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Barnes and... A Conversation with Jason Grumet

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HAPPY TO BE HERE.

IT SOUNDS LIKE A MAIN STREET LAW FIRM, BASCEAR, DOLE, MITCHELL. YOU HAVE A BACHELOR'S, I BELIEVE, FROM BROWN AND A JURIS IN HARVARD. DO YOU KEEP BOOZE IN YOUR OFFICE?

IT'S A FAIR QUESTION. EVEN MY WIFE COMMENTED SEVERAL MONTHS AGO THAT WE WERE HAVING A DISCUSSION ON THE DEBATE IN WASHINGTON, WHICH I THINK WAS FAIR, WE WERE HAVING ONE OF THE MORE PARTISAN MOMENTS IN OUR NATION AHISTORY. AT THE SAME TIME THERE WERE A LOT OF EMBERS WE CAN START TO PUT TOGETHER, START TO FORGE A BETTER COALITION AND CLEARLY IT HAS TO BE DISCUSSED AMONG THE GENERAL POPULATION ABOUT WHAT THEY SEE AS THE GAMESMANSHIP AND DEVICIVENESS OF OUR POLITICAL DISCUSSION.

IS BI-PARTISANSHIP A FAINT DREAM? IS THERE ANY PRAUS SPECIAL AGENT OF SERIOUS BI-PARTISANSHIP, GIVEN THE REPUBLICAN WAVE OF NOVEMBER?

OBVIOUSLY THE COUNTRY HAS KIND OF LOOPED IN AND OUT OF A MORE OR LESS FUNCTIONAL GOVERNANCE IN THE LAST 200 YEARS. I THINK THERE ARE OPPORTUNITIES AND SIMPLY BECAUSE OF THE PROBLEMS WE FACE AS A NATION ARE INESCAPABLELY LARGE AND GROWING, SO THERE IS A SUBSTANTIVE IMPERATIVE AND I THINK THE GENERAL PUBLIC IS GOING TO CONTINUE TO ADVOCATE FOR, BUT THERE'S ALSO AN ELECTORAL IMPERATIVE. I THINK ONE OF THE LESSONS FROM THE LAST TWO ELECTIONS IS THAT THE COUNTRY IS FED UP. THERE'S NO QUESTION THAT WHILE PRESIDENT OBAMA FOUND KIND OF A SOARING ASPIRATIONAL RHETORIC, A LOT OF THE OBAMA-BUSH ELECTION WAS REALLY A REPUDIATION OF RECENT YEARS AND REALLY THE ELECTION OF LAST FALL WAS REALLY A REPUDIATION OF OBAMA AND THE NEW REPUBLICAN MAJORITY IN THE HOUSE HAS STILL NO MANDATE. THERE'S LESS THAN A 50 PERCENT APPROVAL RATING OF BOTH PARTIES. SO THERE IS AN UNDERSTANDING THAT CONGRESS IS GOING TO HAVE TO ACTUALLY GET SOMETHING DONE AND DONE IN A MORE EFFECTIVE AND COLLEGIAL WAY IF ANYBODY WANTS TO STAY IN POWER.

FED UP, YOUR TERM. LOOK AT THE REACTION, THE POLICY CENTER HAS ITS OWN REPORT, MR. DIMINCHI BUT THE SIMPSON AND BOLES REPORT, JUST THE FIRST HINTS OF WHAT IT WAS LIKELY TO RECOMMEND TOOK FIRE FROM BOTH SIDES, SUGGESTING THAT WE ARE STILL TOO -- WE ARE STILL POLES APART. HOW DO YOU BRIDGE THAT?

