Susan Collins

Incivility and Hyperpartisanship: Is Washington a Symptom or the Cause? - March 31, 2015

Susan Collins
March 31, 2015— Orono, Maine
Margaret Chase Smith Lectureship on Public Affairs
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Thank you so much, President Hunter, and thank you all for such a warm welcome.

I'm truly honored to give the Senator Margaret Chase Smith lecture at a time when we're celebrating the University of Maine's 150th anniversary, and I couldn't help but think how delighted Senator Smith would be that I was just introduced by the university's first female president. And I also know that she would be so proud of the excellent job that President Hunter is doing.

I also want to express my appreciation to the Margaret Chase Smith Center for all of its work and to its longtime supporter and advisor, Mert Henry, who worked for Margaret Chase Smith and has been an advisor to me to this day.

People in our state and throughout the nation have made clear that they are fed up with the incivility and gridlock that have prevented congressional action on far too many of the serious problems facing our nation.

But that divisiveness and animosity raise a larger and more fundamental question: Is the hyperpartisanship that grips Washington a symptom or the cause of the incivility that we see throughout our society?

In asking this question, I'm reminded of the response that former Connecticut Senator Lowell Weicker gave to an unhappy constituent when that constituent angrily denounced Senator Weicker and his colleagues, saying, "You are all a bunch of liars, thieves, and womanizers." Senator Weicker calmly replied, "Well, it is after all a representative form of government."

The symptom-or-cause question may see to be a variation on the famous chicken-or-egg dilemma that has puzzled philosophers and scientists from Aristotle to Stephen Hawking. When it comes to the role of civility in all aspects of life, we would do well to remember that we get a chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.

It is entirely reasonable to think that the poisonous atmosphere in Washington is both part symptom and part cause.

Here's one way to look at it. If you have ever been between two mirrors that face each other, such as in a barbershop, you have seen be endless line of images fading into the distance. One reflection generates another, seemingly into infinity. In much the same way, incivility by political leaders sends a message to our society that such discourse is acceptable, while the increasing coarseness in our society is a green light too divisive politicians. Each reflects the other. On insult generates another, ad infinitum and ad nauseum. Perhaps it is time we stop focusing on the damaging reflections and turn the mirror on ourselves.

Let me begin by setting the stage as I see it, with a discussion of the arena of discourse with which I am most familiar—the United States Senate.

As our constitution was being developed, legend tells us of a conversation between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in which our first president applied the metaphor of the cooling saucer to the Senate. He compared the House to the hot tea, reflecting the passions of the moment which was then poured into the cooling saucer of the Senate. A metaphor reflecting the Senate's more deliberative approach.

The conversation may be apocryphal, but there is no doubt that the founders of our nation recognized that need for a legislative chamber in which the heat of the political passions of the day could cool.

The Senate was designed expressly for that purpose. It is there that the interests of small states and of the minority point of view are to be protected. It is there that broad political power should give way to statesmanship. It is the ideal we have seen carried out by the great senators of the past, like Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and Arthur Vandenberg. It is the ideal that we have embraced in Maine by sending thoughtful and respected leaders to Washington, like Margaret Chase Smith, Ed Muskie, George Mitchell, Bill Cohen and Olympia Snowe.

To be sure, that ideal is not always met. In a 1935 radio broadcast, the humorous Will Rogers examined the courtliness of the Senate and found it times to be less then sincere. The polite terms of address for the opposing party, such as "My good friend from Maine" or "My distinguished colleague from Oregon" were sometimes leveraged with such barely concealed dislike that Rogers suggested that it would have been more honest for members to address each other as "the coyote from Maine" or "the polecat from Oregon."

Now just so that nobody gets the wrong idea, I do not believe that the other senator from Maine is a coyote and Angus King is, in truth, my good friend.

Eighty years later, however, there is all too often no attempt whatsoever to conceal disdain, and increasingly, these tensions break down along on party or philosophical lines.

I'm not endorsing phony politeness for appearances' sake, but the Senate courtesies are meant to be external evidence out the Senate's abiding culture. It is a culture built upon a foundation of respect and cooperation that is meant to transcend partisanship. It is the culture in which legislative goals are reached through patience, persuasion and perseverance, not through raw political power.

These Senate traditions are important because they are intended to depersonalize the debate and to remind heated adversaries that when their current legislative dispute is over, they will be working again with their opponents on a different issue on which they may well agree.

