Mike Bloomberg and Chuck Hagel Can Win in 2008

The great political reality of the 2008 campaign is this: If the negative and personal onslaught of the Clinton campaign against Barack Obama repels and appalls political independents beyond a point of no return, Mike Bloomberg and Chuck Hagel might run, and could win.

There is no need to recapitulate the sludge that is polluting this presidential campaign from various sources, except to highlight this point:

Americans desperately want to turn the page to a higher and nobler form of leadership and Hillary Clinton is systematically alienating the voters who will decide this election, and by doing so, doing grave damage to the Democratic Party’s chances in November.

Independent voters are asking a variation of Reagan’s question in 1980: Do you think your living rooms and your lives will be any more pleasant under Hillary Clinton than they were four years ago, under George W. Bush?

Hillary’s problem is the living room problem: We are not merely choosing a politician, we are selecting a leader who will be in our living rooms, at our dinner tables and at the center of our lives for at least four years.

Americans will ask, about whomever the party nominates: Do we want to spend four years with this person at the center of our personal and national lives?

The danger for Democrats is that regarding Hillary Clinton, Democrats say, approvingly or reluctantly, yes, but independents say, in large numbers and with increasing certainty, no. Upon numbers like this, the future of America will be decided, and the door for Bloomberg and Hagel could be opened.

While Hillary systematically alienates the independent voters, and the Republican candidates declare religious wars against each other and compete for supporting wars abroad, it is time to begin a serious discussion not only about the tactics of a Bloomberg-Hagel ticket, but the substance of what they might offer to determine whether such a candidacy and presidency makes sense.

Here is my opening bid:

Bloomberg and Hagel should openly advocate a national unity government and should very aggressively challenge the best leaders in the nation to join their government, if they run and win.

Example: Former Sen. Sam Nunn is the most authoritative and commanding American voice on national security matters. The former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is universally admired by leading experts on national security, by leaders around the world, and by Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

Sen. Nunn has recently mused about the possibility of his running for president himself, but said he would not consider any other office. This is not an acceptable answer. If Bloomberg and Hagel are truly serious, they should call on Sen. Nunn as a matter of patriotism, with our troops under fire and the threat of terrorism real, to join their government, as secretary of State or Defense, or national security adviser.

Bloomberg and Hagel should specifically name the kind of leaders they would ask to join their government and go to the voters with a true national unity campaign, offering a true national unity government.

Examples could be Republican Sen. Arlen Specter as secretary of Homeland Security, Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend being America’s voice to the world as United Nations ambassador at a Cabinet level, and retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones to assume a high national security position.

Bill Clinton’s suggestion of former presidents initiating a world tour to restore American credibility and leadership is a good idea, regardless of the political machinations behind it. I suggested a similar proposal in a column I once wrote for The Hill newspaper, which I called the “POTUS Plan.”

Bloomberg and Hagel should call on presidents Clinton and George Herbert Walker Bush to publicly agree to join such an effort, no matter who is elected. They should also say they would seek, respect and value the advice of President Carter, who has achieved more than any American president in history for Middle East peace, even if we may disagree with his more controversial statements.

Bloomberg and Hagel should say they would name Al Gore, and either John McCain or Arnold Schwarzenegger, to co-chair a special presidential transition team, beginning on the day after the election, ending on inauguration day. They would develop a landmark program for climate change and alternative energy to be enacted into law within the first hundred days of their national unity presidency.

Bloomberg and Hagel should upgrade the Council of Economic Advisers and formalize regular economic advice from “wise men and women” of national stature. These could include Warren Buffett, former General Electric Chairman Jack Welch, Wall Street CEO Muriel Siebert, famed Goldman Sachs analyst Abby Joseph Cohen, Bill Gates, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, leading progressives such as Dennis Kucinich and Paul Krugman, and creative conservatives such as Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich or Arthur Laffer.

Finally, if Mayor Bloomberg is truly serious about being leader of the free world, at a major moment and dangerous moment in history, I would propose that he make an enormous personal donation to homeless and disabled vets, and call on all Americans to do their part.

What is happening to our troops and vets is a national disgrace, with more than $500 billion of long-term unmet needs for healthcare, medical research, veterans centers, homeless heroes, disabled vets and emergency financial assistance among many other needs that our country should be morally obligated to meet.

I have proposed a Soldier Bond, modeled after the 1940s war bond and the modern U.S. savings bond, in which every American can participate in supporting our troops and vets, regardless of our views on the war, by buying an interest-bearing bond to finance the unmet needs, demonstrating our pride in those who serve, putting our patriotic national unity behind them.

Chuck Hagel has been a lifetime champion of our troops and vets, from his service as an authentic war hero to his support on the floor of Congress. Bloomberg and Hagel should inspire the nation to the gold standard of commitment, which would be powerful politics, and far more important, a powerful moral and patriotic statement of unity, commitment and resolve.

I don’t know Mike Bloomberg, and cannot evaluate whether he has the right stuff to be the true leader of the free world. I do know Hagel, and he darn well does.

Americans want to turn the page, to move into the future together, and to build it together, and to lift and unite the nation. Americans want to move beyond the Bush years, to return to our first principles as a nation, and to the unity and spirit that have always made America great, and always will.

Should Bloomberg and Hagel run? Can they win? Would they lead Americans who aspire to the highest levels of our greatest heritage in our wonderful history as the world’s beacon of democracy and our people’s beacon of opportunity and hope?

I don’t know right now, but instead of settling for the negativity of our current politics, let’s elevate our debate, our sights and our standard for what America can be, and should be, as a united people and the authentic leader of the free world.