THE ONLY ANSWER, REALLY, IS LEADERSHIP. OF COURSE IT'S NO SURPRISE THAT EVERYBODY WITH A FAX MACHINE IN WASHINGTON WILL FIND SOMETHING TO BE HORRIFIED ABOUT IF YOU PUT TOGETHER A TRULY HONEST DESCRIPTION OF OUR BUDGETARY SITUATION GOING FORWARD. BOTH PARTIES FOR THE LAST 30 YEARS HAVE ENJOYED MAKING PROMISES THAT WERE JUST UNSUSTAINABLE, DEMOCRATS ENJOYED MAKING PROMISES TO PROVIDE LONG-TERM BENEFITS TO PEOPLE THAT WE SIMPLY WILL NOT BE ABLE TO AFFORD TO KEEP. REPUBLICANS ENJOYED THE POPULARITY OF MAKING TAX CUTS, PART OF THE ELECTORATE THAT THEY COULDN'T SUSTAIN. REALLY NOW IT'S THE QUESTION OF LEADERSHIP. I THINK THE SITUATION INVOLVES, IDENTIFIED WHAT THE BROAD PARAMETERS ARE, IT'S REALLY UP TO THE PRESIDENT TO JOIN WITH THE SPEAKER BOEHNER AND SENATOR REED AND CLOSE THE DOOR AND DECIDE THEY'RE GOING TO WORK TOGETHER.

YOU HAVE A PUBLIC, THOUGH, THAT SEEMS, THROUGH PUBLIC OPINION SURVEYS, TO DEMAND ACTION ON DEBT AND DEBT'S BECOME SEXY AGAIN, SEEMS TO MOVE IN CYCLES. YET THEY ALSO DEMAND A HIGH LEVEL OF SERVICES.

I MEAN THE DISCONNECT BETWEEN RHETORIC AND REALITY, NOT JUST AMONG THE POLITICAL CLASS BUT AMONG THE GENERAL PUBLIC, REQUIRES, I THINK, A REAL DOSE OF CONVERSATION. I THINK ACTUALLY PEOPLE ARE INTELLIGENT WHEN PRESENTED MEANINGFUL INFORMATION. THE NOTION THAT WASTE, FRAUD AND FOREIGN AID IS THE CAUSE OF OUR NATIONAL DEBT IS LUNACY. AT BEST THAT'S 1 PERCENT OF THE OVERALL PROBLEM. BUT SOMEONE IS GOING TO HAVE TO STAND UP TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND I THINK THAT CONGRESSMAN PAUL RYAN, REPUBLICAN, HAS DONE, HE'S PUT TOGETHER A DETAILED PLAN, NOT ONE THAT WE ENTIRELY THINK IS REALISTIC BUT IT WAS A SERIOUS EFFORT, HAD SOME HARD TRUTHS AND HAD NO PROBLEM GETTING RE-ELECTED. THE TELL THE TRUTH HAS SOME POSSIBILITIES, SOME AUTHENTIC GROUNDED STATEMENTS I DO THINK HAS A POTENTIAL TO WIN THE DAY IN A LOT OF THESE CLOSE RACES.

MR. RYAN PROBABLY COMES FROM A FAIRLY SYMPATHETIC CONSTITUENCY TO BEGIN WITH, HAVING BEEN ELECTED AS HE WAS, HAVING SOME SENSE OF HIS OWN BUDGET PRIORITIES, WE'RE STILL LEFT, ARE WE NOT, WITH THE POLLS. AND I DON'T MEAN PUBLIC OPINION POLLS BUT THESE POLLS -- FOR EXAMPLE, THE RISE OF THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT WHICH HELPED ELECT A SUBSTANTIAL NUMBER OF NEW MEMBERS WHO SAY THEY WILL NOT COMPROMISE. I MEAN, THEY ARRIVE IN WASHINGTON SAYING THEY DON'T WANT TO COMPROMISE.

I THINK TWO THINGS HAPPENED. WE WILL SEE A NUMBER OF THOSE MEMBERS RECOGNIZE THAT THEY ACTUALLY WANT TO ACCOMPLISH THINGS INSIDE WASHINGTON AND THEY WILL START TO BRING IN MOST CASES CONSERVATIVE BUT IN SOME CASES LIBERTARIAN VALUES INTO THE DISCUSSION THAT WILL BE VALUABLE. THE ABILITY OF BOTH PARTIES TO FACE UP TO PROBLEMS IN A SERIOUS WAY, WHICH WILL NOT SOLVE THE BUDGET CRISIS BUT IS A DEMONSTRATION OF CHANGING POLITICAL TIMES. YOU CERTAINLY WOULD NOT HAVE SEEN MITCH MCCONNELL THE TEA PARTY ALSO EXPRESSES A LOT OF ANGER AND A LOT OF ANGER ABOUT THE DEBT AND THERE IS SOME FRACTION OF THAT MOVEMENT WHO, WHEN REALLY ENGAGED IN A FACTIONAL DMRUPB ADMINISTRATION OF WHAT IS NECESSARY TO ENGAGE THAT PROBLEM, WILL ENGAGE THAT PROBLEM. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE BOMB-THROWERS FROM BOTH EDGES BUT IF THE TEA PARTY WANTS TO HAVE A SUSTAINED GOAL OVER THAT KIND OF FRAME WHO WANTS TO HAVE A LASTING ROLE IN AMERICAN POLITICAL DISCOURSE, IT'S GOING TO HAVE TO DEMONSTRATE IT CAN ACCOMPLISH SOMETHING.

