Last week, I listened to the State of the Union address. I thought President Obama did a good job outlining the major issues this country faces and some thoughts about how to deal with them. I was particularly glad to hear him speak directly to the fact that Congress is "broken" and that it needs to be fixed before anything else can get done.
In his speech, the President said, “I recognize that people watching tonight have differing views about taxes and debt; energy and health care. But no matter what party they belong to, I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing right now: Nothing will get done this year, or next year, or maybe even the year after that, because Washington is broken.”
Kudos, President Obama! Thank you for naming the elephant in the room. Over the last year or two, whenever anyone has talked with me about policy issues (from either the Republican or Democratic side of the aisle) I have taken the position that their points, while they may be valid, are irrelevant. Until someone steps up to "fix" Congress, little if anything, can get done.
And the Republican debates have been missing this key issue. What any particular candidate would or wouldn’t propose on this or that issue doesn’t interest me as much as what each candidate would do to “fix” our government. Because all those ideas are a waste of time unless they can solve the primary issue: What do you do with a government that’s so broken it can’t get anything accomplished?
And the tired, old, “I’d reach across the aisle” hasn’t worked. No matter who gets elected, little is going to get done without major changes in the attitudes of the people we sent to Washington to accomplish great and wonderful things. This attitude of “unless you do it my way, no one gets anything” sounds like it’s coming from a bunch of bratty 5 year olds.
The point was driven home yet again by presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. What was their first assessment of President Obama’s State of the Union Address? “It was nothing but a campaign speech.” Right back to trash talking. And what if it was written with the next campaign in mind? Was there really anything in that speech that didn’t deserve to be said? Any ideas that wouldn’t help solve some of our nations issues? If either of those guys had come out and said, “The president’s right. Congress has to get its collective act together,” they would have gotten my vote right there and then.
The problem is incorrect focus. Instead of looking out for what’s good for Americans and the country as a whole, they are focused on either getting elected, getting President Obama out of office, or trying to force the country to abide by a strict ideology. Until the focus gets back to the common good, I fear not a lot is going to get accomplished.
As for the short term, I’d like to see a debate where the candidates couldn't tell me anything about the other candidates. Where they couldn’t tell me what the other candidates views were or weren’t, and why those views are "bad" or "wrong." And certainly where they couldn’t tell me what the other candidates were doing wrong, or had done wrong, in their lives. Historically, that's been the media's job, and I say let's leave that to them. When the candidates do it, it’s all suspect because we know it’s not impartial, it’s self-serving. Everything is spun in order to make the other guy look bad and themselves look good.
Give me a debate where each candidate could only talk about themselves, their views, their vision for our country and the solutions they would bring to the table. I have a feeling many candidates wouldn’t have much to talk about if they couldn’t talk about "the other guys."