After 34 years in Congress as a Democratic from Indiana and 12 more as the head of the Wilson Center in Washington, Lee Hamilton is going home. His retirement is, many say, Washington’s loss. He’s one of what seem to be a shrinking number of people in public life who know how to bridge the partisan divide to solve to complex problems. Congressman Lee Hamilton, former Chair House Foreign Relations Committee, Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission talks about what’s wrong with Washington and how we can fix it.


  • Lee Hamilton President and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. Co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group. He was a congressman representing Indiana's Ninth District from 1965 to 1999.


  • 10:06:54

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Lee Hamilton, President of the Wilson Center, has been in Washington for a very long time, nearly 50 years. He served in Congress from 1965 to 1999 as a Democrat from Indiana. He has been a key player in some of the nation's most important investigations, including the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Group. But Lee Hamilton has decided to head home. He joins me from a studio at the Wilson Center to talk about lessons learned from his years in Washington and his perspective on the partisan politics of today. And, of course, you are invited to be part of the program. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to Feel -- pardon me -- free to join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning, sir. It's so good to have you.

  • 10:08:25

    CONGRESSMAN LEE HAMILTONThank you very much, Diane. I'm privileged to be with you this morning.

  • 10:08:30

    REHMThank you. You know, I was reading through all of your responsibilities and credits. And I thought, you know, if I start reading all of those, it's going to take up most of the program. You are indeed a busy man.

  • 10:08:51

    HAMILTONOh, I'd skip reading those, Diane. That's just a politician's resume.

  • 10:08:57

    REHMBut here's what I want to go to, not too long ago, quoting from Abraham Lincoln, you said that what worries you most is whether this nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. How worried are you?

  • 10:09:24

    HAMILTONWell, I don't lose sleep over it, Diane, but I am concerned deeply about the future of my country. What impresses me, I think, is that we are confronted with a large number of very, very difficult problems. They come at us with great rapidity and great complexity. And whether or not the system -- the constitutional system -- we have can meet these challenges, I think, should be a deep concern to all Americans. When Lincoln made those words at Gettysburg, of course, the country was deeply divided. But the politicians of that day dealt with a relatively small number of issues, four or five, six or so during their lifetime. What happens today to a politician is that they have to deal with a very large number of issues of enormous complexity, and I don't think it's a given. I don't think it's written in the stars that we will always survive and prosper.

  • 10:10:37

    REHMOf course, domestically, we are worried about capitalism, even at its very basic level. What is your view as to how capitalism is operating today, whether the system still proves to be a valid one in its present configuration?

  • 10:11:07

    HAMILTONWell, I believe in the capitalist system. I believe in market economics. I believe it has served this nation very well. Now, there isn't any doubt that we've been through a very rough patch. And because of that, many countries, many thinkers around the world are challenging the capitalist system, as your question implies. And so we find others asking whether or not our system of market -- free markets, free trade capitalism, as you describe it -- works and is the model to be followed around the world. I don't think there's any doubt that we will stay with our model.

  • 10:11:50

    HAMILTONMost Americans have confidence in it. Most Americans recognize that we've come through a very difficult period. But their underlying confidence in capitalism remains, and so does mine. But we have to make our case more strongly. We have to improve the weaknesses, if you would, of the capitalist system -- certainly exploited strengths -- but also make the case for capitalism as opposed to -- I think, probably the major challenge from China -- a kind of a state-sponsored capitalism, or however you may describe it, but a very different model than our own.

  • 10:12:33

    REHMBut what would you cite as the weaknesses of our own capitalist system?

  • 10:12:42

    HAMILTONWell, I think we've seen them in the past few years. We are at a place in our country where we are consuming far more than we're producing. We have seen fundamental problems in our financial institutions. We have seen a lot of excesses in the system, which drove us to a very, very deep recession. Capitalism is not a perfect system. It's the best we know, but we certainly have to work to improve its functioning.

  • 10:13:20

    REHMDo you see corrections on the horizon?