WHEN ANGER GIVES WAY IN TERMS OF LEGISLATION AND THE PUBLIC BEGINS TO REALIZE HOW THAT ANGER MIGHT -- THEIR ANGER AND THEIR -- EXPRESSED AT THE POLLS MIGHT TRANSLATE INTO LEGISLATIVE ACTION, YOU USED THE TERM LEADERSHIP, IT'S GOING TO CALL FOR A LOT OF LEADERSHIP BECAUSE ENTITLEMENTS ARE WHERE THE MONEY IS. ENTITLEMENTS, DEFENSE, THAT'S WHERE THE BUDGET IS.

TWO RESPONSES, ONE WHICH HAS BEEN I THINK THE KIND OF OBVIOUS BACK PRESSURE FOR THE LAST FEW YEARS IS THE GRINDING RECESSION AND THE INCREDIBLY HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT RATE. AND UNTIL THAT STARTS TO CHANGE I THINK YOU ARE GOING TO SEE CHANGE ELECTIONS EVERY TWO YEARS BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT MAKES THE COUNTRY FEEL IT'S ON THE WRONG TRACK. I THINK WE WILL SEE IT START TO IMPROVE AND THAT WILL PROVIDE SOME NEW COURAGE FOR LEGISLATORS TO START TO BUILD TOWARDS THE MIDDLE. I THINK THE OTHER FACTOR, YOU KNOW, BROADLY SPEAKING, IS THAT WE'RE GOING TO START TO SEE TRAUMA. WE'RE GOING TO START TO SEE THE POTENTIAL, FOR EXAMPLE, WE HAVE A BIG DEBATE COMING UP IN A LITTLE WHILE, PROBABLY IN MARCH OR APRIL, ON THE DEBT CEILING. THIS IS THE OBLIGATION FOR CONGRESS TO BASICALLY STOP THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FROM WELCHING ON ITS DEBT. SO THE DEBT CONTINUES TO RISE AND CONGRESS IS GOING TO HAVE TO FACE THAT AND EMBRACE THAT AND IN FACT ACTUALLY RAISE OUR NATIONAL DEBT. THAT IS GOING TO BE A MOMENT OF GREAT POLITICAL CRISIS FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO CAME TO WASHINGTON RUNNING AGAINST THE DEBT AND IT'S GOING TO BE A MOMENT OF GREAT POLITICAL PRESSURE TO ACTUALLY START TO DEAL WITH SOME OF THOSE LONGER TERM STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS. I THINK IT'S THE DOG CATCHES THE CAR MOMENT FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO RAN ON A SIMPLISTIC VIEW OF FEAR FISCAL POLICY WHERE WE ARE ALL GOING TO HAVE TO GROW UP AND FACE POLITICAL REALITY.

CULTURAL ARITHMETIC IS A PHRASE I HEARD YOU USE A FEW DAYS AGO DOWN IN NEW ORLEANS.

