POLITICS -- January 11, 2011 at 7:54 AM ET
Political Centrists Look to Seize Moment
Theresa Como Smith, left, and her children Blanche, Isaac and Silas, of Malone, N.Y., sign books of condolences in the Cannon House Office Building Rotunda for the victims of Saturday's shooting in Tucson, Ariz. Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call.
Before President and Mrs. Obama touch down in Tucson, Ariz., Wednesday to lead the country in a memorial for the victims of the shooting rampage there, the Obama administration will work carefully to determine just how much they want the president to delve into the political debate that has been spawned by these tragic events.
In Washington, centrist political groups are attempting to seize this moment as a national call for comity in our politics. With partisan brawlers on each side of the aisle usually the first booked on cable talk shows, the interest groups that have spent years seeking to claim the center without great attention are eager not to let this tragedy slip by without advancing their call for a more moderate and modest political debate geared towards solving some of the country's most pressing problems.
At the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, the group's president, Jonathan Cowan, dashed off a letter to congressional leaders Monday with three suggested steps to increase "respectful debate":
- End partisan seating at the State of the Union address.
- Set aside one weekend per year for an off-the-record bipartisan retreat
- Set aside funds to pay for members of one party to visit the district of a member of the opposing party once a year.
Former Agriculture secretary Dan Glickman and former Interior secretary Dirk Kempthorne, co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Democracy Project, also issued a statement Monday appealing to members of Congress (an institution in which both men served from opposing parties) to get to know each other better and interact with those across the political aisle.
The two former Cabinet members also pleaded for an improvement in the level of civility in American politics.
"While we do not yet know and may never fully understand the motives of the assailant, this unfortunate event has spurred a larger conversation on the state of our nation and our government," they said. "We hope this will not be a moment for finger-pointing, but rather a time of renewed focus on our political discourse."
The new group "No Labels," made up of political players from both parties focused on doing away with heated partisanship, sent a video to supporters in which co-founder Kiki McLean seeks to put her group front and center in leading the country in a national conversation about civil discourse.
Whether these centrist groups see increased interest and participation remains to be seen, but there's no doubt they all seem to see this as a moment they can't afford to pass by. They, too, have an agenda they seek to fulfill.
PAWLENTY'S 'COURAGE TO STAND'
The release of former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty's memoir, "Courage to Stand: An American Story," and his corresponding media tour, which includes appearances Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America" and "The View," give the impression that a presidential run is all but certain for the Republican.
Pawlenty isn't pushing back on that notion either. "I'm seriously considering running for president," the former governor told the St. Petersburg Times' political blog "The Buzz." Pawlenty added, "I'm going to make that announcement in a few months, but in the meantime I just finished up eight years of governor, I've had a lot of other interesting experiences and life challenges - some successes and some challenges - and you learn some things along the way. So I wanted to put that in a book and try to share it."
In an interview Tuesday with NPR, Pawlenty said he would have to announce "earlier rather than later" since his "name ID is not very high yet."
Pawlenty's national name recognition stood at 39 percent in a Gallup poll released Monday, placing him seventh out of 13 potential GOP candidates surveyed. The good news for the former governor: He has a 13 percent net favorable rating among those who are familiar with him.
The Minnesotan will look to increase both those numbers by making the television rounds, with Fox News, CNN and ABC appearances on tap Tuesday, followed by MSNBC, CNBC and Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" on Wednesday.
Pawlenty's book tour will also take him through the key early nominating states of Iowa (Ankeny on Jan. 30 and West Des Moines on Jan. 31) and New Hampshire (Manchester on Jan. 24), plus a stop in the battleground of Florida this Friday.
Before he welcomes President Obama into the heart of his political opposition on Feb. 7, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue will present the predicate to that high-profile visit in his annual State of American Business address at 9 a.m. ET Tuesday.
Donohue will highlight the business community's priorities for growing the economy and putting millions of Americans back to work in 2011, including regulatory restraint and reform, trade expansion, reducing deficits and rebuilding our economic platform -- our infrastructure system.
"We begin 2011 in a lot better shape than we found ourselves last year. The state of American business is improving. While the recovery may be picking up steam, it is fragile and uneven....Over the next year, the Chamber's number one priority will be to turn this economic recovery into a jobs recovery so we can start putting America back to work," Donohue is expected to say, according to excerpts of his remarks obtained by the Morning Line.
He will be joined by Executive Vice President Bruce Josten for a 9:45 a.m. news conference, where President Obama's upcoming visit to the chamber is likely to be discussed.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent more than $75 million in the 2010 midterm elections; most of that money was aimed at defeating Democrats.
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