Just because I voted for Barack Obama doesn’t mean that I want to see Mitt Romney destroyed, or even hurt. I don’t agree with Governor Romney’s politics, but I don’t wish him ill and I certainly wouldn’t disrespect him.
This is the problem with American politics — Americans like the person who asked this question. They are on both sides of the aisle and they are equally horrible for our country. Last night, I found no glory in the fact that Mitt Romney lost; instead, I was hopeful and happy that Barack Obama won. I didn’t go to the polls to vote against Mitt Romney; I was there to vote for Barack Obama.
Much like John McCain four years ago, Mitt Romney went out with class last night, and he deserves our respect. I have never thought that Mitt Romney was a bad man. I thought Obama would be a better President, but there was never any hatred on my part for Romney. We can disagree with his politics or the way he campaigns, but there is no reason to look at Mitt Romney as a villain.
Yes, Governor Romney is incredibly wealthy and was probably out-of-touch with “average Americans” like you and me. But with all of that money, Romney could live a life of leisure and never have to work at anything again. Instead, what did he do? He devoted himself to public service. There’s no question that he loves his family and has a great relationship with them. He spent a significant amount of time in a leadership role with his church — not just by sitting in a pew every Sunday but by taking a leadership role where he gave up time to help the families and people of his community. Saving the Salt Lake City Olympics, serving as Governor of Massachusetts, running for President in 2008 and 2012 — none of those things were token jobs where Romney was a figurehead that got the credit while others did the work. They were all challenges that Romney tackled with hard work and, in each instant, he “left everything on the field”, as he said in his concession speech last night.
Make no mistake about it — running for President is one of the most difficult, exhausting, and thankless journeys that an American can take. Everyone who runs for President makes tremendous sacrifices, and nobody seeks the Presidency because they are bad people who want to do harm to the United States. Candidates for the Presidency like Mitt Romney — win or lose — are patriots. They have a vision for this country and the passion to put themselves on the frontline. To serve all of us.
Laugh at Mitt Romney? Taunt him? No, I would thank Mitt Romney. I’d tell him that I may not have cast a ballot for him, but that I appreciate the sacrifices he made in order to try to move our country forward. I’d admit that I disagree with his politics, but that I respect his beliefs and admire his passion for going after what he felt was right. I’d tell him that I know last night was probably one of the most difficult experiences of his life, but that he conceded with class, he demonstrated a remarkable work ethic throughout the campaign, and that I hoped that my fellow Democrats would have offered their support of him if Obama had lost as seamlessly and earnestly as he offered his support for the President during his concession.
We cannot and will not bridge the divisions in this country if we continue to be ugly towards each other. Politics alone will not take us where we need to be. There must be some magnanimity, some cooperation, some compromise between all of us — from the President and the Congress to the State Governors and Legislatures, and right on down to you and me and our neighbors. “Politics” and “compromise” are dirty words because we drag them through the mud along with anyone connected to those ideas. That has to stop. It has to stop between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, it has to stop between the talking heads on cable news networks, and it has to stop with people who anonymously leave messages on blogs encouraging a celebration over the heartbreaking defeat of someone who put everything on the line to serve his country. Celebrate Obama’s victory, not Romney’s defeat. Congratulate Obama and his supporters, but don’t hesitate to appreciate Romney’s work ethic and devotion to service.
We are at our best when all of us — or at least the largest majority of us — are moving forward. We are at our best when we remember the first word in our nation’s name is “United”. The idea of a constant conflict pitting Democrats vs. Republicans where one side must win and one side must lose is not progress. It’s Civil War without violence — but not without casualties. As someone who knew something about Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant, once said, “Let us have peace.” We should follow General Grant’s advice and add, “Let us have progress.” With peace and progress will come prosperity for all of our people.
Well, I’ll only be 36 years old — Constitutionally eligible to be President, but just barely — and woefully inexperienced, so I’d need someone who is respected and has a solid resume. How about Leon Panetta?
Actually, Panetta would be a damn good running mate for someone (not just in the hypothetical “Anthony for President” silliness). Panetta served eight terms in Congress, was President Clinton’s OMB director and White House Chief of Staff, and is now President Obama’s Secretary of Defense after serving the first two years of the Obama Administration as CIA Director. That’s about as solid of a resume for a present-day American public servant as I can think of. Any Democrat running for President in 2016 should have him on their short list for Vice President.
So, there you go, that’s my ticket: Bergen/Panetta 2016 (although “Bergen/Panetta” kind of sounds like the name of a concentration camp.)
(And the previous sentence is a clear example of why I could never be President.)
George McGovern, the former South Dakota Senator, 1972 Democratic Presidential nominee, and longtime advocate for minorities, the poor, and the hungry, died this morning in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The 90-year-old former Senator’s death was not unexpected as recent reports have detailed his failing health, but McGovern was actually quite active in politics and the issues he believed in until earlier this year.