IF YOU GIVE THE COUNTRY 3 CHOICES: LOSE WEIGHT, EAT CAKE OR LOSE WEIGHT AND EAT CAKE, MEEPL ARE GENERALLY GOING TO CHOOSE DOOR NO. 3. I THINK THAT'S WHAT'S HAPPENING IN A LOT OF THESE CASES. EVERYONE IS FOCUSED LEGITIMATELY ON THE RISKS BUT TRYING TO WALL OFF ASPECTS OF THE SOLUTION BECAUSE THAT'S AN ECONOMIC TRADITIONAL ROLE FOR THE CONSTITUENCY. WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN IS YOU HAVE A PROCESS THAT BRINGS PEOPLE IN THE BEGINNING. THE COMMISSION WAS A STEP IN THAT PROCESS AND WHAT WE DO IS NOT HAVE ONE SIDE BRING US 600 PAGES AND SAY WHAT 5 CHANGES DO WE HAVE TO MAKE TO PICK OFF VOTES FROM THE OTHER SIDE. IN THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION YOU HAD REPUBLICAN PARTY BRING A BILL TO THE FLOOR, WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO TO CONVINCE BEN NELSON TO JOIN US? IN THE LAST 5 YEARS THE DEMOCRATS HAVE SAID WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO TO WOO OLYMPIA SNOW. THAT DOESN'T WORK, THAT IS THE OLD STYLE OF LEGISLATION THAT ASSUMES YOU HAVE A MIDDLE. YOU START FROM THE LEFT, YOU START FROM THE RIGHT, YOU CRASH TOGETHER AND SOMEBODY PICKS UP THE PIECES. THERE'S NOBODY TO PICK UP THE PIECES RIGHT NOW AND THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN SOLVE THESE PROBLEMS WITH ANY KIND OF SELF-STYLED COURAGE IS TO CREATE A MEANING FULL SITUATION WHERE PEOPLE HAVE TO ENGAGE THEIR COURAGE AND RELATIONSHIPS AND DEVELOP A SITUATION AND IT WILL TAKE A WHILE.

A WHILE.

IT DOES TAKE A WHILE BUT WE HAVE HAD A WHILE OF INACTION.

WE'VE GOT A DEBT VOTE, AS YOU KNOW, COMING UP PRETTY SOON.

I DON'T THINK WE'RE GOING TO SEE A COMPREHENSIVE NATIONAL SOLUTION ON THE DEBT BUT I THINK IN THE SPRING YOU WILL SEE SOME SIGNIFICANT STEPS TO ADDRESS THE SPENDING CYCLE.

YOU MENTIONED THE CENTER. IT'S BEEN ARGUED, SOME WAGS HAVE HAD IT, THAT THERE REALLY ISN'T A CENTER IN AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT ANY LONGER, BUT THE BI-PARTISAN POLICY CENTER WOULD SEEM, IT'S PREDICATED ON A NOTION THAT THERE IS STILL A CENTER, STILL A MAINSTREAM.

I THINK UNQUESTIONABLELY IN THE COUNTRY -- ?OO? YOU'D RESIGN IF THERE WASN'T, I GUESS.

AMONG THE ACTUAL ELECTORATE, THE ACTUAL CITIZENS IN THE COUNTRY, OUR ELECTORAL CITIZEN HAS TENDED TO FAVOR PEOPLE ON THE EDGES. IF YOU LOOK AT ISSUES LIKE REDISTRICTING, WE'RE THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD WHERE THE ELECTED OFFICIALS CHOOSE THEIR VOTERS AS OPPOSED TO THE VOTERS CHOOSING THEIR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND THAT TENDS TO CREATE DISTRICTS WHERE THE RATES ARE USUALLY ONE RUNNING IN THE PRIMARIES AND PEOPLE ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO PLAY TO THE FACES. ONE OF THE PROJECTS WE ARE WORKING ON IN ADDITION TO THE SUBJECT MATTER IS ACTUALLY THINKING ABOUT BROADER ARCHITECTURE OF DEMOCRACY AND ALSO SOMETHING THAT DOSMENT GET MUCH FOCUS, FEELS LIKE KIND OF INSIDER BASEBALL, IS JUST CREATING VENUES WHERE THE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS CAN TALK TO EACH OTHER. THERE ARE VERY FEW OF THOSE OPPORTUNITIES ANY MORE AND THERE'S NOT THAT HUMAN CHEMISTRY THAT ENABLES PEOPLE TO REALLY WORK TO THE AND MAKE SOME TOUGH CALLS.

LAST NOVEMBER CHANGE ELECTION WAS A PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT ONE BECAUSE IT INVOLVED REDISTRICTING AND A SLEW OF REPUBLICAN STATE LEGISLATORS, THE ASSAULT ON STATE HOUSES, GIVEN THE SCIENTIFIC DESIGN, DEMOGRAPHIC DESIGN, OF CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS, THAT WOULD SEEM TO JUST REINFORCE THAT.