  • 10:13:26

    HAMILTONI think we've already taken some steps to correct it, and I think you're beginning now to see some genuine recovery. The country remains deeply concerned because we're not seeing that recovery in probably the most important measure -- at least for ordinary Americans of economic performance -- the employment rate. But, otherwise, I think we are beginning to see the capitalist system rebound. And, of course, all of us hope that that will continue.

  • 10:13:56

    REHMLee Hamilton, he's currently president at the Wilson Center. After nearly 50 years, he's going home to Indiana, and we have him as our guest this morning. Do join us, 800-433-8850. A long time ago, Congressman Hamilton, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us of the strength of the military industrial complex. Do you have the same concerns today?

  • 10:14:39

    HAMILTONWell, I'm not enough of a historian to know exactly what Eisenhower had in mind, but I do think Americans have enormous confidence in our military power, and maybe too much confidence. I don't want to be misunderstood there. The military strength of our nation is very, very important, and the military almost always has a important role in resolving conflict. But I also think that if we've learned much of anything these days, we have learned that military power in and of itself is not sufficient and that, though it's important, it can not resolve all of the problems we confront in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. The balance we have to strike, I believe, is to make sure that we have sufficient military power, certainly to defend our nation and our people. But we also have to strengthen the political, diplomatic and economic tools in our arsenal, so that we can get better results from American foreign policy.

  • 10:15:51

    REHMDo you have concerns about the U.S. continuing to conduct its operations in Afghanistan? Or do you think we ought to be getting out?

  • 10:16:11

    HAMILTONI believe the United States should begin a responsible exit policy from Afghanistan. I think the debate will be over what constitutes responsible. I do not think in Afghanistan that we will be increasing numbers of our military forces in the months ahead. I think we do have obligations in Afghanistan, which we have built up over a period of years, so I want us to begin an exit policy. Now, what does that mean? I am not sure I can spell it out in detail. You will continue to have to have robust military action for a period of time, I think, without any doubt. We must make very clear what are our objectives are in Afghanistan, so far as I am concerned. The major objective is to be sure that no one, the Taliban or al-Qaida or anyone else, can use Afghanistan as a base from which to plan attacks on the United States or our friends and allies.

  • 10:17:21

    HAMILTONI do think we must not become engulfed in nation building. I do not think it's possible for the United Stated to change the fundamental nature of Afghanistan in a matter of a few more years. We have to recognize our limitations, so we will do what we can. We will try to leave behind us a reasonable stability. I expect Americans to be committed there for some months, maybe even years, to come, but I also expect that we will be declining in our commitment. It's very hard for me to believe that we will be spending the amounts of money we're now spending, committing the number of troops we're now committing in Afghanistan, five, 10 years from now. I think we're -- the other part of it...

  • 10:18:16

    REHMFormer Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton, currently president of the Wilson Center. We'll take just a short break. When we come back, we'll take some of your calls. Stay with us.

  • 10:20:03

    REHMAnd welcome back. Former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton joins me from the Wilson Center here in Washington, which he directs. And if you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850, as he talks about his 50 years here in Washington before he heads back to his home in Indiana. Congressman Hamilton, we have an e-mail from Sarah in Huntsville, Ala. She says that you said you thought that the 9/11 Commission was set up to fail. She wants to know what you meant by that and how much faith you have in the reliability of the 9/11 Commission report.

  • 10:21:05

    HAMILTONTom Kean and I -- Tom was the chairman, I was the vice-chairman of the Commission -- looked at the circumstances that surrounded us as we began to investigate 9/11. And I think he and I both said on occasion that we were set up to fail. By that we meant that the original funding for the Commission was very, very modest -- I think about $3 million. The Commission began its work in an extremely partisan period when presidential campaigns were -- political campaigns were under full speed. There were -- so a very difficult political environment for us, and, of course, an enormous amount of interest in everything that we did. So we did not see the most favorable circumstances for an investigation.

