Lee H. Hamilton
As a country, we make a habit of looking forward, not backward. But I'm going to ask you to turn your attention back a few weeks, to Barack Obama's Jan. 10 farewell address to the American people.
If you watched Donald Trump's first press conference since the election, you may have overlooked a telling and worrisome moment. A CNN reporter tried to ask the president-elect about the extent of his ties to Russian officials. "No! Not you. No! Your organization is terrible," responded Mr. Trump, and moved on to the next question.
As Mario Cuomo said, politicians campaign in poetry but have to govern in prose. Now we have a president-elect who campaigned in tweets...but still will have to govern in prose.
Franklin Roosevelt once said, "Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely." He was talking about why education matters in a representative democracy, but it's a safe bet that had he known about fake internet news, he'd have said the same thing — except maybe with more pointed words.
As hard as the campaign might have been and the transition is proving to be, Donald Trump's challenges are really just beginning. Governing after a toxic election in which the results awarded him an ambiguous national mandate — his opponent, after all, got more votes — will require finesse, a clear-eyed view of his role in the world, and no small amount of luck.
Americans understand our nation's strength and security depend on its fiscal health. This may not be foremost on their minds right now, but rarely do I address a public meeting at which no one expresses concern about the federal debt and general fiscal condition. We face an ongoing, long-term mismatch between our spending and revenue, and year after year, administration after administration, the debt grows larger.
It's not surprising this year's presidential debates drew viewers in great numbers. The contest is close, and the chance to watch the two candidates spar with one another face-to-face makes for entertaining television.
This campaign year has been full of twists and turns. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, let alone Nov. 8. So talking about what comes afterward seems premature. But it's been on my mind, a lot, because I'm worried. This is not about who wins the presidency. I'm concerned about the aftermath of this campaign season and how hard it's going to be for our next set of elected officials, from the president on down, to govern.
I've been a Democrat all my life. I believe in the party's values. I'm pleased when its candidates win elections, and I'm persuaded the country is better off when Democratic ideas get a fair shake in the public arena. But none of this means that I favor a weak Republican Party — indeed, just the opposite. Before my Democratic friends drum me out of the party's ranks, let me explain why.
I've been involved in politics for the better part of a lifetime, and have spoken at many public meetings over the years. There's one question, I think, that I've heard more than any other: "If I want to be an informed citizen, which sources of information should I consult?"