NO QUESTION. A NUMBER OF GOVERNORS AND DEMOCRATIC REPUBLICAN ASSOCIATIONS ACTUALLY RAN ON REDISTRICTING. WE NEED TO WIN THIS RACE SO WE CAN CREATE A STRUCTURAL ADVANTAGE IN THE FOLLOWING ELECTION.

THOSE ARE BI-PARTISAN SUBSTITUTES.

BUT NOT TO THE EXTREME. YOU HAD SOME STATES REALLY BUCKLING. YOU HAD CALIFORNIA ESTABLISHING A -- DRAWING DISTRICTS THAT TOOK THE POWER AWAY FROM THE POLITICIANS. YOU PROBABLY HAVE A DOZEN STATES AROUND THE COUNTRY MOVING IN THAT DIRECTION. I THINK THAT WILL BE AN ON-GOING STRUGGLE BUT YOUR POINT CERTAINLY IS NORTH WORTHY AND CONCERNING. BASICALLY WE HAVE BLUE AND RED ELECTORAL DISTRICTS WHICH TEND TO, YOU KNOW, GO BY THE BOOK AND THEN WE HAVE THESE KIND OF 50 OR SO -- CONGRESS -- PURPLE SEATS AND THOSE ARE THE FOLKS WHO GET KICKED OUT EVERY COUPLE YEARS. SO THERE'S NO QUESTION THAT THE BIG LOSERS IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY AT THE LAST ELECTION WERE THE BLUE GUYS, THEY WERE THE CONSERVATIVE LEGISLATORS WHO HAD BEEN BROUGHT INTO POWER ON A WAVE OF ENTHUSIASM FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY AND WERE ABOUT HALF THAT WHOLE COALITION WAS INVITED TO JOIN THE FORMER MEMBERS OF CONGRESS COALITION WHEN IT SHIFTED.

ADDED TO THAT IS IS THE CITIZENS UNITED DECISION OF THE SUPREME COURT THAT MADE POSSIBLE ESSENTIALLY UNLIMITED SPENDING BY WHATEVER INTEREST GROUP. THAT TENDS TO MAKE THE JOB MORE DIFFICULT, OR DOES IT? WHAT'S YOUR --.

MONEY IN POLITICS IS CORROSIVE. IN THE FACT THAT MEMBERS HAVE TO SPEND SO MUCH TIME RAISING FUNDS AND THE FACT THAT THEY ARE -- ACTUALLY THE FUNDS THEY HAVE TO RAISE ARE 30 TIMES THEIR ACTUAL SALARIES AND IT'S FUNDAMENTALLY, I THINK, UNDERMINES CERTAIN ASPECTS OF DEMOCRACY. NOW, A CERTAIN DEGREE OF MONEY IN POLITICS IS AN EXPRESSION OF ENTHUSIASM AND OF DEMOCRATIC VALUES AND WE ALSO HAVE THIS LITTLE NAGGING CHALLENGE OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND THE SUPREME COURT THAT CONTINUES TO INTERPRET MONEY AS SPEECH, SO, YES, IT IS A PROBLEM. I DON'T THINK THE PROBLEM IS WHAT WE INTEND TO FOCUS ON, I DON'T THINK IT'S SOLVABLE IN THIS TERM.

YOU MENTIONED SEVERAL TIMES THE NEED FOR LEEDSHIP TO BRING ABOUT A CONSENSUS. THE MAJORITY LEEDER ANNOUNCED, MR. MCCONNELL SAID OUR GOAL IS TO MAKE MR. OBAMA A ONE-TERM PRESIDENT, THEY TALKED ABOUT BREAKING HIS BACK.

