2016 Hopefuls Pledge Allegiance to ‘No Labels’
In midst of the partisan bickering in Washington, DC, and just months away of the first primary state that officially kicks off the 2016 presidential elections, over 1,500 people gathered Monday to hear from eight presidential candidates – from both parties – who committed themselves to bipartisanship and compromise at the “No Labels Problem Solver” bipartisan Convention in Manchester, New Hampshire.
No Labels is a grassroots organization dedicated to achieving durable solutions by encouraging elected officials to work across the aisle.
The event was opened and co-chaired by former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and former Senator Joe Lieberman.
“Voters are tired of hearing the same empty promises and seeing the same failed results election after election. The Problem Solver Convention is the first step in No Labels’ yearlong effort to get our leaders focused on a new politics of problem-solving where both parties come together around big goals that matter to the American people,” said Huntsman, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2012.
“We’re so committed to bipartisanship today that every Democrat will be introduced by a Republican and vice versa,” said Lieberman. “You wouldn’t expect a Democratic presidential candidate to be introduced by the former head of CPAC, but that’s exactly what’s happening today.”
The first to address the convention was Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, speaking via satellite from his home in Maryland, before flying to Las Vegas from the first televised Democratic primary debate. He was introduced by former 3-term Michigan Governor John Engler.
During his opening remarks, O’Malley quoted former Israeli President Shimon Peres, who said, “In today’s Information Age, the people know more than their leaders.”
Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, introduced by former White House Chief of Staff for Bill Clinton Mack
McLarty, told the crowd, “This country is worth fighting for, it is worth dying for, and it is worth compromising for.” He joked that visiting Afghanistan is somewhat easier than visiting DC.
Addressing the threat of radical Islam, the South Carolina Senator stated that “Radical Islam is very much into ‘no labels.’ They look out into this audience, and they don’t see anything different.”
He also said he believes that foreign assistance will do more damage to radical Islam in the long run.
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump talked up his business career and his experience in solving problems in a bipartisan manner. “I like the word compromise. But it’s always nice to compromise and win,” he said.
Senator Lieberman introduced Trump, describing him as a candidate “who is unique in many ways” and “the only candidate with a ’the’ in front of his name, like the Vatican, the Hague, or The Bronx.”
The former vice presidential candidate that Trump “seen as the best vehicle to express the most common emotions, which are disappointment, disdain and anger toward the status-quo in Washington” is exactly “what led to the creation of No Labels.” Lieberman went on to praise Trump’s experience in negotiating deals and success in business, “not because he knocked buildings down, but because he built buildings up.”
“And we need leaders in America today who will build up America’s government again,” he added, referring to Trump’s campaign slogan ‘Making American Great Again’. “We need leaders who can agree on some big goals and then negotiate the details to get them accomplished… this candidate has had some experience negotiating deals.”
During the afternoon session, NJ Governor Chris Christie highlighted his work with a Democratic Legislature as goals that were “worthy, notable and achievable.”
Continuing his anti-establishment campaign, Christie countered a question posed to him about fixing the broken political system. “I don’t think it’s the system that is broken. I think it is the people that are running it that are broken,” he stressed. “I think this is the same system that we’ve had for a long time that can work and it can work but you have to understand the compromise is not capitulation.”
Christie shared with the audience a story that he said was the best political advice he has ever received. “I was the US Attorney in New Jersey. He was the Deputy Attorney General of the United States .. a guy named Jim Comey and Jim came to visit me when I was US Attorney as my boss and when he was leaving I said what are you doing next and he said I am going to the New York Times Editorial Board,” he recalled. “I said Jim, you are John Ashcroft’s deputy. You’re in the George W. Bush Administration and you’re going to the New York Times Editorial Board. Do you have a death wish? What’s wrong with you? And he looked at me and he said, no, Chris you don’t understand. I am going to the New York Times Editorial Board because it’s harder to hate up close and it is extraordinarily good political advice, everybody. It is harder to hate up close, everybody, much harder to hate up close.”
The Republican presidential hopeful also said parents should be making the choice where their children go to school, regardless of their economic situation. Boasting about himself as a product of public school in NJ, Christie said he has sent his children to parochial school upon request of his wife Mary Pat.
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, speaking via satellite from Vegas, urged civility and respect despite political disagreements, before shifting to his regular stump speech. “Let’s treat each other respectfully and lets not demagogue those we have differences with,” he pleaded.
Sanders was introduced by Al Cardenas, who supports Jeb Bush for president.
George Pataki, John Kasich and Jim Webb also pitched their candidacies to the crowd assembled at the Raddison hotel. “You can be centrist and still win. Look at Joe Lieberman,” said Kasich.
Closing the summit, Sen. Joe Lieberman declared, “Today is the day the No Labels problem-solving brand of politics became part of a mainstream of America’s presidential elections of 2016.”
The No Labels group issued four goals in its national strategic agenda: Create 25 million new jobs over 10 years, secure Social Security and Medicare for another 75 years, balance the federal budget by 2030 and make America energy secure by 2024.