NORMAN, Oklahoma (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of U.S. political figures that included New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a lamentation of America’s woeful state on Monday but Bloomberg gave no hint he may run for president to bail the country out.
The group, including politically experienced moderates from both parties, had been widely viewed as a national spotlight for Bloomberg and his possible presidential aspirations but he kept a low profile and only repeated previous assertions of his non-candidacy.
“I’m not a candidate, number one. I am a former businessman and a mayor,” he said in a panel discussion and news conference at the University of Oklahoma.
Afterward, he left without talking to a large media contingent that had shown up for the event.
Former U.S. Sen. David Boren, now president of the university and the host of the meeting, told reporters he thinks Bloomberg does not want to run for president and would only do so if he the Democratic and Republican candidates are weak.
“I don’t think he has the ambition to run for president and I think he’s like the rest of us, hoping against hope that the two parties rise to the occasion,” Boren said.
He said Bloomberg might run if he felt it his duty and that he and some others at Monday’s meeting could support the mayor, who reportedly has studied the possibility of running as an independent.
“Our two-party system has served us well. We just need to get it working again the way it used to work,” Boren said.
He said a “time out” from the two-party system might be needed to get a system derailed by money, special interests and political extremism back on track.
A joint statement read by the meeting’s co-host, former U.S. Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, led off with the line: “America is in danger.”
He went on to say that the country’s standing in the world has sunk to unprecedented lows and problems such as budget deficits, energy supply and environmental degradation are not being addressed.
“We are failing to address them primarily because rampant partisanship has paralyzed the ability of government to act and lead,” Nunn said.
Democrats and Republicans are more concerned with “energizing their bases” than appealing to the political center, he said.
The group called on the 2008 presidential candidates to focus on important issues and to discuss their strategies for fixing the most pressing problems.
“We have to inject some civility and respect and have a really serious, considered debate,” Boren said. “This country is in severe trouble — how can we not see that?”
“Somehow or another we seem to have lost our vision,” Bloomberg said. “We’ve become afraid and there’s no reason
for America to be afraid.”
The group of 17 participants included a mix of Democrats and Republicans, among them former U.S. senators Chuck Robb, Gary Hart, William Cohen, Bob Graham, Bill Brock and John Danforth.
The only current officeholders attending were Bloomberg and U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska.
(Editing by Bill Trott)
To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/