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Hastert, Lipinski offer views on President Obama

Former U.S Speaker House Dennis Hastert left former U.S. Representative William Lipinski discuss 2012 Presidential ElectiThursday November 8 2012 Northern

Former U.S Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert on the left, and former U.S. Representative William Lipinski discuss the 2012 Presidential Election on Thursday, November 8, 2012 at Northern Illinois' Naperville Campus. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media

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Now that the 2012 presidential election is over, what does it mean in terms of the future of our country and the direction it is likely to go?

Those and other issues were the focus of a discussion held Thursday night on the Naperville NIU campus led by former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and former U. S. Rep. William Lipinski.

A crowd of about 100 people gathered as the two men sat opposite each other in a casual conversational setting. The audience ranged from senior citizens to a large group of college students.

Neither Hastert nor Lipinski was too cheerful as far as what the next few years hold for America.

Lipinski, a self-professed conservative Democrat, and Hastert, a Republican, each suggested Obama does need to move the country forward but that he faces problems.

“I left as the speaker in 2007 when we had $1 trillion in debt and half of that was from defense,” Hastert said. “Less than a year later, that number had grown to $3 trillion and the debt now has reached nearly $17 trillion. The government has to show it can work together and find ways to cut spending and broaden the tax base.”

Hastert also believes foreign policy in regard to Afghanistan is a critical issue in order to stabilize Pakistan and Iran.

Lipinski remains skeptical the next term for Obama will produce much change, thanks to the political stalemate between the House and Senate, which are currently controlled by opposite parties.

“I’m not sure there are any grand plans to move forward given that the majority of each group is controlled by the other party,” Lipinski said. “Still, I’m an advocate of divided government because I think it is a more compromised way to govern and produces policies and programs that are more encompassing.”

Lipinski also spoke out against Obama’s health care reforms, saying that “such a widespread program should have had bipartisan support.”

Unique view

The event was the final one in NIU’s “Presidential Speaker Series,” which has featured national experts on politics.

Organizer Matthew Streb, chairman of the NIU Department of Political Science, said both Hastert and Lipinski have a unique perspective on where the president is likely to go during his second term.

“These two men might not be in the public eye as much as they were before, but someone like Hastert has been through elections and presidential transitions,” Streb said. “We spent $6 billion on this last election between the presidential race and the various other candidates, and in the end, we have a government that is basically the same as it was before all that. Obama said to the cynics the other night that there is hope, and I think people are interested in knowing what we can expect.”

Despite the politically charged views of each guest speaker, many audience members said change must come to break through the usual politics. Eselast Hosi, 21, of DeKalb said he was an economics and political science major at NIU and that he hopes governmental gridlock will disappear.

“I think that there are too many issues today in the country and those greater issues should be enough to push the politics aside,” he said.

Former Neuqua Valley student Dylan McGowan, 18, echoed Hosi’s views, adding that he hoped the country “will turn around.”

“I voted for Romney because I thought he was the lesser of two evils,” McGowan said. “I don’t know that things in the country have affected me personally yet, but I can see where they might now since I’ll be graduating (college) by the time Obama leaves office.”

“I’m an alum from the college who graduated with a political science degree and I feel it’s interesting to hear someone like Hastert who was pretty high up,” said Chicago resident Robin Waters. “It should be interesting to see where the Republican Party goes at this point because it seems kind of lost. I do think there is a fiscal impetus now for change.”

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