Earl Ofari Hutchinson's take on the politics of the day
The Hutchinson Report
American Urban Radio Network
Al Sharpton Show
Monday 10:00-11:00 AM PST 2:00 to 3:00 EST
Streamed on http://tunein.com/radio/WURD-900-s23419
KPFK Radio Los Angeles 90.7 FM
Saturdays Noon to 1:00 PM PST
Streamed on http://www.kpfk.org/programs/181-hutchinson-report.html
In an exclusive interview on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour with host Earl Ofari Hutchinson on KTYM 1460 AM Los Angeles on January 21, Vice-President of Policy and Co-Founder of Third Way Institute.
Transcription by Annette Lockett, McAl Typing Service * 4239 Denker Avenue * Los Angeles, CA 90062 * 323-293-3244 * FAX 323-293-0404 * E-Mail email@example.com
EOH: Why did Third Way, at this time, come up with the proposal that Democrats and Republicans sit together?
JK: Since 1913, presidents have been going to Congress to give their State of the Union address. Republicans sit on one side and Democrats sit on the other, and it just seemed ridiculous. One side jumps to its feet and applauds and the other side sits on its hands. We had the idea of mixing up the seating but it did not go anywhere. Then with the Gabrielle Gifford shooting, it shined a light on the discord in America and in Washington. Washington should be a model on how to disagree civilly, but instead it has become an embarrassment. We thought that this would be a way to show America and the world how to debate respectfully. We sent a letter to the Speaker of the House and the Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and they said “Let’s do it” and it started to catch fire and now it’s going to happen.
EOH: What is your response to the criticism you are receiving?
JK: We could see how it could be taken seriously as the right thing to do, and we can also see how it could be taken as being symbolic and not meaning anything. I think there has been a lot of cynicism in our conversations in this country. We thought that if people don’t like it then it won’t happen. But when it started to move, the overwhelming reaction we have gotten from people was positive. There was a poll online with a 60 to 40 margin, people thought that this was real and not pretend. It is very rare that people will say that in relation to Congress. I think it has caught a spirit out there where people are looking at themselves and looking at our debates and saying “I want to see something change”.
EOH: Who are some of the new senators and congress persons that have formally said yes?
JK: Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Dem., will be sitting with Olivia Snow, Rep. from Maine; Mark Kirk, Senate, Rep. from Illinois will be sitting with fellow Illinoisan Dem. Dick Durbin; Mark Udall, who really promoted this in the senate, a Democrat from Colorado, has announced that he has a Republican date but it is a mystery date, he won’t say who. My understanding is that Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader from Nevada, has basically said to all Democrats in the Senate, “Find a Republican to sit with. I will be sitting with a Republican.” I think that at least in the Senate, everybody will be mixed up. The list in the House is about 20 or 30 names, but there probably will be more.
EOH: Are you optimistic that Democrats and Republics in the Senate and the House sitting together will break through the wall that has been erected with the new hard-line Republicans?
JK: I think there will definitely be some, particularly in the House, that are not going to be in the spirit of this. I think that most of them are going to be Republicans in the Tea Party movement. They got elected in an anger election and I think they are bringing that with them to Congress. Also, the rules in the House and the Senate are different. The rules in the Senate almost forces both parties to work together. The rules in the House are such that it almost forces both parties to work apart. You will generally see more rancor in the House than in the Senate. This could be one fleeting moment of bipartisanship; it is all about how people react the next day. I think this alone is not enough to break the ice. There are other measures that can be done that start to build a spirit of civility between Democrats and Republicans; not to compromise anyone’s principals, but put themselves in other peoples shoes. If these other things are done, I think it could be promising.
EOH: What has been the response from the Obama Administration?
JK: They like it. We have talked with them. They have been very positive. Publicly they haven’t said that much because it’s a matter between the House and the Senate and they want to keep their hands off. The president wants to be an “above partisanship” president and lift the debate. I think with this type of seating a new atmosphere comes about and it is a real advantage for the President. I think that is where he wants to be. He is a conciliator, not a bomb thrower.