The economy of the United States, how politics works and is financed, and the present and future of US foreign policy are what Senator Bill Bradley chooses as the focus of his book We Can All Do Better. As you might suppose from the title -- itâ€™s inspired by a speech by Abraham Lincoln -- Senator Bradley has problems to point out and solutions to propose.
Bradley comes to this well qualified. A three term US Senator, a presidential candidate, an executive in investment banking, and before that a professional basketball player, a Rhodes scholar, and a college basketball star: Bradley is a man who has given time and thought to the state of the United States.
One strength here is that, with his breadth of background, Bradley chooses to focus on three well defined areas of American life, three areas to which he brings solid experience and perspective. He often draws on his knowledge of history to suggest parallels, cautionary tales, and inspiration. This adds dimension to his ideas. He offers sound, creative ideas for job creation and other things that could be done to restore economic health and to restore confidence in the economy and the role of government in it. His points on campaign finance are both illuminating and well taken, and his explanations of the interlocking factors and decisions that led to the economic meltdown are clear, evenhanded, and thought provoking. His thoughts on the role of the United States on the world stage, and the positions of other players on that stage, are reasoned and balanced.
There are weaknesses, though, perhaps of idea, perhaps of execution. Bradley spends far too much time at the start of the book explaining and lamenting how things are and how they got that way. While never mean spirited about it, he spends far too much time there and elsewhere in the book bashing media and politicians, what he calls the Washington club.
As a major thrust of his book is personal responsibility -- we can all do better -- creating monoliths out the people who are in politics and the media is shortsighted, and it undermines the strength of his premise. That premise includes a call to action, a call to individual responsibility, a belief in the essential goodness of the American people. At times, though, Bradley seems to forget that the groups he detests are made up of individual American people as well, and that there are good and moral people -- just as those who are less so -- to be found in all walks of life.
That said, Senator Bradleyâ€™s premise is to appeal to good and reasonable people in all walks of life. His points are sound and his call is thoughtful. Is it time for a third political party as a way to address these points and bring about change? That is Bradleyâ€™s conclusion. It is worth reading We Can All Do Better to see if it is yours.
While you are at it, read the books in the Suggested Readings on America section, too. They range from Alexander Hamilton to Doris Kearns Goodwin to Walt Whitman.
Kerry Dexter writes about the arts and creative practice at Music Road and is the Music Editor at Wandering Educators, where she writes about music and travel. Her work on music, history, and travel appears in,National Geographic Traveler, Symphony, Perceptive Travel,Â The Encyclopedia ofÂ Ireland and the Americas, and other publications. She is also a former music correspondent at Gather.