As a Washington, D.C., journalist and as a publisher with Changing Lives Press, I run away from political “I-know-how-to-solve-things” books. Memoirs from people who are no longer in office can be interesting if they are honest, but most of the time the “solving things” books are terrible and honesty is missing in the search to find votes. Those books don’t have much to say, and they do not sell. I have no idea why publishers spend money on them.
When Sen. Bill Bradley’s new book showed up at our office, I looked at it and put it down. “Same old, same old,” I thought. Something made me pick it up and take it home to read – maybe because I remember what happened that cold winter in New Hampshire in 2000 and how nasty the fight got between Al Gore and Bill Bradley. It wasn’t pretty. Bradley’s surrogates were furious with the Gore tactics and the press treatment the sitting vice president received compared to what Sen. Bradley was getting.
Sen. Bradley’s current book, “We Can All Do Better,” is different than many of the books out there. He doesn’t just put in a nod to history; he actually spends considerable words and time explaining how similar situations have been handled in our nation’s past. His chapter, “Government Is Not the Problem,” especially impressed me. He explains, “[N]o Republican can adopt the positions of past Republican presidents and survive the political firestorm of the tea party.”
In the same chapter, he says, “For those who argue that only the private sector is important, I’d say, ‘Look around.’ Without government, there’s no economic prosperity. There are measures that benefit everyone: airports, airline safety, roads, bridges, schools, sewers, dams, mass transit, power grids, ports, water systems, food safety, weather forecasts, law enforcement, disease monitoring, drug safety – and many more. … We are able to trust in the integrity of those decisions, because they are being made for all of us – and, indeed, most government employees assiduously attempt to serve the public welfare.”
Sen. Bradley also points out that when “presidents disparage civil servants, as Ronald Regan once did, they disparage all of us.” Bradley is “right on,” as we used to say in the 1960s. When Republicans whip up their base by these kinds of remarks, someone needs to point out to them that they are disparaging hardworking men and women who are as much a part of America as the private sector employees.
Although I could cite several areas of the book that resonated with me, I was most impressed at Sen. Bradley’s take on China. China has gotten short shrift in this campaign, and the only candidate who understood what China means was former Gov. and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman. He barely made it out of New Hampshire, announcing his withdrawal in South Carolina. No one really understood his message. They were too focused on his civil-unions stance and other issues.
Sen. Bradley wrote, “Our future will depend more on economic competition than on military conflict, and China is our number-one challenge. The United States continues to regard China as if it were just like any other country. It isn’t. Its population and its culture make it a formidable economic competitor – but not a military adversary.”
He explains the strategic thinking and that we are so stuck with our politics that we can’t even finish the rail line between Dulles International Airport and downtown Washington, D.C.
No one is talking China this election year. That is a huge problem. To ignore what China is doing in the world – how it is making sure it’s involved in all areas of the world as a co-developer, investor and goodwill ambassador – is to close our eyes to the reality of what is happening to the United States as a competitive nation. We ignore China at our peril. Few people are paying attention to what China is doing and how it is planning its future in the world. Sen. Bradley points out that it is locking up world resources.
While China is moving ahead at breakneck speed, our Congress can’t get bills passed. Political arguments focus on the DREAM Act and gay marriage. No one is discussing what China is doing in the Caribbean or in Africa, but Sen. Bradley does.
I doubt that either President Obama or Gov. Mitt Romney is going to read Sen. Bradley’s “We Can All Do Better,” but they should. We can all do better, and Bradley points the way.