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David Boren: No one in current presidential field who can unite country

University of Oklahoma President David Boren spent 15 years in the U.S. Senate as a Democrat known for working with members of both parties.

As a longtime member and _ ultimately _ chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Boren was heavily involved in foreign policy, which is traditionally bipartisan turf. He worked well then with President George H.W. Bush, who was once the head of the CIA (though Boren did oppose the first Gulf War).

A few years ago, Boren was involved in an effort with then New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others to find a presidential candidate that could unify the nation.

The Oklahoman’s Jason Kersey interviewed Boren this week about athletics-related issues but slipped in a question about the political landscape in Washington.

Boren told Kersey that he recently had a three-hour lunch in Houston with former President George H.W. Bush and that the two had a great time.

He went on: “What discourages me, when I look at the presidential field on both sides, I wonder, where is the one who can unite the country?”Where is the one who instead of appealing to the base and polarizing the country reaches out to the middle? Who's the person who can reach out and unite the country again and get us back on the right path?”I don't see anybody yet in the presidential field who I think can do that. I hope I'm wrong. “I think people had hopes Obama would be that way, but the politics have not changed. We hoped George W. Bush, the compassionate conservative, would be that way, but we still have the divided politics. It really worries me. Nothing will destroy the long-range strength of our country faster than these polarized politics.”I'm a moderate conservative. I think sometimes the future is with Independents. We may have to elect an Independent to shock the system back into order.”How do we get from where we are now to back where we used to be, where we did have all those conversations ... I don't know how many conversations I had with President Reagan and President Bush ... I had even more with them than with President Carter or President Clinton. I don't know how we get back to that again.”Maybe Jeb Bush would try to be that person. His father was, but his brother ended up being a polarizing figure. The problem now is you have to be so polarizing to get the nomination, and then it's hard to be the unifier once you're in. “Our long range prospects as a world leader cannot survive this polarization. “

Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›