  • 10:22:03

    HAMILTONThe second question was whether or not we had faith in reliability in the report. We were asked to do two things by statute. One was to tell the story of 9/11. We did that. I think the basic story that we set out in the Commission report has been largely -- by no means unanimously -- accepted. In any event, it has become part of the historical record, and I think people will have to refer to it in the years ahead as a starting point to look at 9/11. The second mandate was to make recommendations. We did that, made a good many of them. We think that about 80 percent of them have been enacted either in whole or in part. There are some big gaps. Some of our recommendations were flatly rejected, but we had good cooperation from President Bush, from the United States Congress. And many, many of the recommendations were enacted.

  • 10:23:07

    REHMWhat would you have wanted the 9/11 Commission to have accomplished that it was unable to do?

  • 10:23:20

    HAMILTONThere are some gaps. We still have not solved the problem completely of communications among the various first responders at the scene of the disaster. Progress has been made, but I don't think we're there yet. Now, this is a no-brainer. The fire, the police, the public health people all have to be able to talk with one another, and that's fundamental. And we're not where we ought to be there. Secondly, I do not think we have solved the problem entirely of the command and control. Once a disaster strikes, you have to have someone in charge. They have to make hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions immediately. It's a politically delicate question of who's in charge.

  • 10:24:07


  • 10:24:08

    HAMILTONWe've made progress there, but we're not there. And, third, I just mention quickly, we recommended major changes in congressional oversight of intelligence. Modest progress has been there -- been made there, but not sufficient.

  • 10:24:24

    REHMAnd here is a message from Facebook from John, who says, "I live in the congressman's congressional district. Once you meet the man, it isn't tough to see why he was able to maintain his office in a primarily Republican area of the state for so long. He actually worked for the people and not for himself -- a true statement." And that...

  • 10:25:01


  • 10:25:01

    REHM...takes me to the question of what you mean when you say that the Congress and the president need to keep the country first in mind.

  • 10:25:18

    HAMILTONDiane, what strikes me is the complexity of governing this country and how to make it work. I therefore have a lot of sympathy with those who wrestle with the problem of making it work. I think what's fundamentally is needed is an attitudinal change that puts the priority of making this country work ahead of partisan concerns and personal concerns. And if that attitude is adopted, then I think we are better positioned to reach agreement on some of these very difficult issues that confront us. We are all Americans first. We want -- we love this country. We want it to work. We recognize it's being challenged by very formidable problems. We recognize there are centrifugal forces that tend to divide us, and that we have to work to promote the direction and success of the country and to strive for a more perfect union.

  • 10:26:35

    REHMHere is an e-mail from Jim, who's in Cincinnati, Ohio, who says, "I join the millions who are grateful for Mr. Hamilton's real dedication to public service. However, as statesmen such as Mr. Hamilton leave public service, I'm truly concerned about the fate of America going forward. We don't seem to have enough people, especially in the legislative branch, who have the intellectual capacity to recognize the challenges our country now faces or the serious motivation to take the actions necessary to address these challenges. What does Mr. Hamilton see for the future of America in this hopeless environment?"

  • 10:27:36

    HAMILTONWell, Diane, first I appreciate the kind sentiments expressed by John and by Jim. I'm not able to prognosticate the future. In a sense, it doesn't really matter what I think, whether I'm optimistic or pessimistic. What does matter is that each one of us see our own personal duty. We have to try, each one of us, to accept in our lives some responsibility for making our community, our neighborhood, our state, our country better. Most of us are not going to have a chance to participate in decisions on war and peace or on whether or not you save Social Security or save the country from fiscal extravagance.

  • 10:28:28

    HAMILTONBut all of us, I think, can make an improvement in our community, and that's really what is required of us -- it seems to me -- so far as public service is concerned. Can we make it safer, the railroad crossing? Can we make it easier for a handicapped person to move around? Can we make sure a talented person goes to medical school? These are all significant victories in our democracy, and they're terribly important. Now, fortunately, most Americans, not all, accept that responsibility. Freedom brings with it a number of responsibilities, and we have to make sure more citizens accept that responsibility.

