SALT LAKE CITY — Pulitzer Prize winner and longtime Washington Post columnist David Broder gave a group of Utah political and business leaders an insider's glimpse of Washington politics Friday.
Widely considered a leader in the national press corps Broder weighed in on health care reform, President Barack Obama and the current state of party politics in the nation's capital. He also has had the time to keep tabs on Utah's political scene.
"I am a great fan of your last two governors," Broder said. "There is something in the water out here, obviously, that produces extraordinary leadership, and I look forward to meeting your new governor."
Broder, a frequent guest on television news shows and author or co-author of seven books on political topics, appeared as a guest speaker at a Utah policy summit hosted by Salt Lake public relations firm Exoro Group.
As Obama nears the end of his first year in office, Broder gave him a mixed review, offering some measured praise on domestic policies but calling out some failings and an inability to forge strong connections internationally. Noting that the expectation of dramatic change in a year's time is unrealistic, Broder graded Obama's freshman effort.
"If I were going to try to sum it up in a word or two, I would say, if this were an academic setting, you would probably grade his administration simply with the word 'incomplete,' " he said. "Most of the things the president set out to do have not happened, but that is not particularly a reflection on him as much as the glacial rate at which anything changes in our nation's capital."
Washington, D.C. — Broder's home turf — is one he described as being a notably unhappy center of a federal government in terrible shape on the eve of the 2010 midterm elections.
"What I've heard most, from people like yourselves, is a nonpartisan sense of disappointment that Washington and the national government still seemed to be locked in the kind of excessive partisan struggles that so aggravated people before the election of 2008," Broder said.
Those party dynamics, he said, have hindered the ability of Congress to move efficiently on any legislation, and is reflected in the current snail's pace of health care reform efforts.
"People need action on real problems and would like to think that their government is somehow focused on dealing with those problems," Broder said. "But what they hear and see instead is a tactical battle for advantage where the problem itself becomes secondary, and the question of who comes out on top between Democrats and Republicans seems to be the primary focus."
Broder's talk opened the daylong meeting to explore topics likely to be facing state lawmakers in the legislative session that kicks off Jan. 25.