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Dennis  Ross is an American diplomat and author. He has served as the Director of Policy Planning in the State Department under President George H. W. Bush, the special Middle[…]

Ross mourns an atmosphere so poisonous that Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on the basics.

Question: If you could change one thing about the American political process, what would it be?


Dennis Ross: Well I think the one thing I would like to see changed is the kind of poisonous atmosphere – that everything is seen in zero sum terms. We’ve lost kind of the capacity to create areas and incentives that Democrats and Republicans basically can agree on. And everything seems to have fallen victim to kind of polarization.

And I think we have to end polarization. Democrats and Republicans have different philosophies, different identities. That’s fine. That’s part of what debates are about. But there’s a lot of areas where there should be commonalities. And where there are big issues, you ought to be able to forge commonalities.

We ought to be able to afford ________ climate change. We ought to be able to afford _________ Iraq. We ought to be able to afford what will be a common approach on healthcare. These are big priorities where we have to deal with fundamental challenges now to the country. When you’re dealing with fundamental challenges, there ought to be enough common ground that you reach understandings.

We’ve found certainly in the last almost seven years now that the polarization has become so acute that it’s pretty hard to do the kinds of things where otherwise you should be able to find that consensus. And I look at myself, I had senior political appointee positions in Republican and Democratic administrations alike. That’s unthinkable in Washington today. That has to change.

We should be able to go back to the point where you can have people who are seen as being sufficiently professional that are in political appointees regardless of their political identification. And that we’ve lost.


Recorded on: September 12, 2007