  • 10:29:16

    REHMAnd can...

  • 10:29:16

    HAMILTONWho knows where we'll be 10 or 20, 30 years from now? I certainly don't.

  • 10:29:20

    REHMAnd, indeed, getting out there and voting is one of those responsibilities. You know, when you came to Washington as the freshman congressman from Indiana, you've said it was plenty partisan but not bitter. Why has it become so bitter? What's happened?

  • 10:29:48

    HAMILTONWell, first, let me say about your comment about voting, it certainly is our responsibility, but I don't think it's enough. I think the key thing is to get involved in your community to try to make it better. And, now, the country's partisanship, everybody is talking about that now. I think there are multiple causes of it. Some of it is the country is very evenly divided in a political sense. The gerrymandering of congressional districts, I think, has exacerbated the problem by increasing strong proponents of the far left or the far right, reducing the number of so-called moderates in the Congress.

  • 10:30:35

    HAMILTONI think the media has not helped all that much because they tend to exacerbate differences and not let the politicians search for common ground. I think the great debate in the country over religious values and traditional values has sharpened the debate. I think money has played a huge role in pushing politics in a direction that concerns me. So there are many, many causes of this partisanship. Now, let me emphasize, Diane, that I'm not opposed to partisanship. I think it's necessary for our country. After all, we have tough problems, and we're going to have differences of views. What we have to try to reduce is excessive or mean-spirited partisanship, which really does poison the well and make the primary job of a politician, which is to build consensus behind a solution, all that more difficult.

  • 10:31:42

    REHMWe've had a number of e-mails asking about your opinion as to whether there is a corrosive influence by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and others on the national discourse and the role of Fox News.

  • 10:32:04

    HAMILTONWell, I'm not going to point the finger at anyone personally. To be blunt about it, I don't really know all that much about the views of those gentlemen. I hear it indirectly. I don't listen to them directly, which I should do if I'm going to be critical of them. But I am concerned about the people who enter our political debate really wanting to tear down someone else rather than to address problems on the merits. I want the attitude of people in this great dialogue of democracy to be constructive, to be serious, to be civil. We all recognize we have deep differences of opinion, but what we have to drive to achieve is to overcome those differences…

  • 10:32:56


  • 10:32:57

    HAMILTON…and build consensus.

  • 10:32:58

    REHMFormer Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And we'll open the phones now. First, to Christine, who's in Syracuse, Ind. Good morning to you.

  • 10:33:18

    CHRISTINEGood morning, Diane. It's a pleasure to talk to Congressman Hamilton. Indiana has a history of wonderful representative, Mr. Roemer, who served on the 9/11 Commission, and Dick Lugar, who is probably the last middle-of-the-road Republican we have. My question is, in the district I live in -- I live in the northern part of the state -- right now, we have two candidates. I live right on the borderline where we have representatives running in both elections. We have what they call tea baggers. These -- the particular -- we have a man and a woman, and they're both running to eliminate amendments in the Constitution. The one young lady wishes to privatize Social Security. They have voted -- they're both state representatives, by the way. And they both voted not only to sell the assets of the state of Indiana, the toll road to get the revenue, which is now a new thing because no one operates businesses anymore. But, you know, they voted for things like being able to bring your gun to work and outlandish things. And it just seems to me that the populist background that these people have, to me, is quite frightening.

  • 10:34:41

    REHMAll right. Congressman Hamilton.

  • 10:34:44

    HAMILTONWell, Christine has raised a question that I thought might come up, and that's with regard to the tea baggers in various positions. I've kind of struggled with that myself. I don't think I could articulate for you this morning the position of tea baggers as a whole. I know they're against the deficit. I know they're against spending. I know they have a deep dissatisfaction with the performance of government. I'm not sure all of that is distinctive. There are many people who feel that way today. But, look, I just think you have to sort through these issues. They are legitimate.

