published Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Roberts: Leaders lack bipartisan spirit of past

By Dalton Roberts

The thing that has despoiled the spirit of American politics is acrimony. We cannot even be civil toward each other, yet we do these speeches about how bipartisan we are.

A case in point is our own U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and the recent argument with President Obama over financial reform.

When you throw out an idea you know will be rejected with a knee-jerk by the opposition, that is not being bipartisan. Being bipartisan is sitting down with someone of the other party and finding a common idea to present to the full Senate.

The Democrats just as bad. The only thing that's bipartisan these days is phoniness.

I long for the old days when we had respect for the views of others. I can actually remember when our political servants would walk across the aisle and talk to each other with a touch of simple courtesy and honesty. ...The degree of polarization in Washington and Nashville is dangerous for our democracy. We're walking around in molasses.

I was lucky to be raised in a truly bipartisan home. Dad was a true conservative and mother was a true New Deal Democrat. I never heard them call each other names like "socialist" and "Nazi." I was able to work with Republicans when I was in office because I respected my Dad's politics. I sometimes disagreed with it, but I always respected it.

Dad was a true conservative. The very word means one supports those things worthy of being conserved. I do not find that true these days. For example, there is a large body of solid research that Head Start works but can you well me what "conservative" is trying to conserve it?

My former Jaycees buddy, Bill Brock, was a true conservative. He introduced a special education bill one time because he studied it and saw that it worked.

I remember all the times after Jaycees meetings when Bill and I, along with other Jaycees, would go to the Rathskeller and debate until closing time. I cannot remember a single time when it got acrimonious.

It might surprise people to know I was quite upset when Eisenhower got the Republican nomination instead of Robert Taft. Taft was one of the most brilliant conservatives in American history and Ike was merely riding the tide of his personal popularity.

Everybody has a favorite friend to discuss bipartisan politics with. One of mine was Ross Walker. Many nights, we would talk politics until the George Dickel ran out or daylight arrived, whichever came first.

I hired the late Jerry Turner as staff attorney. Democrats applied but I could see Jerry was the superior person. Whenever an issue arose with partisan implications, I always got the Republican perspective from Jerry, the Democratic view from Ruth Harmon, and the "Mugwamp" view from Barney Morgan. Sometimes the four of us would argue for a long time before the best idea came forth.

We will never expand ourselves by just listening to those who strongly agree with us. We will be born a narrow-minded idiot and die a narrow-minded idiot.

While partisan politics has a strangle-hold on the American scene, I long to see the day when intelligent independent candidates are more accepted: Yes, even Libertarians.

As the Prayer of Jabez says, "We need to enlarge the borders of our tent."

E-mail Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com

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