By John Barna
Gloucester County Times
April 10, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — Substitute the Obama Administration and the current members of Congress for our Founding Fathers and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman suggests she would have had to find another forum to discuss the 2012 presidential election Monday night.

“We would never get a constitution today” given the gridlock in Washington, Whitman mused.

No constitution means no National Constitution Center where Whitman and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell held political court for 90 minutes before a crowd of 250.

Both readily agreed that a lack of “civility” and the willingness to stand and defend what one believes in, uncompromisingly, has resulted in an inability to move the country forward.

Whitman – moderate Republican – drew applause by noting Congress created a panel to discuss contraception “and it did not include a woman.” Rendell – liberal Democrat – observed consultants were able to convince Al Gore not to have former President Bill Clinton campaign for him when he ran for president in 2000, hoping voters “would forget he was Bill Clinton’s vice president.”

Had Clinton campaigned for Gore in “one state, West Virginia, he would have been president” and not George W. Bush.

Rendell conceded “there is a belief” that his party’s nominee, incumbent President Barack Obama, “has not lived up his promise” when elected four years ago.
His advice?

“Do what you believe and then stand and defend.”

Rendell likened the GOP primary process to find an opponent to run against Obama to the “clown car” at the circus where a small vehicle pulls up and “13 clowns fall out.”

Whitman, smiling at the comment, acknowledged “the Republican performance at times has been shameful and embarrassing.”

She has suggested campaigning has been reduced to candidates proclaiming “what I won’t do and what I will do away with, not what will I do.”

“Tell me what you are going to do to solve the problem.”

Whitman chastised the idea that candidates have to “appease the base” – a party’s core membership – to win.

The Republican Party’s likely presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney “has moved to the right on so many issues it will be hard for him to move back to the center” within his organization’s philosophy.

Rendell suggested “41 Senators representing 17 percent of America’s population could and did stop legislation” in recent years.

The conversation on the lack of political civility even included the proposal for Glassboro-based Rowan University to take over the Camden campus of Rutgers University.

Marlton resident Jenna Cantarella asked for comment on the intra-party bickering between state Sen. President Stephen Sweeney – a merger proponent – and U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg – who has questioned the idea.

“Those who stand to benefit don’t want to be answered,” Whitman asserted.

What’s the solution to partisanship?

Rendell asserted it lies in getting people to vote.

A “75-80” percent turnout would do wonders, he suggested.

Whitman is part of Americans Elect, a move to create the country’s first non-partisan online nominating convention for a third party candidate.

“We want to be a third choice,” Whitman said, observing that 26 percent of the country leans Republican, 26 percent leans Democrat and “24 percent support bi-partisanship.”

In a Washington Post column, Whitman suggested “Neither party is more important than America. If the two parties can’t show that they understand that, than we need to find people who will.”

Rendell countered the Americans Elect idea is “dangerous.” He noted that “six times in our history, six times, we’ve elected a president who got less vote than their opponent.”

The electoral college system is credited for that.

One area the two agree on?

The acceptance speeches the two main party candidates will deliver at their respective political conventions and their performance at the three agreed-upon debates will go a long way toward determining who emerges victorious in November.

One benefit Romney has had in wading through the lengthy GOP nominating process has been his performance in party debates, Rendell suggested. Obama has to show he is capable to “stand and defend” on his first term performance, he added.