  • 10:35:22

    HAMILTONThey are issues that the American people need to address. And you have to thrash these things out in the dialogue of democracy, and I want that dialogue to be as inclusive as possible. I do not personally favor privatizing Social Security. I do not think, in general, it would be good to have people bring guns into the workplace. But these are decisions that have to be made in the body politic at the state or local level. And we have to get into the fray and make our case as strongly as we can and elect the people who we think reflect our views as best we can. That's all part of this very robust democracy that we have. I don't fall off my chair if someone disagrees with me on a particular topic. I do want to examine their position, ask questions about it. I come to my own conclusions, and I'm quite willing to state those conclusions. But we have to respect one another in this debate.

  • 10:36:32

    REHMBut haven't you become a rare bird in that kind of debate, that is, listening to the other side?

  • 10:36:45

    HAMILTONWell, I hope not. You've got to keep in mind, Diane, we're right in the middle of a very intense political campaign. Partisanship is at its peak. And so we have that kind of front and center as we look at the environment today.

  • 10:37:00

    REHMBut, you know, we've been in this kind of political divide ever since President Obama came into office. Right from the beginning, there seemed to be that no-holds-barred kind of rhetoric.

  • 10:37:21

    HAMILTONI think the partisan rhetoric has been very strong, and that simply has to be thrashed out.

  • 10:37:29

    REHMAll right. We'll take just a short break. More of your calls, comments, when we come back.

  • 10:40:03

    REHMAnd welcome back to our conversation with former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton. After 50 years in Washington, he is heading back home. And this is your chance to talk directly with him. Let's take a call from Travatini (sp?) in McLean, Va. Good morning to you.

  • 10:40:30

    TRAVATINIGood morning, my dear. I am talking to the most favorite, wonderful human being that I know, you and my leader...

  • 10:40:42

    REHMThank you.

  • 10:40:42

    TRAVATINI...Congress Hamilton.

  • 10:40:44


  • 10:40:44

    TRAVATINII want to see if it would benefit from your great experience. During Eisenhower time -- I'm glad you mentioned him -- he tried to find balance, you know, in the Middle East situation. 'Cause this Middle East situation, it scare me right now, and I'm very worried. He tried to find good balance, you know, in the Middle East when he send the British and the French and Israelis attack against Egypt of '56, if I remember correctly. And in that moment, you know, that we have almost 100 percent of the Arab and the Muslim world, which is maybe 57 country in our side. And it was good chance back then for United States policy to reach the peace, you know, between the Israelis and the Arab. And for 60 years now after, you know, Eisenhower, we couldn't reach that peace. And the situation in Middle East about to blow up in the top of every valley, and it's -- nobody going to be a winner.

  • 10:41:59

    REHMTravatini, I need your question.

  • 10:42:01

    TRAVATINII'm sorry?

  • 10:42:03

    REHMPlease give me your question, Travatini.

  • 10:42:06

    TRAVATINIMy question to my wonderful leader, what is the -- I want to benefit from his wisdom before he go home. You know, how can we be, you know, a great (sounds like) broker for this problem? How can we fix it, you know? And because 60 years of failure -- you know, we're not doing good at all.

  • 10:42:33

    REHMCongressman Hamilton.

  • 10:42:35

    HAMILTONWell, very clearly, this has been of enormous challenge to American presidents and policymakers over that 60-year period. We have to look at the situation today. The parties did begin, have now suspended talks with regard to reaching a settlement there. The United States has to do all it can to facilitate an agreement. I think all of us would prefer if the Israelis and the Palestinians or the Arab communities would reach a settlement. My own view is that that will not happen. And I do not think it will happen without forceful United States' participation.

  • 10:43:21

    HAMILTONAt some point, I believe it will be necessary for the president to come in -- with the support of the European community, with support of the United Nations, with the support of many others across the world -- with a proposal dealing with the final settlement issues. We should not impose that settlement, but we should make known what our preference is to try to reach an agreement. And I'm talking about the very, very difficult problems of the borders, of the future of Jerusalem, of the right of return of the Palestinians and all of the other things that have hung us up for so long. I think that that will be the only way to move it forward. Whether it will be successful, I don't know. But I have not sustained my confidence that the parties themselves can reach an agreement.

