We’ve passed from differences in outlook to bitter partisanship.
Question: Is the American political system broken?
Robert Menendez: I don’t think the system is broken. I think Americans look at the debates that go on, for example, in Congress and say, “Well, they can’t seem to get along with each other. Or they’re just political or partisan.” And there is an element of that; but people come from across the country, and I’ve had the privilege and experience of representing . . . being in both houses of Congress. So I look at when I was in the House of Representatives, there are . . . 435 people come from across the country, from North and South and East and West. They come from great cities and farms. They come from suburbia. They’re doctors, and lawyers, and farmers, and business people, and teachers, and former veterans and a whole host of other things. They’re Jew and Gentile, Protestant and Catholic, Muslim. And across the spectrum they’re brought to the nation’s capitol to not only represent the interests of their particular district, but to represent the collective interests of the nation. And they’re asked to face some of the most difficult challenges we have in our country, and to also look at the great opportunities that exist with our country, and come together to lead in what hopefully is a strong bipartisan response to these issues. But at the end of the day, all those different experiences, all those different backgrounds, all the different political ideologies . . . sometimes they are rooted in . . . clearly in very strong views – principled views – as to how we achieve these goals or overcome these challenges. And those principle views can sometimes be in great conflict. And so that . . . Whether it’s in the House or in the Senate, the reality is that it seems to me that what people sometimes view as strictly partisan is the clash of ideas – the clash of ideas that people brought from a very diverse country, but who hold, I think, common goals of achieving . . . making America the best that it can be. And in doing so, that clash of ideas produces differences. Some people look at that as a broken system. I look at that as largely to be the fulfillment of the democracy that we have.
Recorded on: 9/12/07