It's time Republicans and Democrats stop their constant attacks and instead work together to solve the problems facing our country, says John R. Block, who served as Secretary of Agriculture in the administration of President Ronald Reagan.
Appearing on the Tempo and the Times podcast with co-host Scott Ramminger, Block said the nation would benefit if leaders of both parties would end partisan bickering, find ways to compromise on key issues and reach sensible solutions.
Block pointed out that during the Reagan years, while there were differences between each party's approaches, there was a willingness to work together to find common ground.
"There’s quite a difference today," he said. "When Reagan came in, he was a conservative trying to cut the food stamp program, get people back to work and not just hand out money all the time, but there were a fair number of Democrats who were conservative, too, and President Reagan would have a martini with (House Speaker) Tip O'Neill; they were pretty good friends. Today (politicians) criticize each other in public, calling names. I personally can’t understand this."
Block indicated some disappointment with President Joe Biden's ability to match with action his campaign promise to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans.
"Biden gets elected and his history of being pretty middle of the road, somewhat, and he talks about bipartisanship. But the first thing they do is pass an almost $2 trillion support package, no compromise in it. Republicans couldn’t support it. There are things they could have done to have Republican support. They did what they wanted. They had one vote (Senate majority). Will this change? Will doors open up so people sit down and get something done? I don’t know, I would hope so."
Block acknowledged that former President Donald Trump's approach helped to harden the political divide in America.
"If Trump's perfsonality would have been a little warmer and not being struggling and fighting so much, he probably would have been reelected," Block said."If Biden can come back and try to work down the middle, we might be getting some things done. This $2 trillion spending thing, if they’d have split that in half with the other half later this year, they could have gotten some bipartisanship. But now we have to work our way through."
On foreign affairs, both parties, Block said, are "using hard talk; both feel they have to attack Russia and China. Especially China, Trump was on them all the time. We need to figure out how to live with them. They’re not going to go away. We have to get along."
The podcast provides a fascinating discussion as Block shares how his education began in a one-room school house, took him to West Point, to leading the Illinois Agriculture Department, and then to Reagan's cabinet. There is a fascinating inside story about the role the late Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) played in helping him get that post.
Block also shares another back story about what led to Reagan lifting the grain embargo against Russia that had been imposed by his predecessor, President Jimmy Carter. Block had urged Reagan to take that action, which had been strongly opposed by Secretary of State Alexander Haig and other cabinet members.
That decision came about about a month after Reagan was shot outside a Washington, DC hotel, an event that Block had planned to attend and then return to the White House with the president in the presidential limousine. But another commitment precluded Block from being there on that fateful day.
Our conversation with Block ranges into other political issues, too, including the future of the Republican Party, the influence of fringe groups, the attack on the Capitol, conflict between energy and the environment, immigration, and more.
If you enjoy contemporary political history, check this out. It's an inside story that you won't find anywhere except on Tempo and the Times.
So, take a listen here: