For Tom Daschle and Trent Lott, the Answer to Fierce Partisanship is Leadership
Former U.S. Senate leaders Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Trent Lott (R-MS) sized up the often-fractious political climate of today at a public discussion sponsored by NYU Wagner's John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress on Feb. 2, 2011.
In 2001, the two ex-senators traded roles as Senate majority leader three times. But sitting in armchairs in Vanderbilt Hall and speaking before an overflow crowd of almost 500 listeners, they were congenial -- especially in comparison to the often-fierce partisanship that has defined recent sessions of Congress.
Rogan Kersh, Wagner professor of public policy and associate dean for academic affairs, was the moderator. "It can be reassuring to return to an earlier time," he remarked.
Although Daschle and Lott lamented what they called a loss of comraderie among Congress members, they maintained that leadership has been, and will remain, the key to overcoming strained relations between the two parties.
Neither was despairing about today's political atmosphere. Indeed, Lott said, "The Senate was designed to be dysfunctional .... to cool off the hot action of the House." In addition, he noted, major legislation, such as the national healthcare overall, gained recent approval despite its highly controversial nature.