Cokie Roberts speaks at Ivy Tech, stresses need for political compromise

NPR/ABC news analyst featured at O’Bannon Institute

By Laura Lane 331-4362 |
April 28, 2012

When National Public Radio and ABC news analyst Cokie Roberts was a kid growing up in the hallways of Congress, Republicans and Democrats sometimes compromised on big issues, standing together occasionally as political foes united for a cause or for change.

When former Republican President Gerald Ford was U.S. House minority leader and her late father, Democrat Hale Boggs, was the majority leader, they were “best friends,” she said, who on shared cab rides to Capitol Hill discussed what they would later in the day argue about. There was give and take.

That art of political compromise, Roberts said Friday afternoon during a discussion at Ivy Tech Community College, has been lost.

“That’s just gone,” she said. “The ability to seek and find a consensus. That’s the most important thing politically. You can’t get anything done now. You can’t stand and say, ‘My way or the highway’ if you’re not the only person in the room.”

She said that during this presidential primary season, candidates are finding no common ground. When asked if politicians will ever step across party lines to join forces, she said voters will decide.

“In the end, voters will have to reward people who compromise,” Roberts said.

The Emmy Award winner and best-selling author sat on stage for an hour with Herald-Times Editor Bob Zaltsberg and answered questions on topics ranging from Newt Gingrich — she called his attempt to become “emperor” and his support from the religious right “mind-boggling” — to progression of the gay marriage movement. “The majority of people today support gay marriage,” she said, “and it’s because brave gay people said to their friends (who opposed it) that, ‘You’re talking about me.’”

The talk focused on politics. Roberts praised two Indiana lawmakers she has gotten to know in decades covering Washington. She called former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton “a truly wonderful member of Congress” whose word could be trusted, no matter what. And she said U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican facing his first primary opponent in more than three decades, has made “extraordinary contributions” and that the Senate would suffer with his loss.

Roberts, who said she “grew up in a household where politics was the family business,” never set out to follow the career she chose. But she fell into it when she met her husband of 45 years, Steve Roberts. “It never occurred to me to be a journalist,” she said. “Then I met my husband, who was always going to be a journalist. It was easier to switch than fight.”

She said it’s difficult to pinpoint her favorite interview. But easy to remember the worst. “Ross Perot,” she said, recalling a live 1992 Nightline show where Perot, who had unexpectedly pulled out of the presidential race, was the lone guest. “He kept getting testier and testier and testier.” She feared he might stand up and walk out, leaving her there alone. He stayed.

Later, in a phone conversation, Roberts accused Perot of being rude to her on the show. “And just to make the point,” she said, “he hung up.”

About the institute

Ivy Tech’s O’Bannon Institute for Community Service kicked off Wednesday with an awards program, followed by Thursday’s volunteer events and the annual fundraising dinner. This year’s featured speaker was Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will. Friday’s events included panel discussions and a conversation with political analyst Cokie Roberts.

Journalist Cokie Roberts talks with Judy O’Bannon before her appearance Friday at Ivy Tech Community College. Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times

Journalist Cokie Roberts talks about the current state of American politics during her appearance at Ivy Tech Community College. Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times

Copyright: 2012


About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.