Rich Galen

* The highest and best use of partisan debate is not the WWE slap-down nonsense (often scripted, phony, and played solely for its entertainment value) we have seen out of the US Congress for the past two decades - under both Republican AND Democratic control.

* The best use of partisan debate is to allow the minority to test the plans and theories of the majority; and allow majority to be comfortable with the minority adding depth, breadth and texture to big issues.

* Let's take roads as an example. Gov. Schwarzenegger is correct: Better roads are not a partisan issue. But if you decide to expand the highway system, there are questions which have to be answered, some of which are:

* Who will pay for the new road? Who will benefit from it?

* Are they the same? If not, is it fair?

* Will the road expand a four-lane boulevard into a six or eight lane highway? If so, who's homes or businesses will have to be torn down to make room?

* How do we reconcile the desire to wean our society away from oil dependency with the need for more highways on which to burn oil-derived fuels over longer distances and at higher speeds?

* Will a new road add to urban sprawl? Will it accelerate major cities turning into night-time ghost towns because it will make it even easier and more appealing for commuters to drive into work in the morning, then leave in the evening to their farther away lawn-scaped homes leaving downtown abandoned to gangs and drug dealers?

* Are those partisan questions? No. They are questions whose answers have serious societal, cultural, economic, and environmental components. Both Democrats and Republicans have interests in helping to find those answers.

* Having a Geneva Convention of Political Engagement to deal with a new superhighway in California won't solve the squabbling in Congress, but it might provide a path for leaders on Capitol Hill to follow when deciding which issues are worth having a firefight over, and which can be settled by open and thoughtful discussion.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.