Since I joined the Senate eighteen years ago, I have witnessed a withering of this culture. Ideology and partisanship dictate far too much of our conduct. Obstructionism is often employed for its own sake. Base motives are impugned for reasonable policy differences, allowing legitimate differences to evolve into bitter personal disputes. That cooling saucer that Washington and Jefferson discussed more and more resembles an overheated skillet.

I am uncertain who it was who first described politics as the art of compromise, but that maxim to which I have always subscribed seems woefully out of fashion today. Sitting down with those on the opposite side of an issue, figuring out which issues matter most to each side, negotiating in good faith, and attempting to reach a solution are actions that are often vilified by hardliners on both the left and the right. Far too often, reaching across party lines—even when it produces results—is greeted with scorn by strident partisans who accuse the compromiser of being sellout.

For too many today, achieving solutions is not the primary goal. Rather, it is to draw sharp distinctions and score partisan political points, even if that means that the problems confronting our country go unresolved. That is surely one reason why Congress is held in such low esteem by the American people.

There was a poll about a year ago that actually ranked Congress and compared us with cockroaches, root canals and colonoscopies. And I'm disappointed to report to you that we were ranked lowered than all three of those.

Now, historians would tell you that the degree of civility in Congress has ebbed and flowed over the decades, and they would point out that at least we don't have one member caning and another into unconsciousness as happened in 1856 when a representative from South Carolina flogged a Massachusetts senator with a cane on the Senate floor.

But I will tell you that in modern times, I have not seen the degree of bitter divisiveness and excessive partisanship now found in the United States Senate. The weapon of choice today is not a metal-topped cane by poisonous words.

So how did we get here? What are the factors, and are these factors symptoms or causes of a broader decline in civility? It is not always easy to tell.

Let me start with that familiar example. Resentments have built in the Senate due to rule changes that diminish the role of the minority party, which the Senate used to pride itself on protecting. In the Senate, we were always known as being the bastion of free and open debate, the world's most deliberative body. But increasingly in the last Congress, procedural tactics were used to prevent the minority from offering amendments to major or minor bills. That caused the minority to overuse the filibuster to stop bills to which it could not offer any amendments to revise them. That in turn lead to the majority party breaking the Senate rules to change the Senate rules—no small irony there—in order to prevent the filibuster in certain circumstances.

The minority, appropriately enough, cried foul. An election occurred, the minority became majority and guess what. The new majority then changed its mind and decided that it liked these new rules after all, now that they favor their side.

Another negative development that has contributed to the decline in civility is campaigning against one's colleagues. When I was a freshman senator in 1997, Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island, as fine gentlemen as has ever graced the Senate chamber, advised me never to campaign against those with whom I served, a practice I immediately adopted. He told me the Senate's too small a place to campaign against those with whom you serve. It will poison your relationship with them and make it much harder to work together.

Was he ever right. Back then, most senators followed the Chafee rule, but that soon changed. Now many senators enthusiastically campaign against their colleagues from across the aisle. Some members even campaign against incumbent senators within their own caucus. I know how maddening this can be because said it's happened to me.

One example. When I supported reasonable background checks for gun buyers to prevent criminals and individuals with severe mental illness from buying firearms, a Republican colleague helped to raise money for a far-right group that produced negative television ads—you may remember them—in which I morphed into President Barack Obama. Now think about that transformation for just a moment. By the way, I happened to be in the White House for a meeting shortly thereafter and I showed the ad to the President and he was quite amused by it. In fact, he remarked that he thought that my haircut looked pretty good on him.

The problem is that personal attacks in campaigns have detrimental effects that last long after election day. Successful legislative partnerships depend on trust. It is difficult to considers someone a potential legislative partner when that senator has taken the extraordinary step of traveling to one's home state to criticize both you and your work. There is still no shortage of party groups, special interest groups and super PACs to do that kind of campaigning. There is no reason for senators to be doing to each other.

These and other bruising campaign tactics make it harder for the Senate and the country to transition from campaign mode to governing mode. the seemingly constant campaign cycle is aided and abetted by cable and radio shows whose ratings often depend on reaching small but highly partisan members of the electorate. Certain television shows will only invite those who will inflame the debate. Those of us who suggest compromise or try to tone down the rhetoric simply won't be invited.

