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Obama Adviser Calls For 'new' New Deal At U. Iowa

This story was written by Shawn Gude, The Daily Iowan

At this point, it's almost a clich: a "new" New Deal.

David Bonior, a former Democratic U.S. representative and member of President-elect Barack Obama's economic transition team, championed such a policy at a Monday night lecture at the University of Iowa Shambaugh Auditorium.

Drawing parallels between the Great Depression and the current tanking economy, he called for a more proactive government with bold initiatives.

Green jobs must be created, labor laws must be strengthened, and health care must be more readily available, Bonior told a crowd of around 140 people. And oversight and transparency in past and future bailout packages is paramount as well, he argued.

Former President Franklin Roosevelt "wasn't interested in baby steps, he wasn't interested in triangulation," said Bonior, taking a shot at former President Bill Clinton. "He was interested in going at the problems as they existed and to pour his heart and soul into making them change."

Despite being rumored to be Obama's secretary of Labor, Bonior said he has no interest in the position.

"I've basically told people to remove my name from being bandied around because that's not what I want to do with my life for the next four years," Bonior said after the event.

The former Democratic whip also compared Obama and Roosevelt, who he said were both adept orators.

Now, he said the president-elect must use "his voice like FDR did to get us out of this mess.

"He is the embodiment, personally, of the hopes and dreams of literally billions of people on this planet today," said Bonior, who was the campaign manager for John Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign.

To enact such sweeping changes, a sustained Democratic majority in Congress is likely needed. Last week's election put them closer to that - Democrats picked up additional seats in both the House and Senate. As of Monday night, Democrats had 57 seats in the Senate and 255 in the House.

But UI political-science Associate Professor Cary Covington contended those gains probably won't be permanent, pointing to historic norms.

Roosevelt and Republican George W. Bush are the only presidents in the last century to preside over mid-term seat pickups for their respective parties: the former in 1934 and the latter in 2002.

Johnson County Republican Chairman Bill Keettel also noted the historic precedents and said "a lot depends on whether the Democratic Party plays fair or not." He contended that Democrats may change right-to-work and broadcast laws to serve their political interests.

Another difference-maker: Post-census redistricting in 2010 will alter the political landscape. Fast-growing states will receive more House seats, and each parties' ability to appeal to new constituencies is important.

The Democrats' ability to retain their seats in the next mid-term election is largely dependent on their economic performance, Covington said.

A still-stagnant economy could lead to GOP seat gains, he said. In contrast, an improved economic environment would bode well for Democrats.

But he added a caveat: "If we have another 9/11, all bets are off."

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