By Ken Krayeske • 11:00 AM EST
Impressed with former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman? I never thought I'd answer that question affirmatively.
But after listening to her speak last night in front of the World Affairs Council Executive Forum Event at the Hartford Club on Prospect Street in Hartford, I understood that while we disagreed on so many levels, we agreed on some basic precepts. Common ground is important to have to move forward.
Whitman is a socially liberal Republican who headed the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003 under George W. Bush. In response to a question about cabinet level ministers having too much power, she suggested that some agencies, like the EPA, needed to become a Cabinet-level post.
This question has been floating around since Nixon created the EPA in 1970, and after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, it gained traction, but failed to go anywhere under Bush I. With the BP mess in Louisiana, it makes sense to bring it up again.
This wasn't the only place I agreed with Whitman. She resigned from the Bush Administration because she could not defend Cheney's thrust to ease air pollution laws which violated the Clean Air Act (first passed by a Republican - Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955).
Nothing so progressive could have come out of the Bush White House, and indeed, it is unlikely we will see anything so progressive from the Obama administration. Oddly enough, again in 1972, Nixon appeased the tree huggers by signing the Clean Water Act.
Attorney Peter Kelly, founder of Hartford law firm Updike, Kelley & Spellacy, and the powerhouse lobbying firm Black Manafort, sounded a question to Whitman about the demise of collegiality within the political world. The Republicans have no moderates, he said.
Whitman agreed. She told the small crowd about how when she was thinking of running for governor again in 1997, there was a chance that she could run for U.S. Senate instead. Whitman visited DC to explore the option. She ditched the idea after meeting with members of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, who told her "mention a word about campaign finance reform, and you'll never get a dime from us."
The extremism in politics creates a divide that prevents anything from happening, Whitman said. I agree, and I'll add that the categorization of views as extreme or moderate is a shifting sand that inhibits the dialogue.