Feb 25, 2010

Blanchard and Engler appear on the same stage for the first time in 20 years

LIVONIA - Political junkies expecting to see fireworks when two former Michigan governors and political foes appeared on the same stage together for the first time in 20 years were disappointed, but they were treated to their opinions on a wide range of subjects, from the state of affairs in Lansing to calling for building the planned public-private Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) between Detroit and Canada.

Former Democratic Governor Jim Blanchard and Republican John Engler headlined the 15th Annual Fundraising Dinner for the Michigan Political Leadership Program (MPLP) on Thursday night, appearing together for the first time since Engle unseated the incumbent Blanchard in 1990.

Since 1992, the nonpartisan MPLP recruits, trains, and inspires 24 unique leaders from across the state every year to prepare them for effective governance. The dinner serves as the major fundraiser for the program, and this was the largest turnout in the 15 years the dinner has been put on featuring a well known Republican and Democrat.

"You all think this is going to be like the Michigan International Speedway; you're just waiting for the crash,” Engler joked.

Each man gave a short speech, and they jointly took questions from the audience. Despite a tough campaign in 1990, both men get along well and were gracious. In fact, they both agree on the DRIC bridge.

Blanchard served as the Ambassador to Canada from 1993-1996, and he said Canada supplies more oil to the U.S. than any other country and accounts for billons of dollars of trade a year. He said the DRIC bridge is vital to keeping that important trade route open. Plus, it will prove 10,000 jobs.

“This is something we can do right now,” he said. “It’s supported by a who’s, who, including Brooks Patterson, John Engler and the Detroit Chamber of Commerce.”

Engler agreed.

“We need to get this bridge built,” he said. “We need to get the (Michigan) Senate working on this.”

Blanchard gave a very optimistic speech, saying Michigan will rebound from the worst recession since the Great Depression.

“I said this two years ago at the Michigan Political History Society dinner and I’ll say it here: our state is too great and our people our too resilient to be held down for long,” he said. “The only question is when and how we will recover.”

Engler is the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, and he said any recovery has to include manufacturing. He also said manufacturing accounts for $1.6 trillion a year in the U.S.

“You hear this all the time; that we don’t make anything in this country anymore,” Engler said. “Our political leaders and future leaders need to know we are still the largest manufacturer in the world.”

The Q & A section was wide ranging, and Engler cleared up the rumor that he was moving back to Michigan to run for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-East Lansing. His triplet daughters are now high school freshman, and he said he was not running.

“I have a house full of drama,” he said. “I don’t think I would want to ramp it up even more.”

When asked what piece of advice they have for turning Michigan around, Blanchard produced a copy of the 20-page report of the bipartisan Emergency Financial Advisory Panel he chaired with former Republican Governor Bill Milliken that says a combination of cuts in spending and creating a modern tax structure that abandons the focus on the economic system of the 20th century will address the shortfall and combat the immediate shortfalls and position us to thrive in the future.

The two former governors also weighed in on the current race for Michigan Governor. Neither is currently endorsing a candidate, but Blanchard he would have endorsed his former Treasurer Bob Bowman, who was in the race briefly.

“I think the Democrats have an opportunity more than people think,” he said. “But there’s no doubt it will be uphill.”

Engler said he likes the chances of Republicans to take back the governor’s mansion.

“If a Republican can’t win this year, a Republican can never win here in Michigan,” he said.


Johnny C said...

The issues Michigan face today can be traced back to the 12 years of corporate friendly policies John Engler and the goose stepping Republican state house pushed through.

Engler pile drive this state into the ground and slip out the back door with six figure job waiting for him. And top that with the Bush administration allowing companies to outsource for cheaper labor equals a weaken midwest.

Has Jennifer Granholm been prefect? No. But I take her over whatever the Michigan Republican party has to offer.

Communications guru said...

And, predictably, Engler said if we just lower the corporate tax rate everything will be fine. He also congratulated the activist U.S. Supreme Court for giving corporations their first amendment rights like they were a person.

Johnny C said...

After eight years of proving giving the rich and corporations more breaks still doesn't translate into anything other than people like Paris Hilton can sit around a pool and watch their trust fund grow how can anyone with a straight face advocate more breaks for the top 2% or .1% of this country?

Hopefully the Dems can somehow fix the Supreme Court decision or we're going to see more corporate whores like John Engler being elected to high office.