Americans Want Focus on Policy, Not Politics: Whitman

Washington may want to take a page out of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's playbook in order to win back the confidence of Americans who want to see government doing more to turn around the economy, according to former New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman.

Christie Todd Whitman
AP
Christie Todd Whitman

"They may not always agree with a decision at the end of day, but they appreciate the fact that (Christie) is, they believe, being honest with them, which I think he absolutely is," Whitman said on CNBC Monday. "They understand that this economic crisis is real and that there has to be consequences."

Christie has slashed spending and taken on labor unions in an effort to rein in New Jersey's out-of-control budget since he took office earlier this year.

In contrast, Whitman said, the American people are frustrated with Washington's focus on politics instead of policy. As a result, they are uncomfortable with legislation that has been passed, said Whitman, who was also the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush.

"When you have (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi who will say: 'we have to pass the bill to see what’s in it,' that makes people sit up and say, 'Hey, wait a minute, you’re talking about changing our lives potentially,'" Whitman said of health care legislation.

One problem for Americans is the prevailing "gotcha attitude" in Washington, which puts the focus on who's to blame instead of solving a problem, and the lack of respect between business and government, she said. A good example of how these attitudes hurt everyone is in how Washington reacted to the BP oil spill by searching for who to blame instead of capping the leak and cleaning up the oil, Whitman said.

"What they really want to do is place blame and say how terrible business is, when clearly, it was a big problem on the regulatory side as well with the (former) Minerals Management Service and the Department of Interior," she said.