JACKSON, Tenn. – April 4, 2005 – Moderation and cooperation are becoming increasingly difficult to find in American politics and that divisiveness is harmful to the country, Fox News analyst Morton Kondracke said.
“The basic fact of American politics is that the parties – especially in Washington -- are more and more polarized by the year,” Kondracke said. “It is increasingly impossible to get agreement on any of the big issues that face the country because the two parties are so at odds with one another.”
Kondracke, editor of Roll Call and co-host of the Fox News Channel’s “The Beltway Boys,” spoke at Union University April 4 as part of the annual Union Forum. A self-described political moderate, he addressed a record-crowd of 400 at a luncheon after speaking to a smaller group of Union students and faculty members.
Even in social settings, Kondracke said relationships between Republicans and Democrats in Washington are icy. That’s different from the past, where political opponents could debate each other in Congress then play golf together afterwards.
“That hardly ever happens anymore,” Kondracke said. “It’s impossible to imagine Tom DeLay and Nancy Pelosi spending any discretionary time together whatsoever. That’s the way it’s become.”
Although President Bush promised to unify and not divide the country, he hasn’t achieved that goal, Kondracke suggested. He said the 2004 presidential election was one of the nastiest campaigns in recent history, and now the country is reaping the results of that. While Bush tries to push his agenda through, Democrats are opposing him vigorously, especially on issues like Social Security and Bush’s judicial nominees.
Kondracke said Democrats see Social Security – the brainchild of Franklin Roosevelt -- as one of the bedrocks of their party. Whereas the Democrats tout programs from the Great Society and the New Deal, Bush wants to reform the programs to create more of an ownership society, with Americans taking a larger role in their financial futures. “The idea of tampering with these iconic programs is just anathema to them,” Kondracke said about Democrats.
Regarding the president’s judicial nominees, Kondracke said the recent Terri Schiavo case in Florida would only serve to galvanize the resolve of Democrats to block conservative judges. To stop a Democratic filibuster, Kondracke said Republicans need 60 votes in the Senate – a majority they’re not likely to achieve. Another option for Republicans is what Kondracke called the “nuclear option,” which would involve changing the Senate’s rules to require only a majority of 51 votes to confirm presidential nominees. But Democrats have threatened to shut down the Senate and hold up all legislation if the Republicans resort to that tactic.
Kondracke called the situation “deeply regrettable” and another example of the deep rifts between the political parties.
“(Democrats) are bound and determined to resist practically everything (Bush) wants to do,” he said.
Kondracke addressed other issues such as foreign policy and discussed Bush’s plans to introduce democracy to countries in the Middle East. While progress is being made in such countries as Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Kondracke also said the plan was “terribly risky” because nobody knows for sure how these nations will respond to self-government.
He also predicted that Dick Cheney, Bill Frist and John McCain, among others, would be the leading Republican presidential candidates in 2008. For the Democrats, Evan Bayh, Bill Richardson, John Kerry and John Edwards would likely pursue the nomination, but Kondracke said the nomination was Hillary Clinton’s to lose.
Clinton is trying to earn a reputation as a hard worker in Washington, and she’s also trying to position herself as a moderate on such issues as abortion and the war in Iraq, Kondracke said.
But he thinks Clinton is a liberal who’s simply trying to appear more palatable to the American people.
“I think it’s an act,” he said. “She learned from her husband how to look like a moderate.”
Kondracke spent several minutes in his meeting with students discussing the Schiavo case, a story that was especially of interest to him since his wife Milly died of Parkinson’s disease last year. As her condition worsened, Kondracke said they had discussed how he would handle the situation if she ever got to that point. He never had to make that decision, however, as Milly died before it was necessary.
Kondracke said he would have supported removing Schiavo’s feeding tube if it had been proven she was in a persistent vegetative state. He’s not convinced, however, of the medical diagnosis.
“I was shocked to learn that Terri Schiavo never had a PET scan or an MRI,” he said.
Without that conclusive information, Kondracke said he would have difficulty allowing her to die.
Regardless, he advised students to take precautions should they ever find themselves in a similar situation.
“Make your wishes known to somebody, or sign somebody to make your decisions for you,” he said.