THOSE ARE DISCOURAGING MOMENTS. I AM SURE THAT WHEN HEARTS AND PRIVATE THOUGHTS, MOST SENATE MINORITY LEADERS WANT TO OUST THE PRESIDENT FROM THE OTHER PARTY BUT THE CHOICE TO MAKE THAT A PART OF THE NORMAL AGENDA WAS UNFORTUNATE. I THINK SENATOR MCCONNELL DID TRY TO WALK THAT BACK. MOST PEOPLE THINK THAT THE TEA PARTY SIGNATURE IS A THREAT TO THE DEMOCRATS. IN MANY WAYS IT MAY BE A GREATER THREAT TO THE REPUBLICANS. FIRST OF ALL, IF THAT TEA PARTY MOVEMENT EVER BREAKS OUTSIDE THE REPUBLICAN PARTY INTO A THIRD PARTY YOU ARE GOING TO SEE A FUNDAMENTALLY DISADVANTAGED REPUBLICAN PARTY FOR MANY TERMS TO COME AND I THINK SENATOR MCCONNELL AND OTHERS ARE TRYING TO DEMONSTRATE A FEALTY TO THAT SMALL BUT VERY INTENSE PART OF THEIR ELECTORATE. THAT BEING SAID, I THINK SENATOR MCCONNELL, SPEAKER BOEHNER, PRESIDENT OBAMA ALL HAVE ACCOMPLISHMENTS THAT AT LEAST FIT IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE AND CLINTON COMPLEX. ONE CAN'T HELP BUT THINK ABOUT SENATOR AND PRESIDENT CLINTON MADE IN 19 95 AND 1996 AFTER THE BIG CHANGE ELECTION. THE REPUBLICANS AFTER THAT CHANGE ELECTION THOUGHT THEY HAD A MANDATE BUT THEY OVERPLAYED THAT HAND AND YOU WILL REMEMBER 1995 WAS NOT A VERY PROUD YEAR FOR OUR DEMOCRACY. BUT IN 1996 PRESIDENT CLINTON, SPEAKER GINGRICH REALLY FOUND THEY HAD AN IMPERATIVE AND THE PRESIDENT CHALLENGED WELFARE REFORM AND THAT'S REALLY I THINK ONE OF THE KEY QUESTIONS FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA. A NUMBER OF PROGRESSIVES ARE VERY UNHAPPY BECAUSE THE PRESIDENT HAS NOT FOLLOWED, IN THEIR VIEW, A LOT OF THE PROGRESSIVE AGENDA, HAS NOT ENDORSED (INAUDIBLE) LABOR, HAS NOT MOVED ON DON'T ASK DON'T TELL, HAS NOT SUPPORTED PUBLIC OPTIONS. BUT THE PRESIDENT ALSO HAS NOT ADVANCED A LEGISLATIVE AGENDA THAT IS SEEN AS CONTRARY TO HIS OWN BASE AND I THINK UNTIL THE PRESIDENT AFFIRMATIVELY TAKES THAT VOICE, IT'S VERY HARD TO CLAIM THE CENTER.

ARE WE GOING TO SEE MR. OBAMA TRYING -- IT'S NOT NECESSARILY A BAD THING, IT WAS ALMOST USED AS AN EPITHET.

FIRST OF ALL, I CERTAINLY AGREE THAT THE NOTION IS THAT WHEN YOU HAVE A COUNTRY THAT IS FUNDAMENTALLY IN LARGE PART TRYING TO REACH THAT CENTER BY HAVING A PRESIDENT WORK BETWEEN WHAT IS SEEN AS TWO MORE POLAR VOICES OF THE CONGRESS, SEEMS PRETTY OBVIOUS (INAUDIBLE) IF YOU WANT TO GET SOMETHING DONE. I THINK THE OTHER ISSUE FOR THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION IS JUST THE EXTENT TO WHICH IT PUTS THE PRESIDENTIAL SEAL MORE PROACTIVELY BEHIND LEGISLATION IN GENERAL. AS THE VIEW OF THE ADMINISTRATION SEEMS TO BE THE FIRST YEARS OF THE DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS IT SHOULD BASICALLY ENCOURAGE BROAD PARAMETERS THAT ALLOWS CONGRESS TO SET THE DETAILS OF THE LEGISLATION AND HAVE THE PRESIDENT COME IN IN THE FINAL HOURS AND PUT THE FINAL PACKAGE TOGETHER AND SIGN THE BILL. THAT DIDN'T WORK SO WELL. NOW I THINK YOU'RE GOING TO SEE -- IT DIDN'T WORK SO WELL IN TERMS OF CREATING A SPIRIT OF CAMARADERIE AND ENGAGEMENT AMONG BOTH PARTIES. I THINK YOU WILL SEE THE PRESIDENT NOW FEELS COMPELLED IN BEING MORE ACTIVIST IN LAYING OUT THE ADMINISTRATIVE AGENDA AND ALSO LAYING OUT ADMINISTRATIVE PACKAGES.

