Lee H. Hamilton is president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and director of The Center on Congress at Indiana University. Hamilton represented Indiana’s 9th congressional district for 34 years beginning January 1965. He served as chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, the Joint Economic Committee, and the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. As a member of the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee Hamilton was a primary draftsman of several House ethics reforms.
Since leaving the House, Hamilton has served on several commissions including serving as Vice-Chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission), co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, the National Commission on the War Powers of the President and the Congress, and the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. He is currently a member of the FBI Director’s Advisory Board, the Defense Secretary’s National Security Study Group, and the US Department of Homeland Security Task Force on Preventing the Entry of Weapons of Mass Effect on American Soil.
Well the question I would repeatedly get when I was conducting public meetings in Indiana was, “Where are the leaders?” It’s the question you just asked, and I think it’s on the minds of an awful lot of Americans. Where are the Lincolns, the Jeffersons, the Washingtons? I don’t know whether I know the answer to that, but I think part of the answer may be that the country is just a lot more complicated, a lot more difficult to govern today because of its size; because of its diversity; because of the acceleration, if you would, of life. And the political skill that is most needed in this presidential election or any political election, from my point of view, is the ability to build a consensus behind a solution. It’s not very hard, really, to walk into a room of people where you’re discussing a difficult issue and blow it apart. I know it’s not very hard because I’ve done it on a few occasions. What is really hard is to walk into that room and to build a consensus behind a solution to the problem that you’re talking about. That is political skill, and that is the skill most needed in this great, big, diverse, complicated country with all of these conflicting interests that we have. Consensus building – that’s what I look for in a politician.
Recorded on: 7/5/07