TIME IDEAS
Is There Anything Left in Politics to Be Thankful For?
Republican strategist Karen Hughes and Democratic pollster Mark Penn in their bi-weekly faceoff about Election 2012

Penn: There is one thing that all Democrats and possibly the country can be thankful for — the Republican presidential primary field. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. So I am thankful for:

  • Herman Cain’s foreign policy knowledge because it makes us all feel better about our own.
  • Rick Perry, for helping to teach our nation’s kids how not to count to three on national TV.
  • Jon Huntsman, because the more Democrats and Independents adore him, the smaller his chances are of winning the GOP nomination.
  • Newt Gingrich, who reminds us that holiday gift giving and financial prudence begin at Tiffany & Co.
  • Mitt Romney for pretending he is a conservative after pretending he was a moderate.
  • Rick Santorum for constantly reminding us of the two senate campaigns he won in Pennsylvania and for never reminding us about the last one he lost.
  • Michele Bachmann for taking lessons from Herman Cain on foreign policy.
  • Donald Trump for being an apprentice when it comes to politics.
  • Ron Paul for threatening to launch a third party in the event he does not win the primary.
  • All 27 Republican primary debates. Each one has delivered quality sports programming even during the NBA lockout.

Hughes: This week’s question made me think of the Sunday school class I teach, where our virtue of the month is “gratitude.” We’ve been talking with the kids about the need to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude,” to try to find and be thankful for good things, even when circumstances seem difficult. So in that spirit, even after a congressional super committee failed to find common ground on beginning to reduce our ballooning national deficit, we can be thankful that:

  • Congress takes lots of recesses (under the theory that what they don’t do can’t hurt us.) In Texas, our legislature meets for only 140 days every two years and we like to joke that many Texans think it should be for two days every 140 years.
  • There are probably now fewer than 999 times during this Republican primary season that Herman Cain can say 9-9-9 in answer to any debate question.
  • All the leading Republican presidential candidates have much more leadership experience than President Obama did when he was elected: Mitt has shown calm, capable leadership in business, as the Republican Governor of a Democratic state and in rescuing a failing Olympics; Newt has an overflow of ideas and knows how to lead Congress; Cain has a strong record in business and an outsider’s perspective, and Perry has overseen strong job growth in the diverse state of Texas.
  • In just about six weeks, the voters — instead of us pontificators — will begin deciding which candidates are actually ahead or behind.

On a more serious note, even at a time when trust in our political institutions and distrust of our politicians seem to be at the opposite, wrong ends of the spectrum, I am grateful that:

  • Good people from both political parties are still willing to put their names on the line, endure the criticism that inevitably comes, and run for office out of what I believe is most often a genuine desire to make our communities and our country better.
  • Many young people — like the impressive student leaders I have met recently in Texas, Iowa and Louisiana — still care about public policy and want to get involved.
  • We are free to voice our complaints and work for change if we don’t like the way things are going.
  • We are blessed to live in a country that, while far from perfect, has made great progress toward living up to its own grand ideals, and we are grateful for the men and women of our armed services who sacrifice to keep us free. That’s something that I hope close to 100% of my fellow Americans can agree on. Happy Thanksgiving!

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