Bipartisan Forum
University of Oklahoma
Norman, Oklahoma
January 7, 2008
see UO website



Welcome to all of you.  The University of Oklahoma is honored to be the setting of this forum dedicated to the restoration of bipartisanship in the political arena.  Over the past year, the university has focused on the presidency as an institution.  We have hosted presidential historians David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Michael Beschloss; former President George Bush Sr.; and White House Chiefs of Staff Ken Duberstein for Ronald Reagan and the late Jack Valenti for Lyndon Johnson.  We have invited all presidential candidates in both parties to visit us.  One has already come and we hope that others will come in the days ahead.

Today, we welcome a group of outstanding public servants, women and men who have served their country well with decades of combined experience.  I will introduce them in alphabetical order.  Please hold your applause and welcome them when all have been introduced.

• President of the Center for the Study of the Presidency, Dr. David Abshire.
• Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, an independent.
• Former Republican National Chairman and U.S. Senator from Tennessee, Bill Brock, a republican.
• Former U.S. Senator from Maine and Secretary of Defense, Bill Cohen, a republican.
• Former U.S. Senator from Missouri, Jack Danforth, a republican.
• President of the Eisenhower Group, Susan Eisenhower, a republican.
• Former Governor and U.S. Senator from Florida, Bob Graham, a democrat.
• U.S. Senator from Iowa, Chuck Hagel, a republican.  [ed. Nebraska; this error prompted a bit of laughter]
• Former U.S. Senator from Colorado, Gary Hart, a democrat.
• Former Governor of Maine, Angus King, an independent.
• Former Congressman from Iowa, Jim Leach, a republican.
• Former U.S. Senator from Georgia and our co-host, Sam Nunn, a democrat.
• Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Edward Perkins.
• Former U.S. Senator from Virginia, Chuck Robb, a democrat.
• Former Governor of Texas, Mark White, a democrat.
• Former Governor of New Jersey and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman, a republican.

Please join me in welcoming our participants.

The common denominator of the group gathered here today is the demonstrated willingness to work together across party lines to help our country.  In fact, many of us came to know each other in this bipartisan enterprise.

For example, Senator Cohen and I co-chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee together for four years, and during that time there was not a single party line vote taken in the committee.  Senators Nunn and Cohen worked together to reorganize the defense department.  Senator Danforth and I worked together on the finance committee on tax policy and entitlement reform.  There are many other examples of members of this panel working together at the national, state, city and local levels.  We are here together today because we are committed to a renewal of that kind of bipartisanship.

We have come together at a crucial moment.  These are not ordinary times.  For the first time in history, polls tell us that a majority of Americans no longer believe that our future will be as great as our past.  We must band together to reject that pessimism.  We must reassert the “can do” American spirit which embraces the future with all its possibilities.
Today, we come together with hope and determination, with a determination to stop politics as usual which seeks to divide us for political gain.  We come together to resurrect that kind of bipartisan statesmanship that united us as Americans to win the Cold War.  We come together to appeal to all presidential candidates to tell us how they plan to bring us together.  Hear our plea!  Bring us together!  Bring us together! Bring us together and the American people will assure our future.

History teaches us that bipartisanship is possible.  It is not some romantic dream.  It has a proven track record in our political system, producing such landmarks as the Marshall Plan, NATO, and the policy of containment of communism which was sustained for more than forty years.

Last night and this morning, we worked together to develop a joint statement of principles which we could embrace as a group.  Now, I would like to ask our co-host, Senator Sam Nunn, to read that statement.




America is in danger.  Our ability to meet and solve the problems that face us is seriously compromised.  National surveys reveal that an unprecedented seven out of ten citizens believe that life for their children will not be as good as their own.  We are headed in the wrong direction.  We share their deep concern and frustration.  Our nation is indeed at risk.

• Approval for the United States around the world has dropped to historically low levels, with only one out of four people approving of our country’s actions, even in nations that are our longtime allies;
• We have eroded America’s credibility and capacity to lead on urgent global and foreign policy issues including terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, climate change, and regional instabilities;
• Our budget and trade deficits are out of control.  We are squandering our children’s future.  The ominous transfer of our national wealth has made our economy vulnerable, and our economic strength and competitiveness are both declining.  Middle-income Americans are struggling to keep their homes and jobs and educate their children.
• We are not as secure as we should be.  Our military is stretched thin and our nation remains vulnerable to catastrophic terrorism.
• We are being held economically hostage because we have no energy policy worthy of the name.
• Our educational system is failing to prepare our children to succeed in a globalized and technological world.
• Nearly 50 million Americans remain without health insurance, and the cost of medical care continues to spiral.
• The failures of bridges in Minneapolis and levees in New Orleans are harsh metaphors for the reckless neglect of our infrastructure.

These critical issues are uniquely interlocked and we must have a national strategy and prioritization of resources.  We are failing to address them because rampant partisanship has paralyzed the ability of our government to act.  If we allow polarizing politics to continue, we will remain a nation divided and no matter who is elected this fall, he or she will not have a mandate for governing.  Too many in both our parties have sought to energize their bases instead of reaching out to address the issues that concern our nation as a whole.  They appeal to extremes and marginalize those in the commonsense center.

In order to break this partisan impasse, we urge the presidential candidates to provide:
• clear descriptions of how they would establish a government of national unity;
• specific strategies for reducing polarization and reaching bipartisan consensus;
• plans to go beyond tokenism to appoint a truly bipartisan cabinet with critical posts held by the most qualified people available regardless of political affiliation; and
• proposals for bipartisan executive and legislative policy groups in critical areas such as national security.

National elections present an opportunity for candidates and citizens to have a serious and civil discussion of the imperative issues facing our country at home and abroad.  Today, we urge our fellow citizens, including the news media, to join us in asking the candidates to address these challenges.

If as a nation we begin to ask, debate, and address these and other fundamental issues, we can renew our commitment to community and empower those we elect to govern effectively.

We are convinced that if we establish a government of national unity, we can meet these challenges head on, develop a cohesive strategy prioritizing our responses and matching our goals with our capabilities. In short, we believe that if we unify, we can turn America’s peril into America’s promise and face our future with optimism.



We close this meeting with an appeal to all American citizens and to the media.  Help us put the questions we have raised directly to the candidates.  We cannot do it by ourselves.  We must ask the candidates if they plan to create a bipartisan cabinet and administration.  We must ask the candidates to present a strategy for a unified consensus.  We must ask the candidates for their strategies to build a more positive relationship with the rest of the world.  We leave as we came:  filled with hope for our future and with determination to keep this country great.