Thursday, October 16, 2008

What Would Bipartisanship Look Like?

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 10/15/2008

Dear Sens. McCain and Obama,

For the good of the country, both of you, please, stick to the issues and stop engaging in character assassination. Yes, yes, you can rationalize this poison as important, that the character and past associations of each be scrutinized. Both of you know this is bunk. Sen. Obama is no more a terrorist because of William Ayers than Sen. McCain is the Manchurian Candidate because he was a POW. And what is worse, it adds to the divisiveness and hyper partisanship that I bet our enemies count on when we face times of hardship, like during a multi-front war and the current economic meltdown.

Sen. McCain, a week ago you finally showed your true colors by facing a booing crowd of your own supporters and telling them that Sen. Obama is not Arab, is an honorable, decent, family man, who would make a good President, but that you would make a much better one. Sen. Obama, while your rally supporters are not yelling “treason” and “terrorist” about Sen. McCain, there are scurrilous and damaging misinformation on the internet by your supporters about Sen. McCain and his family. May I suggest that your “Fight the Smears” website include smears about your opponent, too.

How shallow you both sound in your campaigns for change. This campaign is looking like more and more of the same. But what boggles my mind is that it seems the both of you are playing chicken; the problem is when one of you blinks, its not damage to your campaign but to America. Maybe I don’t get it, but bipartisanship is more than just occasionally voting with the other side. It is also about recognizing our shared fate, something both of you seem to have forgotten or you would not engage in the politics of personal destruction. And forget about justifying it with “they started it.” Both of you are capable of stopping it.

Bipartisanship is a theme both of your campaigns embrace, then why not show it? Show the American people that you at least understand what it means and then act that way. One of you is going to be the next President of the United States. And one of you will return to the US Senate as a leader of your party. President McCain, would you like Sen. Obama’s help on your health care plan? President Obama, would you like Sen. McCain’s help on your energy policy? Or, are both of you going to engage in hyper partisanship to the degree that if one compliments the other’s wife, you will reflexively disagree with the compliment?

How can you, or let your supporters without correction, call each other “terrorist,” “unhinged,” and “dangerous” and then expect to work together? Moreover, aren’t you also hobbling the next President with these kinds of attacks? Is hobbling the President of the United States in this way a good thing for the country?

Here is what you should do. Call a joint press conference. Skip the part about who called first because it undermines your calls for service to country as you argue over who should get the credit.

Sen. Obama, after being deferred to by the more senior Senator, you announce that you are now embracing Sen. McCain’s health plan. And that either as President or as Senator you will work hard for its passage. Sen. McCain then announce that after three debates, that Sen, Obama has convinced you, that his energy policy is the best for America, and vow to fight for it as either President or Senator.

Sen. Obama, you next announce that after three debates, you are convinced that Sen. McCain’s veterans policy is the one to support and vow to help make it the law of the land either as President or Senator. Calling Sen. Obama’s raise, the gambler Sen. McCain calls Sen. Obama with “I support your climate change policy” and will work next year, either from the Oval Office of the Senate to make it law.

This is just four areas to agree upon. This is bipartisanship. This is recognizing shared fate. This means we both have a stake in not burning down each other’s house (otherwise called America). There are plenty of other issues to debate, but these are settled. It makes the debates seem real and that neither of you are ideologues. “Look,” doing that will introduce a little bit of certainty into an uncertain situation. And that, “my friends,” is leadership.

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