Dear Editor:After attending the second session of the Aspen Ideas Festival, I departed with a sense of optimism that so many of the brightest leaders in government, science, and the private and social sectors are debating and addressing the major issues facing our country and the world. Walter Isaacson and the staff at the Aspen Institute are to be congratulated for constructing an incredible event with an impressive array of intelligent leaders.A disconcerting element of the Ideas Fest was the acknowledgment by two current U.S. senators, a retired U.S. senator and a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives that partisan politics is the major impediment for Congress to address some of the major issues facing our country, most specifically entitlement program reform. The partisanship of attendees and many presenters was palpable, which causes one to conclude that a great challenge of our country is to improve the “process” of progress by overcoming partisanship for the betterment of society.President Bill Clinton’s address at the Ideas Fest exacerbated the partisanship. I perceive the role of an ex-U.S. president to be one of a dignitary and leader. Bill Clinton’s post-presidency activities in the humanitarian arena represent a leadership role for the entire free world and are very admirable. However, his statements at the Ideas Fest regarding politics in America and the current administration certainly lack dignity and leadership qualities. I was disappointed.The moderator posed the question to Bill Clinton, “What one question would you like to ask Karl Rove?” President Clinton’s response was a lengthy tirade including Valerie Plame, criticism of estate tax cuts, and a corresponding criticism that all boats are not elevating in the rising tide of the American economy. President Clinton is correct that a challenge of America is to elevate the standard of living of all Americans. However, his methodology of criticism should be challenged.Facts do not warrant President Clinton’s assertion that the current administration’s economic policies contribute to the slow wage growth of lower and middle socioeconomic America. The Treasury Department reports that real wages have increased by 0.7 percent over the 62 months of the current economic expansion. During a similar 62-month period of economic expansion in the first half of the ’90s, real wages declined by 1.5 percent. The point is not to assert that a 0.7 percent increase is good – it isn’t. The point is that real wage increase is a challenge for all administrations and is not to be exploited as a tool in partisan politics.I would hope that President Clinton would utilize his status as dignitary and leader to heal the divide in American politics rather than broaden the chasm. A much better response to the question Bill Clinton would pose to Karl Rove would have been, “How can the leaders of America from both parties work together to improve education, keep our teens in school, provide jobs training, and improve standards of living?” An open palm from President Clinton may yield better results than the back hand provided.Tony CaineBarrington, Ill. and Woody Creek
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