  • 10:44:19

    REHMAnd here's another e-mail going back to the 9/11 report which highlighted secure borders and asks, "Why is politics getting in the way of this? How would you rate as a percentage the Department of Homeland Security on a zero to 100 percent performance?"

  • 10:44:50

    HAMILTONWell, on the question of secure borders, I think considerable progress has been made. If you look at the most recent statistics, the number of illegal immigrants coming across has been substantially reduced. I don't want to suggest by my answer that we've secured our borders completely. We have not. It's a terribly long, difficult border to secure, but I do believe very substantial progress has been made in improving the border situation.

  • 10:45:22

    HAMILTONNow, the question of how DHS has performed, I don't know that I'm in a position to judge it. It's a new department, or at least relatively new, by federal government standards. It has had, I think, quite able leadership overall in both Republican and Democratic administrations. It is wrestling with really difficult problems of making the American people more secure. And I give it pretty good marks with regard to their efforts to secure the homeland. Now, there are formidable problems that remain. I'm not going to try to give a numerical figure as to where they stand because I don't feel I have that broad knowledge or judgment about the Department of Homeland Security. But I do think that considerable progress has been made in making the American people more secure than they were on 9/11, not enough -- from my standpoint as I indicated a little earlier in our discussion -- but a lot of progress has been made. We've just got to continue it. And all of this has to be said with the caveat that perfect security is not going to be possible.

  • 10:46:34

    REHMAnd here's an e-mail from Judy who says, "How is it possible to reach consensus or find compromise when each of the parties is working from a different set of facts?" She goes on to say, "This is what scares me the most." And I must say, when you hear different versions of exactly what president Obama's healthcare bill will do, you have to come to that realization that there do seem to be different facts working out there, Congressman.

  • 10:47:24

    HAMILTONNobody said representative democracy was easy, and building consensus is the hardest job that I know of in politics. And our politicians need to be given the flexibility to try to find consensus. Now, the emphasis on different facts struck me in the question. Tom Kean and I and other members of the 9/11 Commission used to kind of have a in-house joke. Every problem would come up. Tom and I would turn to the staff and say, what are the facts? We must have said that a thousand times in the course of our discussions. We must try to begin the consensus-building process by reaching agreement on the facts.

  • 10:48:14

    HAMILTONI think, often times, we wade into the political debate on just a kind of a ideological basis, a personal basis of accusing the other side of all kinds of bad motives. The beginning point in building consensus is to find out what the facts are. Facts are not Republican. They are not Democrat. Facts are facts. And that is the first step and, in many ways, the most important step. Now, even if you all agree on the facts, it does not mean you all agree on the conclusions and the recommendations, but it certainly makes that process and that goal of consensus easier to reach. We also have to acknowledge that there are some problems we're not going to solve, and we're not going to solve them immediately. But what is important is that in that process you conduct it in such a way that you do not destroy the prospects of reaching an agreement in the future, that you not poison the well, that you not make charges and countercharges that make it exceedingly difficult for people to come together.

  • 10:49:37

    HAMILTONSo getting the facts straight is important. It may not be enough, but it's a huge step forward. Recognize that a -- efforts have to be made to build consensus. You're not always going to be successful at that, but the way in which you end up disagreeing makes a very, very big difference with regard to your ability to solve the problem down the road.

  • 10:50:03

    REHMFormer Congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana. And you're listening to the "The Diane Rehm Show." And let's take another call. This from Hartland, Vt. Good morning, Derek. You're on the air.

  • 10:50:24

    DEREKYes, good morning.

  • 10:50:26

    REHMGood morning, sir.

  • 10:50:27

    DEREKI have just a couple of quick points, and then...

