On Thursday, Sept. 25, Hobart and William Smith welcomed back one its own alumni when Republican politician Richard Rosenbaum ’52, P’86 delivered the first 2008-2009 President’s Forum Series lecture of the 2008-2009 academic year. Rosenbaum’s lecture, centered on his new book “No Room for Democracy: The Triumph of Ego Over Common Sense,” and covered topics from the primaries to personal interactions with notable politicians throughout Rosenbaum’s distinguished career in politics.
After reflecting on his close work with influential politicians, such as serving under Governor Nelson Rockefeller and U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Rosenbaum offered his expert insights on the current Presidential election. “The primaries were instituted to give people a say. Well…they didn’t give people a say,” he said. “They just give cover to the leaders. If you look at the statistics from the primaries, Obama has done remarkable things in getting the vote out but the percentages aren’t anywhere near where you’d expect.”
Rosenbaum concluded that, “They [the public] wanted primaries but don’t vote. It undermines the entire primary system.”
“The last great political convention was in 1976 between President Ford and Governor Reagan,” Rosebaum said. “The vote went to the end of the roll call. That’s the last time that’s happened. Now, primaries are little more than cheerleading sections.”
Looking at the greater landscape of politics and politicians, Rosenbaum said, “There’s too much acrimony and hard feelings between politicians. In my day, we got along. We could be on opposite sides, but we still got along. In fact, when I ran for State Supreme Court, I’d just defeated — through a well-devised strategy — the Democrats in Monroe County in Rochester. But when I later ran for Supreme Court, the Democrats endorsed me along with Republicans, the Liberals and the Conservatives.”
“I didn’t really have a contest,” Rosenbaum explained. “Why? I’m smart enough to know that there’s no point in fighting with or insulting my opponents.”
Encouraging his audience not to hold back, Rosenbaum opened the floor to a candid question and answer session. “Mr. Rosenbaum, what do you think of the $700 billion bailout? Do you think it’s wiser to wait until after the election to work it out?” an HWS student asked. “Although I’m not an expert on economics, I don’t think it can wait-the situation is dire,” Rosenbaum said.
“What are your views on the Electoral College, Mr. Rosenbaum? How is it that it comes down to the five states with the most votes?” another student posed. “I think that the Electoral College is kind of a waste of time,” Rosenbaum said. “I’ve been an elector and you vote the way you’re told to vote, and you vote for the person who carried the vote anyway…I think that the whole system should be reviewed with possible reform toward the popular vote domineering in elections.”
Fielding a host of questions from his audience of HWS students, faculty and staff, Rosenbaum continued to offer insights on topics ranging from the U.S.-China economic situation to Governor Palin and her potential as a vice presidential candidate. When asked if the Bush administration tarnished the Republican Party and the future of the Conservative Movement, Rosenbaum explained that he did think that it had been tarnished but said that, “It’s hard to predict what history will show.”
The President’s Forum lecture series will continue on Wednesday, Oct. 1 with Lucius T. Outlaw Jr., professor of philosophy and of African American and Diaspora studies and associate provost for undergraduate education at Vanderbilt, who will discuss “Multicultural Education and the Obama Presidency” at 7:30 p.m. in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library.
The President’s Forum Series, established in the winter of 2000 by President Mark D. Gearan, is designed to bring a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty, staff of the Colleges, as well as with interested community members.