Jackson Sun: Editorial: Alexander could be new major player in getting things done

Posted on January 8, 2012

It is refreshing to hear someone as experienced in politics and government as Lamar Alexander talking about a common-sense approach to governing in Washington. Alexander's decision to step down as the No. 3 ranking Senate Republican opens the door for him to practice statesmanship rather than partisanship. We are encouraged that he will join fellow Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker and a handful of others in Congress as voices of reason to counteract the voices of obstructionists, blind partisans and extremists.

Since 2007, Alexander has served as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's first lieutenant and Republican conference chairman, prestigious and powerful roles. But the political prestige comes with strings attached. As a top party official, Alexander's responsibilities included promoting the party's agenda, whether he agreed with it or not.

Alexander served two terms as Tennessee's governor, is a former U.S. secretary of education, twice ran for president and is in his second term as a U.S. senator. We believe he knows a thing or two about politics, government and statesmanship. We don't have to agree with him on every point, but his insights and understanding of complex issues warrant serious consideration.

Equally important is Alexander's expressed willingness to compromise to move issues forward and to get things done for our country. Here is what he had to say in a recent interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press: "Too many members of Congress think all we have to do is make speeches. After we make our speeches, we need to act like grown-ups, get as close as we can to our principles, and then move on to the next issue." Exactly.

When Congress reconvenes, Alexander will take up his new role as a rank-and-file senator. But he still will stand heads and shoulders above many of his peers because of his long experience, political insights and informed understanding of issues.

Many average Americans understand the challenges our nation faces. They are weary of hard-line partisanship, obstructionist politics and unwillingness to compromise to get things done. Americans are tired of Congress and the White House repeatedly bringing our nation to the brink of disaster, and then not solving the problem, but instead merely kicking the can down the road.

Given the nation's burgeoning debt and annual budget deficit, looming crises for Social Security and Medicare, crumbling infrastructure, lingering high unemployment and a public education system nearly everyone agree is not getting the job done, time is running out. That's why we welcome Alexander and his other thoughtful peers in Congress to the table of reason, compromise and common sense.