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Today's Politicians Can Learn from Rudman

Columnist says the former NH Senator showed leadership on difficult issues in difficult times.

Former New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman passed away this week at the age of 82 from complications related to lymphoma. His loss is being memorialized in papers across the country, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and many others.

Rudman became an impressive presence in Washington during his two terms as Senator, serving from 1980-1993. Rudman was aggressive and confrontational at times, but was also known and respected for his willingness to work across the aisle on big issues and small and he played an important role in American history during his years in Washington.

Rudman was a vocal critic of President Reagan during the Iran-Contra hearings. He served on the Senate Ethics Eommittee and led the investigation of the Keating Five, five U.S. Senators accused of corruption during the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980’s.

Perhaps the most interesting connection between the times in which he served and the time in which he passed away was the role that Warren Rudman played fighting against the growth of government spending. Rudman became a leading voice for fiscal reform as he warned the nation against soaring deficits. Decades before the term “fiscal cliff” became a part of the political lexicon, he railed against a partisan Senate where nothing got done and spending went unchecked.

Rudman joined with Democratic Senator “Fritz” Hollings of South Carolina and Republican Phil Gramm of Texas to enact the Gramm-Hollings-Rudman Act in 1985. The legislation was the first effort to force limitations on federal spending and while our current national debt of 16 trillion dollars is proof enough that it did not work, at the time, the effort was considered laudable.

Politics is our sport here in the Granite State and great politicians, for good or for bad, often achieve an almost cultural icon status. Senator Warren Rudman is one of those politicians, described as “pugnacious” and “combative” as well as “moderate” and “compromising,” serving during a period where Washington was no more functional than it is today in many ways, and yet he managed to show leadership on difficult issues and character in difficult times.

As politicians mourn the passing of Senator Rudman, perhaps  they could also take this opportunity to learn from his example and show leadership, display character, and help move our nation through these difficult times.

Keith F Thompson November 21, 2012 at 05:30 PM
The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act did have an effect on our deficit. Combined with further compromise during the Clinton Presidency, we saw one of the few budget surpluses of our nation's history. It is sad, and incredibly self-serving, for Ms Horn to twist the facts one day after Senator Rudman's death to focus solely on reducing spending. Tax rates during the Clinton era where higher, and the economy soared, and we produced a budget surplus. Telling only one side of the story is dishonest, and cheapens the name of a great public setvant. Shame on you, Jennifer Horn. Shame on you.
Ray Guarino November 21, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Suffice to say that Senator Rudman was a conservative at a time when the Republican Party was populated by conservatives, compared with today when the party is populated by neoconservatives. Instead of saying that politicans should learn from his example, she should have said that the Republican Party should learn from his example. Today, moderates and compromisers have been vilified and expunged from the Republican Party. It's likely that Senator Rudman would not have been welcome in today's Republican Party. Ms. Horn makes the remark that the plan, developed by Hollings, Rudman, and Gramm, and President Clinton, to reduce the deficit and national debt didn't work. But this doesn't tell the whole story. The fact is that the plan WAS working until neoconservatives, led by George W. Bush, undid the plan by eliminating the surplus to place more money in the hands of America's elite (as they reduced taxes for the wealthy and increased spending on unecessary war in Iraq).
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judith November 24, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Warren Rudman was one of the good guys. He recognized the ills (Iran Contra etc) surrounding this country and tried to do something about it. He was reasonable, and thoughtful. Thank goodness for him we had Judge Souter in the Supreme Court too.
Jennifer Horn November 26, 2012 at 07:03 AM
NY Times - Nov. 20, 2012 "But while the laws helped hold down deficits, Republicans balked at raising taxes and Democrats resisted limits on social programs, and the measures were ultimately amended and repealed before they could force huge spending cuts. The failure of those efforts was one reason Mr. Rudman gave for retiring from the Senate."
Jennifer Horn November 26, 2012 at 07:16 AM
Washington Post - Nov. 20, 2012 "The Gramm–Rudman–Hollings Act was designed to trim the federal deficit, but it ultimately didn’t work, despite their best efforts."

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