McGovern was nominated by the Democrats to face incumbent President Richard Nixon in 1972 and routed in both the popular vote and Electoral College, winning only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. But McGovern’s legacy extends far beyond his unsuccessful 1972 bid for the Presidency. As liberal as Barry Goldwater was conservative, McGovern was a tireless advocate for the poor and the hungry, not just during his career as an elected official, but throughout his life and up until his death.
After the turbulent 1960s, as the Democratic Party was reshuffling itself demographically into what it has been for the past 40 years, it was George McGovern who welcomed and embraced minorities, women, young voters, and gays. Some people call this “progressive” in 2012; George McGovern thought that way in 1972. He was way ahead of his time — even for many Democrats. As he later joked about his landslide loss to Richard Nixon, “I opened the doors of the Democratic Party — and twenty million people walked out.” Indeed, in the 1972 election, nearly 1/3rd of all Democrats voted for Nixon instead of McGovern.
The GOP successfully painted McGovern as a radical, peace-seeking pacifist in 1972, and tried to portray him as somewhat of a wimp. McGovern was a dove on Vietnam, but he was no radical, no pacifist, and certainly no wimp. Several days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, McGovern enlisted in the Air Force and flew 35 combat missions over Germany, Italy, and Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe during World War II, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Yet, peace was certainly an aspect that drove McGovern throughout his career, and helping those who were less fortunate was his ambition for public service. The war that McGovern constantly sought to fight was a war on hunger. It was a concern that he was vocal about during his time in the House and later in the Senate, and President Kennedy appointed McGovern as the first director of the Food For Peace program. Later in life, that fight to feed the hungry continued. Nearly 20 years after leaving the Senate, President Clinton (who, along with Hillary, managed the McGovern campaign in Texas in 1972) named him as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN’s Agencies for Food and Agriculture. For the last decade of his active life, McGovern was a United Nations’ Goodwill Ambassador on World Hunger for the UN’s World Food Programme.
Though the Democratic Party distanced itself from McGovern following the 1972 election because of the magnitude of his defeat and the Nixon campaign’s successful portrayal of him as a radical, McGovern’s impact on today’s Democratic Party cannot be denied. The voters that helped elect Barack Obama in 2008 — African-Americans, women, Hispanics, gays, and young voters — were the people that George McGovern opened the doors of the Democratic Party to in 1972. He was a monument to American Liberalism and his legacy cannot be denied. Nearly all who worked with or against George McGovern — Democrats, Republicans, or Independents — respected his honesty, his ability, and his heart. In a divisive time when many politicians have forgotten the definition of public service, they should look to people like George McGovern and Bob Dole who personify the true intent of public service.
In the bipartisan spirit that he worked while seeking solutions that would help the most people possible, we should honor and remember George McGovern — not as a forward-thinking father of modern American Liberalism, and not even as a war hero — but as an American who represented the best of what our country can be and dedicated his life to the most faithful definition and purpose of public service.
Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives
Hardcover. 327 pp.
April 24, 2012. Free Press.
John Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan who represents the western suburbs of Detroit, Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Monroe in the United States House of Representatives is the Dean of the House. In a couple of months, Congressman Dingell will celebrate his 86th birthday. If he wins his campaign in November, as he has done the last 28 times he’s been on the ballot, and serves past June 8, 2013, he will have spent more time in Congress than any American in history. Right now, only two Americans in 223 years of American History have served longer in Congress. Nobody has spent more time in the House of Representatives. Dingell joined the House on December 13, 1955, succeeding his father, John Dingell, Sr., who had died a few months earlier. Between the current Congressman Dingell and his father, somebody named John Dingell has represented Michigan in the U.S. House of Representatives for almost 80 consecutive years.
If anybody is an expert on the lower chamber of Congress — the people’s chamber — it is John Dingell. If anybody can give an educated opinion on the state of America’s legislative branch, it is this aging World War II veteran who has held office in Washington, D.C. through the Administrations of 11 Presidents (Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama). John Dingell’s ties to the House of Representatives even include five years as page where he watched his father work alongside legislative titans and stood transfixed on the floor of the House during the joint session of Congress where President Franklin D. Roosevelt mourned the “day which will live in infamy” and declared war on Japan.
After nearly 57 years as a member of the House of Representatives and 75 years as a keen observer of Congress’s lower chamber, John Dingell has seemingly experienced it all, but the 112th Congress — the current session, which began on January 3, 2011 and saw Republicans take control of the House after the disastrous 2010 midterm elections for House Democrats — is difficult to deal with. In Robert Draper’s new book, Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives (Free Press, 2012), Dingell admits that “I’m more frustrated than I’ve ever been in my career.” The Dean of the House tries to flip through the pages of political history that he has personally experienced, yet he can’t find another example of an organization or individual who had approval ratings as low as the 9% approval rating that Americans have for the 112th Congress. In fact, Dingell finally says, “I think pedophiles would do better.”
