WASHINGTON -- Indiana's GOP Senate primary winner Richard Mourdock represents what's wrong with American politics these days, former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday, arguing that Republicans are too "scared" to compromise.
Clinton, speaking at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s Fiscal Summit, advocated for Democrats and Republicans to come together and work on a big-picture plan to deal with debt and deficits. Asked if Washington could do that, Clinton said it was unlikely until after the elections.
"The evidence is that the Republicans will be scared to do it after what happened to Sen. [Richard] Lugar," Clinton said, referencing the six-term Indiana senator Mourdock defeated last week. "We will see, with two or three other primaries, what happens. Obviously, I think there should be a big, bipartisan coalition for this. We may just have to wait till the election is over."
Mourdock, the state Treasurer who was enthusiastically backed by Tea Party groups, thumped Lugar in the primary, running on a promise to avoid compromising with Democrats.
“The Republican position that tends to prevail in these primaries was expressed by the gentleman who beat Sen. Lugar, who said, 'I’m just against compromise, we need to stop it, it’s weak, it’s foolish, our views are irreconcilable, we have to force the American people to choose which one of us is right' -- if that prevails, we’re toast. We’ll look like a bush-league country.”
Clinton said his side shares blame for the gridlock in Washington, but predicted that enough Democrats would be willing to reform some of their cherished programs for the sake of making progress. He also said voters share blame for political gridlock because they elected the Tea Party-backed freshmen who ran promising to avoid compromise.
"They go around telling everybody how sorry these politicians are, and they voted for them," Clinton said, noting that the freshman members of Congress are likely confused by their record-low approval ratings. "They must be bewildered. All they're doing is what they promised to do when they won that overwhelming victory. It is not like they did not tell everybody what they were going to do."
Still, Clinton argued that the nation needs an approach that values two sides coming together, rather than one that attempts to pull everyone to one side. Mourdock, for example, has said he believes the country is as divided as it was before the Civil War.
"The magnets can pull the middle apart," Clinton said. "We need a magnet in the middle and it is the process, it is the idea that a compromise is an honorable thing."
Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.