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Lee Hamilton: Find Facts Of Capitol Insurrection; Work Together To Solve Problems

lee hamilton

(Tyler Lake, WTIU/WFIU News)

Lee Hamilton is aware of the concerns about the nation’s political system, is no fan of the filibuster, and believes the commission that began investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol Building is a good way to pursue the facts of what happened that day.

The 17-term Indiana congressman and highly decorated Hoosier statesman who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 shared thoughts on those issues and more in an address Tuesday to the Bloomington Rotary Club over Zoom.

He said it’s important to get to the bottom of what precipitated the attack on the Capitol, an event he said shook him deeply.

“That was a very dark day in the history of our country,” he said. “I personally remember how strongly it hit me when I saw these people coming into the Capitol Building.”

It was the building in which he’d worked for 34 years.

LISTEN: Pro-Trump Mob Breaches Capitol Hill, Biden Confirmed Thursday

He said it angered him to see people putting their feet up on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s desk, breaking a window to get into the chamber and otherwise violating the decorum of the Capitol.

Hamilton was vice chairman of the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He said commissions like that one and the Jan. 6 commission are vital in gathering the facts and can protect the nation from future similar events.

“You must have a consensus that we’re going to try to understand as best we can the history of our country,” he said.

A national security expert who chaired the House Intelligence Committee while in Congress, Hamilton said he worries less about external foes than our internal problems. And he thinks political leaders willing to work together would have a much better chance at solving those problems than our current deeply divided parties.

“If you’re going to do anything that’s sustainable, that’s going to last, it’s not going to be done by doing it yourself,” he said. “Every advance I can think of for the country during my time that has moved us forward has been bipartisan.”

That doesn’t mean 50-50 compromise, he said, but that both sides of the political aisle must be represented.

He returned time and again to his belief everyone has a role to play in making their communities and their nation better. He said he’s distressed by what he sees as attempts to keep people from voting.

“To see the number of people who work hard to deny the vote to other people … I think that’s not in accord with the principles of our nation,” he said. “This nation is stronger when every person votes …

“We all are in this together. The country will succeed to the extent that we work with one another to attack our problems.”

He said representative democracy is still the best form of government in the world. He was reluctant to individually target politicians who tear down the system, but stressed his belief that it remains strong.

“We have to have confidence in the system,” he said. “There are plenty of reasons to be discouraged about the way representative democracy works, but the fact of the matter is, we don’t have an alternative. In our system, it’s representative democracy or chaos. I choose representative democracy.”

He encouraged President Joe Biden to use the bully pulpit to lay out a program about what he thinks can be done to improve our economy, our political system, our foreign policy and the lives of everyone. He called it “a chief responsibility and a heavy burden” of the presidency. He said he worked closely with Biden while they served together in Congress but has lost touch with the president. Still, he said, he takes his responsibility seriously to let the president know what he thinks should be done to make the country better, stronger, more prosperous and more free. He encouraged everyone to find ways to do that in their individual communities.

He said he does not like to see the use of the filibuster in the Senate, which requires a 60-vote threshold to get anything passed.

“It gets in the way of democracy,” he said. “If it were up to me, I would vote to abolish it.”

He said he knows that’s not his decision to make, but he would support efforts to restrain the filibuster.

“I believe it’s anti-democratic,” he said. He said he wants questions to get put to a vote and progress to be made.

Hamilton currently serves as a Distinguished Scholar in the School of Global and International Studies and as a Professor of Practice in the O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. His official IU bio also lists him as a member of the President’s Homeland Security Advisory Council.

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