Former White House Press Secretary Offers Insights On American Politics
A woman whose face and words used to appear on most Americans' televisions every day had some observations for credit unions on what lies ahead in U.S. politically.
Dee Dee Myers, who was the youngest ever White House press secretary, not to mention first woman, when she served under President Bill Clinton early in his administration, shared with the Florida league's annual meeting her own inauspicious start in politics. She became involved in politics in 1983 as a recent college graduate and went to work on the Walter Mondale campaign, who lost in in a landslide, and then on to the campaign of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who lost in a landslide, and then "I moved on to the campaign of Michael Dukakis."
Today, observed Myers, the "country is polarized. To me it sounds more like a shouting match than a debate. It's a red and blue country, and even people who are only marginally involved in politics know which is which and know who they are."
Myers offered three "broad observations:"
1. Myers noted that after the New Deal, the country was divided by economic interest. The Democrats represented the working man, and the Republicans represented capital. "But in 2000 and 2004 we're starting to see a shift to values. The super-wealthy, for instance, have voted Democrat."
2. Myer's second observation was that the media is increasingly a player in the partisan wars. "A lot of people think the media is too liberal, but an almost equal number think just the opposite," she said. "I do think there are more liberal reporters than conservative reporters, but I don't think they see themselves as Democrats. On the other hand those who own media tend to be conservative. I think we ought to concede that there is partisanship in the media. But I don't think that's what's causing conflict. I think it's more about tone, attitude, conflict and the relentless pressure the media feels to be first. I think that pressure for speed forces organizations to make bad journalistic decisions."
Myers said one negative is that the time and space that decision-makers have to make important decision has been compressed, and the amount of time the media has to explain important decisions has also been compressed.
3. The third force driving presidential politics, she said, is the personal qualities of the president.
"It comes down to what does the president believe, how well does he communicate what he believes, and can he make people feel comfortable with him," Myers said. "People are looking to know does this person have a fixed set of beliefs that can be understood. I think that President Clinton did have a successful presidency. I think that President Bush has also had a successful presidency. President Bush has a different way of coping with change. His rhetoric doesn't change, and Iraq is a good example. In the aftermath he has sped up the turnover of power and the flow of money all the while saying the same things."
So what lies ahead? According to Myers, Social Security reform is dead for this year; Iraq has become a much different situation and the public has lost patience with it, and Washington isn't going to be getting any friendlier anytime soon.
"The Republicans shut the Democrats out of the process, and now it's payback time," she said. "We're going to see one if not two vacancies on the Supreme Court, and we're going to see some very nasty partisanship."