation with America” because “the conversation in Washington has been just a little one-sided lately.” She concluded, “We all need to be part of the discussion if we’re all going to be part of the solution.”
Join Former Gov. Cuomo and Me in New York February 28
Let’s take Senators Obama and Clinton at their word. We need a new way of working in Washington, one that focuses on solutions over politics. But change doesn’t have to wait until the presidential race is decided. It can begin now, during the campaign season. All Americans should challenge Sen. Obama, Sen. Clinton and all the men and women running for President to not only talk the talk but also walk the walk. Unless we focus on solutions during the campaign, we’ll never get solutions when the new President takes office.
Former New York Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo and I are participating in a bipartisan dialogue that we hope will offer a model that the candidates will adopt. On February 28, we will launch it as the first in a series of bipartisan national dialogues at Cooper Union in New York City.
Cooper Union is the place where, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln gave the speech that propelled him to the presidency. Gov. Cuomo and I are very ambitious. We hope to do one better than Lincoln. Not to propel either of us to the presidency, but to propel our political system toward a genuinely productive search for the solutions to the challenges that face us. If you plan on being in New York on February 28, please join us. I will have more about this for you in the coming weeks.
Three Steps to the Left in the Pelosi Congress
New Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) ran a remarkable campaign — regardless of how much we all desired a different outcome.
They campaigned like conservatives, but now that they are in charge, they just can’t seem to help themselves. So far, the liberal impulses of the House Democrats are clearly setting the agenda. Take just three recent examples:
First, they raised taxes on domestic energy production — without taxing foreign oil, which would at least have the effect of reducing our energy dependence — without offering an offsetting tax cut.
Second, Speaker Pelosi evidently believes that Energy Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) is insufficiently liberal to be trusted with the nation’s environmental and energy policy. She has announced plans to create a new committee to deal with issues like global warming and national energy policy, which, it is rumored, will be chaired by very liberal Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey.
Finally, the Pelosi House of Representatives is scheduled to vote this week on a rule change that will give non-members of the House a vote. The change would give the right to vote on the House floor to the five delegates from American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
You’ve probably already guessed the reason: Four out of the five are Democrats. But here’s something you might not have considered: The Pelosi bill also makes a mockery of one person, one vote.
The average congressional district has about 630,000 people. But the Pelosi bill would give an equal vote to American Samoa, which is 91 percent smaller than the average state congressional district.
What’s even more outrageous is that American Samoa pays no federal taxes. So what the House voting change amounts to is representation without taxation — which would be great, if we could all have it. But as it stands, the Pelosi bill makes your vote only 1/10th as important as the people living in tax-free American Samoa. It is the same territory Pelosi tried to exclude from the minimum wage bill that just passed the Pelosi House.
This is profoundly wrong. There are no provisions for the territories’ cancelling the votes of states. There is a process for becoming a state, and to have full power in the American system you have to be in a state.
The Democrats tried this same gimmick in 1993. You can read my floor speech from that time here. We promptly took it out of the rules when we were sworn in in 1995.
Fantastic Start — But Proceed with Extreme Caution
President Bush and Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt should be applauded for putting forward an extraordinarily important health initiative.
In his weekly radio address, President Bush announced a plan that would give people who purchase their own health insurance what employers who provide health insurance have always had: A tax break advantage.
This is the right thing to do — a significant step toward a 300-million payer, competitive health insurance system in which individuals rather than bureaucrats make decisions about their own health care. This is something the Center for Health Transformation has been advocating for quite some time.
Having said that, however, President Bush and his advisors must proceed with great caution. Their plan to give a tax cut to families that purchase their own health insurance is coupled with a tax increase on employer-provided health coverage that exceeds government-set limits.
When liberals are given the option to raise taxes, they usually take it. And chances are, in this case, they will, too — with or without the tax cuts for health insurance.
The administration should take a moment to congratulate itself for this initiative — and then proceed with extreme caution.
P.S. – Mark your calendars now for three important events in the Winning the Future community. First, next Saturday, in Washington, D.C., I will talk about 21st-Century conservatism at the National Review Institute “Conservative Summit.” Then, as I mentioned above, on February 28 in New York I will appear at Cooper Union with former Gov. Mario Cuomo. And finally, on March 1-3, the Conservative Political Action Conference will be held, at which I will meet with delegates and talk about adopting bold solutions based on bold colors. If you have the chance, please join me at one or all of these events.