LET ME TAKE THE OPPOSITE TACK FOR A MOMENT. ARE WE ACTUALLY SEEING BI-PARTISANSHIP IN THE SENSE OF TWO PARTIES GNAWING AT ONE ANOTHER, TWO VERY DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO GOVERNMENT? IS THIS MAYBE HERESY BUT IS THIS WHAT THE FRAMERS INTENDED? THEY DIDN'T MENTION PARTIES, BY THE WAY.

THEY ARE VERY CLEAR, WE ARE NOW THE NON-PARTISAN POLICY CENTER OR THE POST, BI-PARTISAN POLICY CENTER BECAUSE WE BELIEVE BI-PARTISANSHIP IS THE ENGINE OF OUR DEMOCRACY, THE SERIOUS MEDIATION OF DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW THAT GENERATE THE BASIC VALUES OF OUR COUNTRY. BUT IT'S BECOME POINTLESS. I THINK IN THE NOT DISTANT PAST YOU COULD HAVE THE TWO PRINCIPLE PARTISANS WHO COULD STILL BANG HEADS TOGETHER AND WORG TOGETHER AND I THINK IT'S THE PRINCIPLE OF COMPROMISE, NOT WHERE SOMEBODY VIOLATES THEIR OWN CORE VALUES OR BECOMES MUSHY-HEADED BUT A PROUD PARTISAN WHO STILL CAN DISAGREE WITHOUT BEING DISAGREABLE, WORK TOGETHER, FIGHT TOGETHER, AND AT THE SAME TIME RESPECT EACH OTHER'S VIEWS. AND A LOT OF THAT COME BACK TO THE FACT THAT THE CURRENT CONGRESS DOESN'T KNOW ITSELF. THEY DON'T KNOW EACH OTHER, DEMOCRATS DON'T EVEN KNOW THE NAMES OF OTHER DEMOCRATS, LET ALONE THE REPUBLICAN CONGRESS.

THEY MAY HAVE SMILES ON THEIR FACES AND BE VERY AGREABLE BUT THEY WERE SENT, THEY SAY, NOT TO COMPROMISE. COMPROMISE IS A DIRTY WORD. WILL THE TEA PARTIES CHANGE REPUBLICANS OR WILL THE REPUBLICANS CHANGE THE TEA PARTY?

I THINK MORE OF THE LATTER. THE NOTION PEOPLE ARE COMING TO CONGRESS WITH A DISDAIN FOR GOVERNMENT AND AN ASSERTION THEY ARE GOING TO SPEND AS LITTLE TIME IN WASHINGTON AS POSSIBLE IS NOT GOING TO MAKE THEM SUCCESSFUL LEGISLATORS. I THINK THAT'S A TWO-YEAR STRATEGY. YOU SAW A LOT OF FOLKS IN THE 94 REVOLUTION AGAIN GO BACK TO THEIR DAY JOBS IN 96. I THINK THE SYSTEM IN A POSITIVE WAY WILL INTEGRATE THE CONSTRUCTIVE FRUSTRATION OF THE TEA PARTY JUST AS WE'VE ALREADY SEEN WITH, I THINK, THE ATTEMPT TO MOVE AGAINST EAR MARKS, THE CLEAR VOICE OF THE TEA PARTY ELECTORATE BEEN IMPOSED BY THE INSTITUTIONAL REPUBLICANS AND MAYBE DEMOCRATS. BUT I DON'T THINK YOU ARE GOING TO SEE THE REPUBLICAN PARTY BECOME THE TEA PARTY.

THE CENTER IS ALSO CONCERNED WITH NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUES AND THE NEED FOR BI-PARTISANSHIP. IT USED TO STOP AT THE WATER'S EDGE AND IT DOESN'T SEEM TO ANY LONGER.

