How about Alan Simpson for president?
The political season, silly or otherwise, heated up in August when the "Iowa straw poll" was held recently on a hot Saturday. Various political campaigns invite bands, hot dog vendors, entertainers and other attractions to Ames, Iowa, in an effort to get people to show up and vote for the campaign's candidate in an unrepresentative and unofficial beauty contest.Why anybody takes the straw poll seriously is beyond me, but when Michele Bachmann came in first, Ron Paul came in second and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty came in a distant third, Pawlenty dropped out of the race.That a serious politician would let the results of that poll determine whether he or she should stay or leave a presidential race is mysterious.On the same day as the meaningless Iowa business, Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced his entry into the presidential race, irritating some in Iowa because of his timing. On Aug. 17, he was in New Hampshire to address the "Politics & Eggs" breakfast held by the New England Council and New Hampshire Institute of Politics.The buzz in the room, number of attendees, lack of parking, amount of national press and presence of Massachusetts members of the New England Council who ventured across the border, made the Perry event appear to be one of great excitement as the crowd waited for the governor after breakfast.At least to this observer and those at his table, Perry has some problems. First, he looks like George W. Bush, he sounds like George W. Bush, he laughs like George W. Bush, he was George W. Bush's lieutenant governor and he has been governor of Texas.Hmmm ... a Republican Governor of Texas for President. Been there, done that.Even if you can get around the similarities to Bush -- and rumor has it that Governor Perry and President Bush are not friendly -- Perry's presentation was flat, lacked substance and sophistication. While he was somewhat better on questions and answers, he did not really answer questions or give the crowd much reason to vote for him.Of course, he is new at this presidential candidacy thing, and maybe he will get better at it. His poll numbers make him a serious candidate, at least so far.*****Perry's performance led a number at my table to discuss the presidential race and its frustrations.On the one hand, President Obama is faced with daunting challenges with the economy still in the doldrums, his inability to get the parties to work together and the feeling of many in both parties that he is doing a mediocre job, at best. Whether this is fair or unfair, that is the perception he seems to be facing.This may mean that he can be defeated in the election, although it is never a good idea to bet against an incumbent president, especially one with the fundraising ability of Barack Obama.But if he can be defeated, then Republicans have to come up with someone people want to vote for. If the aforementioned Perry is not it, who among the other candidates is? Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney have substance. The rest of the candidates seem to be from a fringe that will not attract the middle or be electable.One of the people at the table said, "Have you heard what Alan Simpson has been saying lately about things in Washington?"Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming, has been saying very intelligent and witty (as he often is) things about what is going on in Washington. President Obama made him the co-chair of a commission on the deficit this year, and it came up with a plan to deal with the debt and the deficit.Simpson is tall, thoughtful, distinguished, bright and well-educated. He speaks the truth unvarnished.Speaking of the Senate when he served, he said, "We didn't have a caucus to see that the major issue was how to screw the other side. The purpose of the caucus was how to make something work. Nowadays, caucuses gather together and say how can we screw the president? How can we screw the Democrats? How can we screw the Republicans?"He's called the gridlock in Washington "appalling" and "child-like," adding that the American people are "absolutely disgusted."Simpson also has said politicians aren't being completely truthful when they say that all of the popular programs can be preserved, taxes do not have to be raised and yet the budget mess can be solved. "You can't do it without touching Medicare, Medicaid and Defense," said Simpson. "Don't let them give you the garbage that we will throw our national security on the heap if we cut Defense."Simpson, who's 79, will not run for president. However, his wit, his erudition and his attitude about getting things done, coupled with his experience in actually figuring out how to do it, would be refreshing, compared to the stuff we are hearing in this campaign, so far. We need an Alan Simpson for President. I have not seen one yet.Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.