Whitman promotes moderation and compromise in politics

By TOM LUTEY
September 13, 2010
Billings Gazette

Former Bush cabinet member Christine Todd Whitman called for more moderation and compromise by the nation’s political leaders on Monday, saying the nation’s future depended on it.

Whitman administer of the Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush, told a Billings business audience that the nation’s political leaders had become so uncompromising that the country veering toward gridlock.

Major issues such as energy policy, environmental quality and immigration are going nowhere as a result, she said.

“We need to engage in positive discussion on these issues,” said Whitman, speaking to the Downtown Billings Rotary Club.

Whitman, who was also governor of New Jersey, is co-chair of the Republican Leadership Council, a group supporting fiscally conservative, socially tolerant candidates. She and others are encouraging moderates to “reclaim the word Republican.”

She is also the founder of a moderate political action committee, “It’s My Party, Too,” and the author of a New York Times bestseller by the same name.

She is in town through Tuesday as a guest of Rocky Mountain College, which named Whitman a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Scholar.

Rocky is launching a new major in environmental policy and management. The former EPA secretary’s presence helps promote the program, said Mike Mace, RMC president.

Whitman said the country’s political leaders need to move to the middle on key issues such as energy and immigration.

The country desperately needs an energy policy, but has none because of partisan bickering. As long as people of all political stripes consume energy, there should at least be middle ground for crafting policy, she said.

“The problem is we all like our Blackberries. We all like our mobile phones. We all like televisions,” Whitman said.

“We all like things that need electricity. If you’re going to have growth, you’re going to need reliable power.”

Whitman suggested that politicians put aside debates about whether greenhouse gases are causing climate change and just work on reducing air pollution.

But the citizenry needs to get involved in the debate on major issues, too, Whitman said.

In the current political climate, Republicans and Democrats who break party ties to forge compromises are excoriated by fellow party members but rarely hear from constituents who favor cooperation.

Without voters getting involved, the pressures politicians feel come from politicians and niche interests that might not be interested in finding solutions, Whitman said.

She will deliver a public lecture at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Great Room of Prescott Hall at RMC.

As EPA secretary, Whitman championed cutting sulfur emissions more than 95 percent on off-road diesel emissions. She also launched the first federal program to redevelop previously contaminated industrial sites.

She oversaw federal environmental cleanup efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Critics have faulted Whitman for suggesting that the Lower Manhattan air around the collapsed World Trade Center in New York was safe to breathe. Several responders have since suffered severe respiratory problems.

Whitman said the assurance about the post-9-11 air quality was directed toward Lower Manhattan residents and not to workers at ground zero, where air was hazardous.

Former Bush cabinet member Christine Todd Whitman called for more moderation and compromise by the nation’s political leaders Monday, saying the nation’s future depended on it.

Whitman, who held the top position in the Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush, told a Billings business audience that the nation’s political leaders had become so uncompromising the country veering toward gridlock.

Major issues like energy policy, environmental quality and immigration are going nowhere as a result, she said.

“We need to engage in positive discussion on these issues,” Whitman said.

Whitman, who was also the first woman governor of New Jersey, is co-chair of a group of Republicans supporting fiscally conservative, socially tolerant candidates. She and others are encouraging moderates to “reclaim the word Republican.” She is also the founder of a moderate political action committee, It’s My Party, Too and the author of a New York Times bestseller by the same name.

She is in town through Tuesday as a Guest of Rocky Mountain College.