AGAIN, I THINK THAT IS AN IMPORTANT POINT AND A REAL CONCERN. THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY IN CONGRESS USED TO HAVE PROFESSIONAL STAFF WITHOUT CLEAR PARTY AFFILIATION. THEY WERE, BECAUSE OF THIS NOTION OF, YOU KNOW, BI-PARTISANSHIP ONCE ONE LEAVES THIS SOIL, THERE WAS REALLY A BELIEF THAT WE SHOULD HAVE PROFESSIONAL STAFF WHO COULD SERVE THE COMMUNITY AT LARGE. THAT HAS CHANGED. ONE HAS STARTED TO SEE THOSE COMMITTEES WHICH HISTORICALLY HAD GREATER CAMARADERIE BECOME MORE DEVISIVE BUT I THINK THOSE ARE QUESTIONS, WE WORKED A GREAT DEAL ON THE QUESTION OF IRAN AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IRAN'S NUCLEAR AMBITIONS. THAT'S A QUESTION FOR THE WORLD AND THERE'S A CERTAIN POINT WHERE THE ISSUES BECOME STARK ENOUGH AND THE NATIONAL ISSUES BECOME CLEAR ENOUGH THAT YOU WILL SEE PEOPLE START TO MOVE TOGETHER.

IS THERE A POLICY OR DESIGN OR FORMULA, WE'VE TALKED ABOUT THE NAED TO DEVELOP LEADERSHIP. SOUNDS GREAT. HOW DO YOU DO IT?

THE METHOD TO OUR MADNESS IS TO ESSENTIALLY BRING TOGETHER NOT CENTERISTS, IF YOU HAVE 20 CENTERISTS IN THE ROOM NOBODY CARES, BUT TO BRING A GROUP THAT HAS MAYBE 85 PERCENT OF THE SPECTRUM, PROUD DEMOCRATS, PROUD REPUBLICANS, PEOPLE WHO HAVE BOTH SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTISE, AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE POLITICAL FUTURES AND LET THEM HAMMER OUT TOUGH COMPROMISES. WE THINK WE ARE SUCCESSFUL IF EVERYBODY IS UNCOMFORTABLE BECAUSE THAT'S THE ONLY SIGN YOU HAVE ACHIEVED A REAL SOLUTION. IN MY EXPERIENCE, WHEN YOU GO INTO A MEMORANDUM OF CONGRESS' OFFICE WITH SOMEONE THEY TRUST AND SOMEONE THEY DISLIKE AND YOU GO IN TOGETHER TO PRESENT A SHARED IDEA, THAT GETS PEOPLE'S ATTENTION. WE BASICALLY TRY TO POINT TO WHERE THE SOLUTIONS ARE, MAYBE SEVERAL MONTHS OR EVEN YEARS AHEAD OF THE CONGRESS GETTING THERE, PEOPLE RESENT THAT, THE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO CONTINUE TO FIGHT DON'T APPRECIATE VERY MUCH WHEN SOMEONE COMES OUT AND SAYS, HEY, LAY DOWN YOUR FUND RAISING, HOW ABOUT THIS IDEA? BUT WE'RE BASICALLY TRYING TO SHOW UP.

YOUR FOREFOUNDERS, MR. DOLE, MR. MITCHELL, FAMOUS LEGISLATORS FOR THEIR ACROSS THE AISLE FRIENDSHIPS. WE DON'T SEEM TO HAVE THAT VERY MUCH. TO WHAT DEGREE WAS THAT CRITICAL?

I THINK IT'S ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL. THIS IS JUST LIKE THE REST OF LIFE. WHEN YOU KNOW SOMEBODY YOU ARE MORE WILLING TO SIT BACK, EXHALE AND LISTEN TO THEIR POINTS OF VIEW EVEN IF YOU DISAGREE WITH THEM BECAUSE YOU KNOW YOU BOTH HAD HIP OPERATIONS LAST YEAR AND YOU AND YOUR SPOUSES BOTH LIKE TO GO BIRDING OR WHATEVER THE CASE MAY BE. AND WE DO FIND THAT THE RANK AND FILE MEMBERS ARE VERY FRUSTRATED ABOUT THIS. THEY JUST DON'T FEEL LIKE LEADERSHIP GIVES THEM AN OPPORTUNITY OR A VENUE SO ONE OF THE THINGS WE TRY TO DO, WITHIN THE LIMITATIONS OF THE ETHIC LAWS, IS JUST BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER AND GET TOGETHER ON AN ISSUE. COME MEET YOUR FELLOW CONGRESSMEN.

JASON GRUMET, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR TIME. THANK YOU FOR WATCHING, SEE YOU NEXT TIME.

AETN.org > Programs > Barnes and... > Barnes and... A Conversation with Jason Grumet