  • 10:50:30


  • 10:50:30

    DEREKOne is that the idea of staying or thinking about China as being this tremendous evil that's taking over the world kind of reminds me of the time -- I believe it was in the '80s -- where Japan was going to do the same thing, and so that -- although there certainly is competition now, there's no guarantee for China. The second thing is that corporations now are becoming increasingly internationalized and -- whereas in former times, we believed in -- with some, you know, some good reasons that they were American corporations. Now, lots of people who are running them and involved in them are from different -- lots of different parts of the world. And as a consequence, they have a very different value and a very different view of the United States. And the final thing is that I think a lot of corporations now are waiting and have been waiting to do hiring until after the election. And the purpose is to obviously undermine regulation and also try to overturn the healthcare.

  • 10:51:46

    REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for your call. Congressman Hamilton, on China, on corporations, on hiring -- any or all of the above.

  • 10:51:59

    HAMILTONWell, first of all, on China, we've had a big debate for years -- decades, really -- on China. The dividing line has been between those who favor engagement and those who favor confrontation. American presidents almost unanimously -- of varying degrees, of course -- have favored engagement. I think the U.S.-China relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world. I think what happens to China in the years ahead will have a major impact on the 21st century, and so this is a relationship that we simply have to get right.

  • 10:52:34

    HAMILTONThere are really big differences between the United States and China. They're not going to be easily resolved, but I do think we have to try to cooperate and engage. But at times, we're going to have to use the stick as well as the carrot in order to assert our national interest -- a very, very difficult relationship. The caller is absolutely right, of course, about the nature of corporations today. They are very big. Many of them, they are very international, very sophisticated, have a lot of very able people working for them.

  • 10:53:05

    HAMILTONAnd we would like to see those corporations creating more jobs here at home, but they're operating in a very competitive environment, a globalized environment. So we simply have to keep working at this problem of strengthening American manufacturing and American services and be prepared to do the kinds of things that are necessary to make America more competitive. First and foremost, in all of that, has to be, improve the quality of the American workforce through education and training.

  • 10:53:42

    REHMHere is an e-mail in from a listener in Indianapolis who says, "The Founding Fathers devised brilliant checks in our Constitution to threats of tyranny and theocracy. However, they seemed to have a blind spot where the threat of greed is concerned. Do you think unchecked greed will be the big nut to crack for the future health of our democratic system?"

  • 10:54:18

    HAMILTONWell, I think one of those -- the reasons the Founding Fathers put in those checks and balances was because of -- they had a pretty good understanding of human nature, and greed is certainly part of it and one of the weaknesses in human nature. Let me just broaden the question to say that I want to see a government of the United States that has strong, robust branches. I do not favor a weak president. I favor a strong president. I do not favor a timid Congress. I favor a robust Congress. I want to see a strong, active judiciary.

  • 10:54:58

    HAMILTONAnd so the system will work best if we go back, if you would, to the founders' concept of separate and co-equal branches of government. And if we do, I think things will work out favorably. I am concerned at the moment that we've had, over a period of decades, a drift of power to the presidency. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I ask myself the question, how far down that road can you go strengthening the presidency, weakening the Congress and still have representative democracy? I want to see a strong president, but I want to see a very strong, robust Congress as well.

  • 10:55:40

    REHMTell me what your plans are after you go back to Indiana.

  • 10:55:47

    HAMILTONDiane, my plans for my wife and me will be to go to Bloomington, Ind. -- that's the home of Indiana University. I run a center on Congress there. I'll continue to do that. We'll be close to our children and our grandchildren. And like every -- almost every other family in America, we want to strengthen the family ties, and we want to return to the family.

  • 10:56:13

    REHMFormer Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton. After 50 years, he is heading back to Bloomington, Ind. Thank you so much for joining us, sir. We'll miss your reasoned voice here in Washington.

  • 10:56:36

    HAMILTONThank you, Diane. Nice to be with you and all the best for your marvelous show.

  • 10:56:40

    REHMThank you so much. And thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.

  • 10:56:45

    ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.

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