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Congressmen weigh in on national elections

Former Congressmen Bob Carr (D–Mich.) and Jack Buechner (R–Mo.) visited campus this past Tuesday and Wednesday, where they spoke on the 2008 election, history, and personal careers in politics.

Former Congressmen Bob Carr (D–Mich.) and Jack Buechner (R–Mo.) visited campus this past Tuesday and Wednesday, reaching out to the community through a program sponsored by the United States Association of Former Members of Congress. Carr and Buechner spoke on the 2008 election, history, and personal careers in politics.

Both congressmen have extensive experience in various areas of political life.

Carr served in Congress from 1975 to 1995. He has traveled extensively to Russia and investigated a Soviet nuclear weapons facility.

Buechner was a congressman from 1987 to 1991. In this time, he was a representative of the U.S. Republican Party to the International Democratic Union following the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Buechner spoke about being involved in emerging democracies as current president of the International Republican Institute, part of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Carr and Buechner shared their opinions on the recent reputation of the U.S. as gathered from their travel experiences.

Carr has come to the opinion that although the reputation of the U.S. was greatly diminished by what he calls the “Iraq misadventure,” the country can hope to rebuild its credibility and lead by example.

Buechner also believes in the country’s potential role as a leader in the future, particularly in the development of democracies. He cited evidence from the past: When he visited Eastern European countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall, he noted among the attitudes of these countries “a great surge of belief in democracy.”

While visiting campus this week, Carr and Buechner spoke particularly on their views of the 2008 elections.

According to Buechner, this election is a pivotal one for the Democratic Party.

The general election is not necessarily John McCain’s to win, but the Democrats’ to lose, Buechner said, explaining that the divisiveness of the Democratic Party is an asset to the Republicans.
However, Carr pledged his support of the Democrats.

Carr, who was a staff member for former presidential candidate Bill Richardsons’ campaign, is a Hillary Clinton supporter, despite her current underdog status. Richardson’s endorsement of Obama “weighs on me,” Carr said.

According to Carr, one of the key problems with Obama is that the country is not as familiar with him as it is with Clinton.

“We don’t know him,” Carr said. “We know a lot more about Clinton and what could be brought out negative against her in the general election, about how she thinks about specific issues in detail. It doesn’t mean that we like what we know, but we know. There’s a certain amount of knowledge you have and you take the good with the bad.”

Carr justified his support of Clinton not in her familiarity, but in her experience.

“There is an element of the presidency in implementing and getting things done, and knowing where the levers are and how the power runs in Washington,” he said.

Carr noted that the importance of experience cannot be overwritten by campaign charisma, such as in the exuberant Obama campaign.

“A bit of fantasy is exciting in that it gets people going, but they must educate themselves about the limits and adjust expectations,” he said.

Buechner agreed with Carr, comparing Obama’s campaign and possible presidency to a pep rally before a big sports game.

“I liken it to a football game, where at the pep rally, the cheerleaders and everyone gets all revved up, and you run through and get out on the field, but the person across from you still weighs 30 pounds more and is six inches taller,” Carr said. “All that exuberance only lasts so long and you got to be able to have the foot to put on the pedal.”

Carr and Buechner recognized that such exuberance in both Obama and Clinton’s campaigns has resulted in quite an exciting election.

Carr said that the competition is good for the Democrats in that it has energized both the party and voters as well has having helped an unknown candidate, Obama, spring to the forefront.
Both agreed that the rivalry on the Democratic side is also beneficial in that it has generated excitement in the electoral process and motivated voters, especially first-time voters, to become involved in the process.

Buechner recognized that with the growing number of voters, the difficulty of choosing a candidate in this year’s election has also increased.

Buechner offered a unique perspective of Clinton from the point of view of his fiancée. A middle-aged woman, she feels torn between Clinton and Obama because while fitting the characteristics of a Clinton supporter, she feels “so drawn to Obama’s message.” Buechner surmised that this may be an example of the dilemma of similarly aged women of all races.
As for John McCain, Buechner recognized his experience but cited his anger problem, sharing a recent anecdote of a conversation he had with friends.

“They said to me, ‘I’d rather have John McCain pick up the phone at three in the morning.’ I said, ‘John McCain wouldn’t take your call!’ ”

Despite the hard decision of whom to vote for, made especially challenging this year, both expressed excitement over the involvement levels of voters in this election.

Buechner said that in his 35 years in electoral politics, this is the first time he has seen young people “really make a positive contribution.” The only other comparable time was in 1968, but the infamous Democratic convention that year “sullied the activism,” according to Buechner. In 1968, thousands of young people showed up at the convention to express their anti-war sentiments, only to be attacked, by means such as tear gas and clubs, by the city’s police.

Carr added that student involvement in the Vietnam era had a high issue content, as more young voters had a viable stake in issues pertinent to them, such as the draft. However, this is not the case today, as there are no issues as relevant to young people as the draft was, he said.

Carr described the involvement of young voters today as American Idol politics; it’s as if young voters are intently watching the television series, proclaiming themselves fans of one candidate or the other, he explained.

Carr and Buechner agreed upon the need for voters to not get carried away in the pop culture stardom of the election and focus on issues.

Carr urged voters to “listen with skepticism: Decide from the head, not the heart.”