The tactics of the campaigns and the talk shows now leak into the halls of Congress, even during formal ceremonies. Consider the House member of my own party who interrupted President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress a few years ago by yelling out, "You lie!" or the House Democratic member whose sole contribution to the health care debate consisted of asserting that Republicans had a two-word plan: die quickly. Now, neither of these members enhanced what was a serious debate.

More recently, the letter from most of my Senate Republican colleagues to the ayatollahs in Iran was, in my view, unwise, inappropriate and an ill-advised break from Senate tradition. It was not, however, despite the cries of some, treasonous. There is a considerable amount of ground between as serious policy mistake and a crime that is punishable by death.

Which brings us to the other side of the equation—the role that society plays in Washington's division and dysfunction.

From how we recreate to what we think and even to where we live, America appears to be pulling apart into factions. We are isolating ourselves from those who aren't just like ourselves. Twenty years ago the social scientist Robert Putnam wrote an essay, later a best-selling book entitled "Bowling Alone." In these works, Dr. Putnam surveyed the decline of what he termed social capital in the United States since 1950. Using bowling as an example, he found that the recreational leagues that used to bring people together from all walks of life, had all but disappeared. Where once these leagues gave the bank president and the auto mechanic, the teacher and the retiree the opportunity to get to know one another, Americans were now bowling in solitude and isolation.

This stands in stark contrast to the observation made by the French social scientist Alexis de Tocqueville during his visit to America in the 1830s. He noted that a great strength of our young nation, especially here in New England, was the willingness of citizens regardless of wealth, occupation or level of education to join in voluntary associations. From building schools to aiding the poor, shared goals were achieved.

Today, however, polarization even shows up in where we choose to live. Through a phenomenon called residential sorting, a Pew Research Center study finds that conservatives are consolidating in rural areas and the outer suburbs, while liberals are living in inner suburbs and urban centers. Never mine bowling leagues—people of different political beliefs aren't even seeing one another in daily activities.

Residential sorting is exacerbated by the desire for political advantage, and this can take some strange shapes—literally. If we could have the first slide, please. Does anyone have any idea what this is? I will tell you that it's not a Rorschach test.

Example of gerrymandered district

It is the outline of a political Congressional district in Pennsylvania. I can't get my little red light to work here, but you can see it in the dark green.

Example of gerrymandered district

So let's go to the next one. This is another district. The black is the district. You see the narrow line connecting these very two diverse and separated areas? That's because districts have to be contiguous.

Example of gerrymandered district

And this—so here it is in Illinois. There's a shocker.

Example of gerrymandered district

Let me show you another one. This looks like my idea of what the Aleutian Islands probably look like. But actually, it too is a congressional district.

Example of gerrymandered district

This one's in Florida.

Example of gerrymandered district

The redesign of congressional districts that is necessary after every census is increasingly partisan, with each party seeking to gerrymander districts to maximum advantage. With only two districts, Maine is relatively immune, but as you can see by just those three examples—and there are many more—in many states the boundaries of districts can be truly Byzantine, with politics destroying the sense of community built by both history and geography.

As a consequence of packing highly partisan voters into discrete districts—and both parties do it—moderates and independents are marginalized and their influence is diminished.

It's particularly alarming that the Pew study found that growing number of Republicans and Democrats view each other not just as the opposition party but as actually a threat to our nation's well-being. The more politically engaged a person is, the more likely it is that he or she has adopted this apocalyptic view of people who could be neighbors, soccer coaches, school board members, people they would see—if only they lived anywhere near them.

It seems that we need to revise the old saying that familiarity breeds contempt, as the evident mounts that unfamiliarity is the real culprit. The tendency to live with people who think just as we do is an example of Washington reflecting society, as both the Republican and Democratic caucuses have less and less to do with each other.

This exacerbates the incivility problem, because as one of my colleagues observed me recently, it's very difficult to hate someone that you know. Something as simple as sharing a meal together can help build these relationships.

Toward that end, I cohosted the first of what I hope will be many bipartisan Senate lunches this year, rather than the two carcasses eating lunch separately three days a week.

