Muskie Award 2012 Preview: The Legacy of a Consensus Builder
Jun 18, 2012Posted by Scott Bates
This week CNP is presenting the Edmund S. Muskie Distinguished Public Service Award to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and I can't think of no one who better exemplifies Edmund Muskie's leadership and dedication to public service than Secretary Panetta.
Ed Muskie first served our nation as a Lieutenant in U.S. Navy during the Second World War. After the war, he was elected to the Maine House of Representatives, then to the Governor's Mansion, and ultimately the U.S. Senate, in 1958. After 22 years, he resigned his Senate position to become Secretary of State for President Jimmy Carter, humbly stating, "Of all the jobs I've been ambitious for, this is one that never crossed my mind."
For all his ambition, however, Muskie remained committed to public service, civic responsibility, and open dialogue on critical policy issues throughout his long and storied career.
At his core, Ed Muskie was a consensus-builder. As a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Republican state, he exhibited an unparalleled capacity to convince and compromise with political opponents. As the first chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and the father of the modern congressional budget process, Muskie demonstrated an innate ability to forge bipartisan solutions to tough national challenges.
Muskie was also an ardent defender of the environment. Before Ed Muskie the federal government did not touch pollution. Not only was the government asleep at the wheel when it came to regulation of toxins, there was no national forum to discuss environmental issues. One of Ed Muskie's lasting legacies is the great body of environmental law that guides our national policy discussion. While "regulation" has become a curse word in today's Washington, Ed Muskie embodied the idea that regulation, when pursued with common-sense, can benefit job creators and the general public alike.
His reputation for enacting lasting legislation through bipartisan support made Muskie one of the most effective and respected members of the Senate. For his lifelong devotion to government, legislative skill, and willingness to compromise on everything except principle, Muskie was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981. Upon his death in 1996, he was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
Much like Ed Muskie, Leon Panetta was also a Lieutenant (though in the U.S. Army) and a former member of Congress, representing the state of California for 16 years. Secretary Panetta not only crossed paths with Muskie on the Congressional floor, but held the chairmanship of the House Budget Committee, mirroring one of Muskie's key roles in the Senate. Panetta also served as OMB director, developing the package that resulted in the 1998 balanced budget agreement. This monumental achievement illustrates Panetta's own commitment to bipartisanship and civic responsibility.
Also akin to Muskie, Panetta has long been an advocate for the environment. He served for three years as chairman and commissioner of the Pew Oceans Commission, and wrote numerous acts that continue to protect the California coast during his tenure as a lawmaker.
Panetta continued his illustrious career as White House Chief of Staff under President Clinton, and, most recently, as director of the CIA and Secretary of Defense under President Obama. We are pleased to present him with this year's award, as he follows in the footsteps of another great American statesman – Ed Muskie.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Center for National Policy.
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