The Statement

The striking thing about the Sam Nunn statement coming out of the silly unity confab is the bizarre mismatch between its action-items and its diagnosis. Here what they think is wrong with the country:

  • 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 terrrorism, nuclear profileration, 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 vulnerabvle to catrostrophic 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 miillion Americans remain without health insurance, and the cost of medical care continues to spiral.
  • The failures of bridges in Minnesota, and levees in New Orleans are harsh metaphors for the reckless neglect of our infrastructure.

So, okay, 50 million Americans lack health insurance. Do they demand a combination of subsidies and regulations to ensure that nobody goes without insurance? No. Instead, their takeaways:

  • 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
  • proposals for bipartisan executive and legislative policy groups in critical areas such as national security.

But the one thing has nothing to do with the other. To really tackle climate change, for example, what you need is not "a truly bipartisan cabinet" but rather elected officials who put the national interest over the interests of oil and gas companies. Most of the problem actors here are Republicans, but some are Democrats like Mary Landrieux. Back when he was a right-wing Democratic Senator, David Boren worked slavishly to advance the interests of polluting energy firms. Now he wants us to have more bipartisanship? It's absurd.

On all of these issues, the problem isn't that people disagree about how to accomplish these things. The problem is that many politicians don't want to do this stuff.