I have a reputation as someone who has a knack for bringing people together for a bipartisan agreement, and my secret is actually very simple: You have to understand what people care about and what motivates all the parties involved. So I applied that basic lesson to my bipartisan luncheon. How do I get them to come, I asked? The answer was obvious. I served fresh Maine lobster, prepared to using my favorite University of Maine lobster salad recipe. And it will come as no surprise to you that despite the very busy schedule that senators keep—we had nearly perfect attendance. The only thing I'm worried about is my colleagues will want me to host every lunch, which will become very expensive.

I do need to make one thing clear. Civility does not require us to stifle our disagreements. We still can and should vigorously debate issues and even tell unpleasant truths. Otherwise, we would be left with nothing more than polite but meaningless discourse devoid of passion and principle. The point is that there is a right way and a wrong way to have these vigorous policy debates and disagreements.

A famous example from history illustrates my point. The great leader we honor today provided a shining example of how a vigorous discussion of a challenging issue should be conducted, and her foil in this story is a perfect example of how such a discussion should not be undertaken.

When Senator Margaret Chase Smith went to the Senate floor on June 1, 1950 to deliver her famous Declaration of Conscience, she did so not to demonize Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy as a person—as tempting as that probably was—but instead to denounce his actions. She certainly gave him great offense, but she spoke the truth about his tactics of ruining reputations, crushing free speech and smearing his opponents. Just as important, when she condemned the accusations of "communists" and "fascists" that were flying about the Senate chamber, she was addressing both sides of the aisle. It was an incredibly bold and courageous move that resonated with the American people and helped to bring the Senate back to its senses. Americans again felt the touch of Abraham Lincoln's, what he used to refer to as the "better angels of our nature."

Contrast that with the infamous speech Senator McCarthy gave four months earlier in Wheeling, West Virginia. His opening remarks that February day were intended to honor Abraham Lincoln's birthday, but Senator McCarthy had clearly debated his better angels. His speech was a tirade of accusation, fear-mongering and name-calling. That speech was not corrective but merely destructive.

History has judged just these two very different approaches and declared a clear winner. Today, Senator Margaret Chase Smith is revered as a model of leadership and civility and integrity who left to have remarkable record of accomplishment. Senator McCarthy, on the other hand, is but a sad chapter in our history who left only a scar.

Let me now turn to the role that the internet plays in this whole discussion. The internet has the wonderful potential to bring people together by making new information and different points of view available to all. It can expand our horizons. Ironically, it often has the opposite effect.

Studies by the Pew Research Center have found that the internet is increasingly displacing face-to-face contact and that web sites devoted to political and social issues increasingly are tending to the extremes where alternative viewpoints are either ignored or misrepresented or ridiculed.

The divisiveness of social media is fostered by the prevalence up anonymous commentators who are shielded from any repercussions to their ugly and false statements. Personally, I'll never understand why anyone would care what MadDog30A or HippieGal thinks about a particular issue, but that is the trend. I also don't understand why if you write a letter to the editor of a newspaper, you're called to up to verify that you wrote it personally and that it is your name that is on the letter, but if you do an internet comment it's published by the paper under a pseudonym with no verification, and it's totally anonymous.

I dare say and know from personal experience that people will say horrendous things using social media that they would never say to you face to face. When it happens to me, I always try to think of the person as being in his underwear living in his parents basement with nothing else to take up his time.

We have all seen routinely how seemingly mundane discussions deteriorate into online food fights. A fairly innocuous op-ed that I submitted to a Maine newspaper last month illustrates the now-familiar pattern. I was explaining my view that federal agencies have an obligation to use the most current and accurate scientific information in their decisions and that members of Congress have an obligation to provide oversight to ensure that that is done—not exactly Earth-shattering, not exactly the type of particle that would capture the imagination or inflame the American public—or so I thought. My piece generated 48 reader comments. All but four were anonymous. The very first comment accused Republicans of being greedy. The second called Democrats stupid. That was basically the high point up the discussion. It went rapidly down the hill from there. Very few of the comments had anything to do with the subject of the article that I authored.

The harsh, anonymous comments appended to the news articles are harbingers of the much more dangerous online phenomenon of cyber-bullying, This is an enormous problem and it is growing worse. We've all heard the heartbreaking stories of young girls and boys who have committed suicide due to the relentless taunting and the cruel online smearing.

Bullying in politics has become increasingly common as well, and in addition to harming the workings of our government and discouraging good people from getting involved, it can have tragic consequences as well.

