Cook discusses bipartisan relations at first Waggonner Center lecture

Sep 22, 2009 | General News

Charlie Cook, national political analyst, served as Louisiana Tech’s inaugural Waggonner Center lecturer Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Cook, publisher of The Cook Political Report and political analyst for the National Journal Group and for NBC News, emphasized the need for bipartisan politics, which the late U.S. Rep. Joe D. Waggonner, of which the Center is named after, exemplified.

“Waggonner represented the spirit of bipartisanship,” Cook said. “He understood that to get things done, you have to work with the other side.”

Cook added that now virtually no cooperation across party lines exists.

“You can change things,” he told the students in attendance for the lecture. “Somebody can come to Washington as a kid, and nothing can hold them back. The country needs new leaders to come in with the right goals.”

Cook discussed his thoughts on health care and the Obama administration, saying that while health care reform was necessary, this was not the right time for it as the economy is struggling.

“We do need to do something with health care reform,” Cook said. “It’s like (this administration) did an autopsy on the Clinton administration to see the mistakes.”

Some of these mistakes, Cook added, included creating a health care plan behind closed doors, which Congress opposed. The Obama administration, on the other hand, decided that if Congress had a hand in developing the details, Congress would be less likely to “drop it like a hot potato.”

“What you saw happen was his numbers in strength and leadership went down in the polls,” Cook said. “In going out of their way not to make the same mistakes as the Clinton administration, they made a whole new set of mistakes.”

Officially called the Joe. D. Waggonner Center for Bipartisan Politics and Public Policy, the center is located in the Department of Social Sciences and embraces and embodies bipartisanship in hopes to promote bipartisanship among college students, said Vice President for Academic Affairs Ken Rea.

“The center is devoted to working with students and preparing them to be productive, informed and active citizens so they can preserve this great democracy we have, and bipartisanship is one of the keys to do that,” Rea said.

Waggonner served as the United States congressman from Louisiana’s Fourth Congressional District from 1961 to 1978. During his years of public service, Waggonner worked to create a spirit of bipartisanship in the House of Representatives and left behind a significant legacy due to his unique approach to public policy. Tech houses a collection of his papers and photographs, which are now being digitized so they can be available for the public to view online.

“It’s insufficient to just disagree with someone,” Cook said regarding bipartisanship. “If you want, you can go through the entire day just listening to liberal propaganda or conservative propaganda and work yourself into a frenzy. And the truth is somewhere in-between. You’re never going to get it by just listening to one side.

“It’s insufficient to just disagree with someone. Everything’s about motives. What’s wrong with just having a disagreement of opinion, without someone having to be evil?”

Written by Judith Roberts