I Wish the Candidates Had Said That

More than a century ago, the eccentric writer Oscar Wilde overheard George Bernard Shaw make a particularly witty remark. Wilde slyly muttered, no doubt with malice aforethought, the compliment “I wish I had said that!” Shaw, a literary competitor and no friend of Wilde’s sensed a plagiarism in the making and retorted, “You will, Oscar. You will.”

Now that the three presidential debates are over and the election is less than two weeks away, many Americans are standing Shaw on his head, wishing that the candidates had said something very different and more acceptable than the hackneyed and tired campaign rhetoric that few believed at face value when new and fresh ideas were desperately needed.

Consider what I wish one of them had said:

“My fellow Americans: If I am fortunate enough to win your vote, here are my three top priorities that will be the foundation for my administration.

“No. 1 is correcting the nation’s economic ills by repairing our crumbling national infrastructure and thus to assure our long-term growth and prosperity.

“No. 2 is addressing the two overarching foreign policy crises of our time whose resolution will alleviate many of the dangers spawned by extremism and radicalism and lead to a far safer and more secure world.

“No. 3 is fixing a political process badly broken by the excesses of ideology, partisanship and the inability for compromise both in Congress and between the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

“As you know, the world is facing a further economic slowdown. China, Brazil, Russia and India are struggling. Demand is declining. And the euro crisis remains unresolved.

“At home, we face a ticking time bomb of $16 trillion in debt and annual deficits for as far as we can see of at least a trillion dollars. Our electrical power grid is old and dilapidated. Our roads and bridges are deteriorating. And we need the latest technologies in our schools and educational institutions to make our students competitive for the future.

“My first priority therefore is to create a national infrastructure bank underwritten by interest paying 30-year bonds purchased by and through the private sector; guaranteed by the federal government; and funded by user fees and tolls that will come from the new roads, bridges, expanded power grids; online educational institutions; and other national infrastructure that is in desperate need of repair.

“This bank will be capitalized with at least $2 trillion — an amount sufficiently large to increase employment dramatically and more importantly significant enough to make our nation competitive for the foreseeable future. And this will be done with non-governmental funds and incentivized by interest rates more attractive than current federal bond yields.

“In foreign policy, crises and challenges will always exist. However, as my second priority, two so far intractable conflicts must be resolved: the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian and Indo-Pakistani crises. The track record for success in both is not good. More than just the regional powers must be engaged. However, I am prepared to commit troops if necessary as peacekeeping forces to guarantee a safe and secure transition to bring the warring factions together.

“The Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict must engage key Arab states including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf nations. Resolution will also defang tensions with Iran, which, when this succeeds, will be even more isolated if it does not chose to return to the international community of nations. We know the obstacles and dangers ahead. But this time, we have no choice but to succeed.

“In South Asia, confidence building measures will anchor this process starting with nuclear arms reduction talks; hotlines to expedite good communications; and a major conference on Kashmir. From a global perspective, progress in both areas will have profoundly positive impact for decades to come.

“Last and perhaps most difficult is fixing a government that has become badly broken — my final priority. As a first step toward reconciliation, I will invite the senior leaders of both houses of Congress to become ex officio members of my National Security and National Economic Councils. Congress must be on board for the takeoff if it is to be with us for the landing. I will also empower the vice president, who is the only federal official with constitutional duties in both the executive branch and Congress as president of the Senate, to lead a bipartisan effort to curb the excesses of partisanship and ideology that are truly wrecking the nation.

“Critics and cynics will strenuously attack and oppose these priorities no doubt charging they are naive and unworkable. But in 1776, critics thought a revolution was equally impossible and intractable against the world’s then leading superpower.

“They were wrong. And naysayers and critics today will be equally wrong …”

I wish someone had said that! But this is truly wishful thinking.

Harlan Ullman is senior advisor at the Atlantic Council, and chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business. This article was syndicated by UPI.

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