We saw this about a month ago in Missouri. Tom Schweich was a popular and effective state auditor. He previously had served as the lead investigator into the Waco siege, as chief of staff to our ambassador to the United Nations, and is the head of our counter-narcotics initiatives in Afghanistan. Earlier this year he announced he was running for governor of Missouri. What happened next to Tom Schweich defines the term "the politics of personal distraction." First, he was attacked by an anonymously funded radio ad that among other things mocked his slight physical stature and called him a little bug that should be squashed. Then a whispering campaign began that he was Jewish, a clear appeal to the world's oldest bigotry, anti-Semitism. On February 26, Tom Schweich took his own life.

The eulogy at his funeral was delivered by John Danforth, a former Missouri senator with whom I served and whom I know well. Senator Danforth's words were filled with admiration for his friend and heart-felt condolences for Mr. Schweich's wife and children, but his remarks were also a powerful indictment of what politics has become. To be sure, Senator Danforth said, politics has always been combative. But this wasn't combat, it was character assassination. To those who said that Mr. Schweich should have been less sensitive, that he should have been tougher, that he should have been able to take the attacks in stride, Senator Danforth answered that such a view blames the victim and "creates a new normal where politics is only for the tough, the crude, and the callous."

From the pulpit, Senator Danforth asked this crucial question: If this is what politics has become, what decent person would want to get into it? And he posed this challenge, not just to the mourners but to each and every American. He said: "It is now our duty—yours and mine—to turn politics into something much better than its now so miserable state."

Whether Washington leads the nation in incivility or merely reflects our society, we each can play an important role elevating the level of discourse in our own homes, in our communities, right here on this campus, and in Washington.

In Washington, we who represent the people of this great nation must put progress over partisanship, statesmanship over stridency and compromise over conflict. That would produce a very different legislative climate, one in which the object is solve problems not just to score political points.

If I am correct that a return to civility and a spirit of compromise must be driven by concerned citizens, then you well have to lead the way. That means working in your own community for a renewed social climate characterized by civility and respect for differing viewpoints.

The challenge we face today was recognized by Senator Margaret Chase Smith in her Declaration of Conscience 65 years ago. While she avidly supported her Republican party, she did not want it to ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny: fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.

Let's put those four out to pasture and saddle up one called civility. We might be surprised just how far it takes us.

Thank you.


Thank you so much. And now we're going to turn to questions, and I think I'm going to get miked.

PETER MILLS [chair, MCS foundation/director, Maine Turnpike Authority]: That was very inspiring. We have some student questions that have been posed in advance. I think they enjoy it when you tell stories, Senator, because most of these [inaudible] draw things from their own experience. This one says that they would like to have you address one particularly challenging situation that you faced in the Senate that comes to mind and how did you overcome that challenge or that situation you found difficult.

COLLINS: Probably the most difficult vote that I ever had to cast and thus the most difficult challenge was my decision to vote to acquit President Clinton rather than voting to impeach him. And it was so difficult because I was appalled by his behavior, I felt that he did engage in cover-up, that he encouraged others to lie for him, but it did not reach that standard in the Constitution of high crimes and misdemeanor. And I had to put aside my personal anger at President Clinton and instead remember what my proper role as a senator was. And I had to apply the constitutional standard and realize that there were not grounds to overturn an election. And that was difficult because it's always hard to put aside your personal feelings and do why what's right. I also knew that there were many, many in my party back here in Maine and also in Washington who were going to be furious at me for voting to acquit him. But in the end, I knew that I had a higher duty and that was to follow the constitutional standard, and that's what I did. But it was very tough, very tough. Especially because back then it was 1997—I think, or around that time, I guess it wasn't '97, maybe it was in '99—but I was a relatively new, I was a very new senator and to be faced with a decision of that magnitude that early in my time in the Senate was very difficult.

MILLS: The other question they have is in relation to the two-party system, and they would like to have you address what is it that's most challenging about our two-party system and do you think it has certain strengths that need to be acknowledged?