Robert Draper is a top-notch journalist for publications such as the New York Times Magazine, GQ, and National Geographic, and his previous book, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush (BOOK•KINDLE), was a fascinating insider account of the Executive branch as President Bush’s two terms were coming to a close. Do Not Ask What Good We Do is just as intriguing, perhaps more so because instead of a White House with one leader and nearly everyone else working toward the same goals, the House of Representatives is full of 435 very different Americans from very different parts of the country. And while the House is controlled by a Republican Party that currently holds on to a 52-vote majority over the Democrats, the two parties themselves have major ideological differences within them.
Do Not Ask What Good We Do focuses on a handful of House members. Some of Draper’s subjects are very well-known and very influential like current Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Dingell (D-MI), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), disgraced former New York Democrat Anthony Weiner, and the courageous Arizona Democrat Gabrielle Giffords who was nearly killed in an assassination attempt in her Congressional district at the beginning of the 112th Congress. But Draper also looks at some of the 87 freshmen who helped the Republicans take back the House in November 2010 thanks to their Tea Party credentials and relentless opposition to anything and everything that President Barack Obama has attempted to do, particularly Florida’s Allen West, Missouri’s Billy Long, Blake Farenthold of Texas, Renee Elmers of North Carolina, Raul Labrador of Idaho, and South Carolina’s “Four Horsemen” freshmen: Jeff Duncan, Tim Scott, Trey Gowdy, and Mick Mulvaney.
By introducing us to some of the personalities who are responsible for crafting and passing legislation, Draper helps us understand why John Dingell is so frustrated, why nothing is getting done, and why the approval rating of Congress is in single digits. We see Tea Party Republican freshmen whose intransigence not only provide headaches for the Democratic President, the Democratic Senate, or the Democratic House minority, but also for moderate Republicans or Congressional veterans who are never conservative enough for the newcomers who hold up bills and refuse to compromise. While there are admirable, hard-working, pragmatic legislators on both sides of the aisle, there are also Members of Congress — people that were somehow elected by a majority of Americans to represent their district in the House of Representatives — like Idaho’s Republican freshman Raul Labrador who is quoted in a Republican conference telling Speaker Boehner, “I didn’t come to Washington to be part of a team.” Or, Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee, whose obsession with tacking on amendments, need to make a floor speech about something every morning, and stubborn attitude is one of the most blatant examples I’ve ever seen of government waste.
Do Not Ask What Good We Do is a fascinating book, but tremendously frustrating. The frustration doesn’t come from Robert Draper’s first-class reporting or his ability to put personalities to the faces and names we see on C-SPAN; it comes from the frightening fact that if, as many Americans believe, our system is broken and needs to be fixed, the repairs should start with the House of Representatives. The Senate is the more deliberative body of Congress — designed to represent the states equally. The House is supposed to be the people’s chamber — designed to represent us, the average American voter or taxpayer, as directly as possible. I’m scared for my country if these are the best 435 people we have to represent us. Not all of the members of the House are equally horrible, but enough of them are bad that I worry for my country. I am saddened for my country if we can’t do better than many of these men and women that we send to Congress to represent the districts that we live in. We have to be able to do better. We must do better.
Draper’s title — Do Not Ask What Good We Do — comes from one of this country’s original members of Congress, Fisher Ames of Massachusetts, who wrote of Congress in 1796, “If we should finish and leave the world right side up, it will be happy. Do not ask what good we do: that is not a fair question, in these days of faction.” Thanks to Draper’s revealing account of the current House of Representatives, we can look at the 112th Congress and know not to ask what good they do, for there hasn’t been anything of note in the past two years that has made our lives better. We know that we don’t need to ask how bad they’ve been; the 9% approval rating answers that question clearly. Instead, we should ask ourselves: “Can we do better?” and “Is it January 3, 2013 yet?”.
Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives by Robert Draper is available now from Free Press. You can order the book from Amazon, or download it instantly for your Kindle. Robert Draper is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, and GQ. His previous book was the New York Times best-seller, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush (BOOK•KINDLE). Robert Draper is also on Twitter @draperrobert.
No. Joe Biden is a good Vice President, and he has been a loyal member of the Obama Administration. I have a lot of respect for Vice President Biden. I think it would be totally unfair to dump him from the ticket. Plus, it would look like a total panic move (which it would be), and it would leave the President open to criticism about the first really important decision he made as the nominee, make it possible for the opposition to say that he was blaming Biden for his troubles, and suggesting that he needed Hillary to save his ass in 2012.
I think it would be good for the country but so bad for the two major parties that a solid third party is almost impossible in this country. When Republicans or Democrats start to splinter into groups, they do an effective job of finding a target in the other party to marshal their forces against and unite the party once more.
It is actually pretty fascinating how a country of divisiveness like ours has been dominated by just two political parties for so long. If there was a third party, I think it would be a party of moderate Republicans and Democrats who gathered to push through a third way.
The problem with that is the unfortunate fact that in our country moderation means “weakness” and centrist is a pejorative term.