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Column: Road Ahead Must Be Paved With Bipartisanship

This story was written by Tommy Owens, Daily Californian

The 44th president of the United States has a tough road ahead of him. Our country is in recession. The United States has about 144,000 servicemen and servicewomen in Iraq and 32,000 in Afghanistan. Americans are addicted to imported foreign oil. There remains a large rift between red states and blue states, and the level of political rancor is at an all-time high. Now is the time for bipartisan leadership to meet the challenges our nation currently faces.

Before we enter the realm of policy, the next president must heal the wounds created by this divisive election. He must assure Americans that he will govern the United States, not just those states he won on Tuesday. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both did so early in their careers, passing landmark legislation on defense readiness and education reform, respectively. President Bill Clinton, on the other hand, went ahead with only limited support for his universally-mandated health care program. This was defeated, and Republicans swept into Congress in 1994.

One area where a bipartisan consensus already exists is taxes. Americans and their representatives reject the idea that, in this turbulent economy, their taxes should be raised to redistribute their hard-earned wealth. The next president should heed this political reality. America's corporate tax rate, which currently stands at 35 percent, is the second-highest in the industrialized world. Perhaps it's time to cut this rate. If Americans are reaching into their savings and borrowing to pay for gasoline, tuition and food, they shouldn't be expected to pay more to Uncle Sam.

The next president should build on the recent security and political accomplishments in Iraq. Sectarian violence is down 90 percent. Violence overall has been reduced 70 percent. Inter-sectarian political dialogue is occurring at the local, regional and federal level. Now is not the time to set a timetable for withdrawal based on artificial constraints. We have now in Iraq the chance to aid the most potent security threat to Islamic extremism: moderate Muslims themselves.

Whether it's the elected Iraqis in Baghdad engaging in coalition-building and dialogue or Iraqis in the provinces fighting against Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Iraq War has been a major setback for Islamic extremism. Each of Iraq's 18 provinces will soon be under sovereign Iraqi control (13 are currently). But until then, Iraq needs a strong American president who will bring American troops home in victory only. Anything less is unacceptable to the Iraqis and to the servicemen and servicewomen who have heroically fought and sacrificed for this noble cause.

No discussion of the future of American policy would be complete without mentioning how to reduce the import and consumption of oil. Americans spend approximately $700 billion (roughly the equivalent of the Wall Street bailout) every year to import crude oil. This is unacceptable. We must engage in a two-pronged strategy-drill and invest-to solve this mammoth problem. To reduce gas prices in the short term, we should drill in ANWR and off the coasts. To find economically viable alternatives to gasoline-powered cars, Washington should invest in alternative fuels. America's energy crisis will only be resolved by a multifaceted solution enjoying bipartisan support.

The buzzword for Election 2008, much to the chagrin of Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain, was "change." Sen. Barack Obama and his well-oiled presidential campaign began using this term back in Iowa in January. Since then, it has caught fire. But we should be mindful that change for change's sake is not only reckless, it is counter to the Framer's intent of compromise. No permanent, lasting change will take place in Washington unless there is a consensus among Democrats and Republicans an between the president and Congress. Should the new president ignore this reality, his reelection campaign for 2012 will not begin well.

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