In the early days of January hope abounds. Politicians will be wise. The media will be exacting and fair. Voters will wise up. Like New Year’s resolutions these hopes tend to dissolve by contact with reality, but for now let’s be optimistic. Four individuals have the potential to greatly impact politics and governance for the better, and at the risk of disappointment, let’s single them out and what they might aspire to do in 2014.
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.): In his contest for the Senate seat in Arkansas, Cotton may help swing the Senate to GOP control. Moreover, in his devotion to sober national security this Harvard alum, who chose to enlist in the Army, offers the promise of bold leadership in foreign affairs, where both Democrats and Republicans have lost their bearings in the last few years. His stalwart support for adequate spending and anti-terrorism tactics, and his understanding of America’s essential role in the world would enhance the Senate, help the GOP find its way and bolster our national security. Moreover, in an era in which “character” is used derisively ( as in “what a character he is”) he embodies the qualities of bravery, sacrifice and resoluteness we need and rarely get in political leaders.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.): We can’t expect Democrats to turn on Obamacare or Republicans to embrace tax hikes; some things are simply not in the realm of political reality. But a liberal Democratic senator has the potential to prevent the greatest national security catastrophe of our lifetime — the emergence of Iran as a nuclear power. Republicans alone cannot achieve this end. It will take staunch opposition to White House foolishness from Menendez and other key Democrats to prevent a rollback in sanctions and a rotten deal with Iran that allows it to quietly attain its desired nuclear weapons capacity. Through legislation, the bully pulpit and oversight, Menendez becomes arguably the most important figure in the effort to stiffen the president’s spine, convince the mullahs they must give up their ambitions or lose power and check Iran’s hegemonic plans.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): Like Menendez, Feinstein is a uniquely-situated Democrat capable of playing a critical role in national security policy. The president and many in Congress are all-too eager to jettison the National Security Agency surveillance program that has operated successfully and without abuse. Short of another, God forbid, 9/11 level terrorist attack, only Feinstein and other sensible Democrats can prevent — along with Republicans like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (Mich.) — the dismantling of the apparatus that provides us the “dots” to connect. She is a calm and consistent voice in favor of appropriate surveillance measures coupled with adequate oversight. She will need to muster all her authority and resilience to stand up to media, congressional and public hysterics who would return us to pre-9/11 anti-terror methods.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio): The speaker had a roller-coaster ride in 2013, averting the fiscal cliff, navigating through the government shutdown and steering Congress to a budget deal. He carries the hopes of a more constructive House GOP, a transformative immigration bill and even the potential for a unified GOP alternative to Obamacare. He’s got some wind at his back and renewed support from mainstream Republicans, business groups and his own members. If he uses the momentum wisely, 2013 could be a banner year for conservative reform.