Michael Burns: Ex Malo Bonum — From Bad Comes Good

Wednesday, 07 Nov 2012 11:56 PM

By Michael Burns

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Being a moderate Republican can be very lonely. I supported Mitt Romney for the simple reason that I believed that he would accomplish more than our current president.

In truth, there is no real Republican Party today. Will Rogers' famous line, “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat,” better fits the fragmented state of today’s dysfunctional Republican family.

My father, who landed at Iwo Jima and recently passed away, used to tell me that if your point of view doesn’t upset the zealots on both sides of an issue, then it probably doesn’t come close to solving the problem at hand. I agree with him.

Women and Hispanics voted overwhelming for Obama’s second term, and they should have. I agree whole-heartedly with my dear friend Susan Collins of Maine who told The New York Times recently, “Republicans cannot win with just rural, white voters.” That said, neither Democrats nor our country can win without Democrats reaching across the aisle to actually get something done. And it better be soon.

Immigration

“Self-deportation” has always been a laughable concept and obviously not a solution. When I attended one of Gov. Romney’s exclusive LA fundraising dinners, he spoke both specifically and eloquently of a point system that could be a way for undocumented workers to stay in this country. But sadly, that dialogue disappeared during the campaign.

Our newly re-elected president now has a golden opportunity to get real immigration reform passed this term if he actually garners just a handful of key Republican lawmakers to help with that cause.

George W. Bush made a colossal mistake going back into Iraq, but he was incredibly forward thinking with his “DREAM Act” and his view toward embracing our nation’s undocumented immigrant population. Now is when the president and smart Republicans can band together and make something positive happen here.

Women's Rights

I do not know where a human life actually begins, but no sane person is ever “pro-abortion.” Although Paul Ryan’s sonogram heartbeat story resonated with me, I do not believe that we can completely deny a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

Instead, I would draw a line in the sand and give that right only in the first trimester. After that date, only a woman’s life being at stake would be a legally sanctioned justification to abort.

As a consequence, it must be our society’s obligation to find adoptive homes for these unwanted children after they are born and their mothers decide they cannot care for them.

Gay Rights

As far as I’m concerned, if gay people want to get married in a state that has deemed it legal, then they should be allowed to do so without federal interference.

How is it that the Republican Party ended up at war with gay people?

The solutions to our economic and geopolitical problems have nothing to do with an individual’s sexual identity.

Iran and Israel

Another terrible consequence of the Iraqi war was that we took out Iran’s “natural” enemy and thereby facililitated their development of nuclear weapons.

In truth, the United States today has very few reliable allies in the world, but Israel is certainly one of them. However, we must stop pretending that the Palestinians are going to settle the conflict without being granted real land.

In much the same way that our country helped launch Israel as it exists today, we must take the same leading position with the creation of the state of Palestine. And yes, we must help fund this initiative and lean on every capable country to do the same.

As part of this plan we must also stop supporting countries that don’t adhere to basic human rights. This list naturally includes a wide range of oil-rich empires that have simply exploited our country’s shortsighted and seemingly never-ending dependence on foreign fossil fuels.

An obvious partial solution here is one which our current president should not hesitate to implement by simply reversing his position on the Keystone Pipeline. Of course conservation and alternative energy policies must be implemented, and I for one believe there is a terrific opportunity in natural gas exploration and exploitation.

Both clear-thinking Republicans and Democrats want to protect the environment for future generations, but we must also focus on creating jobs and finding a way to move toward energy independence.

Entitlement Programs

Every person I count as a friend believes in a safety net. They also don’t believe in a free ride. That being said, the simple fact remains that minimum wage doesn’t cut it for most families, and a lot of people have quite logically come to believe they are better off living on government subsidies.

My simple, and yes, complicated, solution to improving this situation is a two-year matching program for anyone currently on subsidies who finds employment. If that person finds a job at minimum wage, the government will match that wage dollar for dollar over a specified time frame.

The incentive is obvious. If you work, you are rewarded. Of course, this isn’t perfect, but I believe it is a much more promising approach than launching Stimulus III which (as recent history indicates) would be both unmanageable and imprudent.

The status quo. This isn’t about the money, it’s about the money!

A talented director friend of mine and I had an interesting email exchange last week. I wrote to compliment him on his powerful Obama campaign video in which he had very effectively used regular people. In the course of our dialogue, it became clear that we both agreed on one thing for certain: the system is broken.

I believe that money is very much the root cause of this breakdown.

Although money will not necessarily get you elected (as evidenced by the Connecticut Senate race) it certainly influences the outcome of too many bills in Congress. Some independent-thinking friends of mine in New Mexico are spending real money coming up with a constitutional amendment to address this issue.

Although certainly an uphill battle, I applaud my pals for putting their money towards this extremely worthwhile cause.

Most of the reasonable people I know believe that we must do most of the following: Stop printing money, demand China play by the same rules the rest of the world does with regard to their currency, spend less on the military and demand accountability on what we do spend with enormous penalties for fraud, rethink Obamacare, which although passed with good intentions is too flawed to succeed.

A safety net needs to be established, but the system needs to be streamlined without the injection of undue government influence.

I had some fun just before the election and wore a Romney pin while dropping off my 5-year-old son Tiernan to his very Democratic leaning kindergarten. While discussing the upcoming elections the day before, he had announced to his class that although his dad was voting for Romney, he, his mother, and 4-year-old brother were “voting for Obama."

Upon hearing that story from my son's teacher, David, I knew in my heart the election was over. I had a similar sinking feeling when I actually took the time to read the Republican convention platform. I, like most of the Republicans I respect, agreed with little of it.

Why, then, I was asked as I walked away from Tiernan’s school, was I still a Republican? It was and is a very good question.

The two presidents I admire most are Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. Both were very different and both Republicans.

Like President Reagan, who I had the privilege of spending some time with as a young man, I believe the federal government is inherently inefficient, and the more money we give it to spend, the more money it will misspend. Again, I believe most of my friends from both parties can agree on that point.

The United States of America is the most generous country in the world filled with enormously magnanimous people. Whether one is a Democrat or Republican most of us who have the means would gladly pay more in taxes if it were shown that our income taxes were in fact being effectively invested in our country and for the purposes and citizens truly in need of those funds.

Doing that, in my view, is this second term president’s biggest challenge.


Michael Burns is vice-chairman of Lionsgate, one of the nation's leading entertainment companies.

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