COLLINS: I do believe in the party system. I think that it gives people the opportunity to organize around core values and to make their voices heard. So I think that having political parties is a good thing. I think what has happened, however, is that the middle has shrunk in the Senate in both parties. When I worked for Bill Cohen many years ago, the center was far bigger. There were far more conservative Democrats and there were far more moderate Republicans, and they could pull the extremes of both sides together and we would get more done. I think oftentimes the best solution happens to be one that is informed by the viewpoints have both parties but tends to be more in the center. I think that that's not just an indication of compromise. I think it leads to better laws in many cases. What is happened because of those gerrymandered districts that I showed you is each party is trying to carve out congressional districts that makes it safe for the Democrats on one side or the Republicans on another, and that the most partisan of party voters at the ones who tend to vote in primaries and thus we see people who tend to the far left or the far right are more likely to win a primary than someone who is more in the middle. And it's ironic because I believe that most Americans tend to be more in the middle. So I do think the parties play an important role but I think those who are in the middle need to get more engaged in party politics and voting in primaries.

MILLS: Is there anyone from the audience who would like to address a question to the Senator?

COLLINS: I'm going to repeat the question so you can all hear it. The question is, what do I think of open primaries where anybody can vote in any primary, so a Democratic vote in a Republican primary or vice versa or Independents without being enrolled can vote in a primary. And of course in Maine it's pretty easy for an Independent to enroll and vote in a primary and then unenroll after a certain amount of time has passed. I have reservations about open primaries, although they are being tried in some states and I'm following that very closely, and here's why. I think what happens is they're manipulated, and Republicans, for example, will go vote in a Democratic primary to try to select the weakest candidate to run in the general election. Or the Democrats will do the same—they'll enroll in a Republican primary to try to elect the person that they know their Democratic candidate can beat. So I think that it weakens the fabric of parties and it's just too subject to manipulation, so I'm very dubious about it. I do want to say that I think there are answers to those gerrymandered districts, however, and that is being tried in some states where a commission is being appointed to drop draw the lines rather than having the legislature draw the lines, and I think that's really interesting and worth thinking about. Another question?

COLLINS: The question has to do with the budget which we just passed, and sadly it was on party lines in the Senate. And the questioner works for an anti-poverty group and has expressed concerns about the cuts that potentially—and I say potentially because the budget is just a blueprint, it doesn't actually make cuts—but whether we're going to end up in cuts in those anti-poverty programs that are so important to a state like ours. The budget that passed is not one that I would have written if I'd been in charge of the budget; I'm not on the budget committee. I think it's unfortunate that it was a partisan vote on the budget. We voted till 4 a.m. in the morning, literally, and I had many amendments pass, and one of those amendments I want to mention to you. It has to do with making sure that there's ample funding for Pell grants and that there could be year-round Pell grants, so that if you want go to school in the summer so that you can finish your education more quickly, you would have opportunity. And I'm pleased to say that my amendment—which is guidance, but important guidance—passed, because Pell grants go to our neediest students. The House version of the budget caps Pell grants. I do not support that. It would not allow them to be adjusted for cost of living, and neither the House nor the Senate version would allow a year-round Pell grant, which I think would be a great innovation that occurred years ago and I think we should bring it back. So that's an example of where I took action to try to protect a program that's really important to this state. I've seen the difference Pell grants have made on my own staff, where I have at least two staffers who wouldn't have been able to get an education without Pell grants. I believe that there'll be other changes made but here's what we need to do. We do need to acknowledge that we have an $18 trillion debt. That is the highest it's ever been, it's not sustainable, and when interest rates go up the payment on interest—the interest payment on our debt—is going to it exceed the budget of everything except Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It's going to exceed what we spend on education, defense, transportation, biomedical research—all those things put together. So we do have to deal with their debt, in part to protect those programs that we care so much about. But I think we need to have a much broader approach to the budget, and I think the President needs to step up and lead in this area, which he has been very reluctant to do, and my party also needs to step up. I think the one encouraging amendment that was passed was the very last one, and it was a bipartisan amendment offered by Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, and it called for as to look at every aspect of the budget. To look at such issues as means-testing Medicare so that wealthier individuals pay a higher premium—very controversial. To look at tax expenditures—I think we should do tax reform, and we can't put that off the table. And to look at the entire budget. And that's what we need to do. I've talked to the President three times personally about this, and I've urged him to go on nationwide television and explain just how dire the budget situation is and the choices that we got to make. Because I'll tell you, the choices are really tough ones, no matter what. But the further we put them off, the more difficult they become to make. And so far he hasn't chosen to take my advice on that issue but I still think that is what needs to be done, and then we need to get people together from both parties in the White House and really tackle what is huge problem for our country that keeps getting kicked down the road.

Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.

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