Keynote speaker Panetta talks politics with restaurateurs

Keynote speaker Panetta talks politics with restaurateurs

LOS ANGELES —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.

“If the president and Congress are not working together…then crisis will drive policy in this country,” Panetta said during his keynote speech at the 48th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference, produced by Nation’s Restaurant News. —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.

The Elliot Leadership Institute sponsored Panetta’s talk on the need for leaders to reach consensus. —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.

The son of Italian immigrants who opened a restaurant in Monterey, Calif., during World War II, Panetta was a Capitol Hill insider for three decades, beginning in the mid-1960s as an assistant to a U.S. senator. Among other positions, the U.S. Army veteran later was director of the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, spent 16 years in Congress representing California’s central coast and was named director of the Office of Management and Budget and later White House chief of staff by former President Bill Clinton. Today, he co-directs with his wife, Sylvia, the nonpartisan Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy. —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.

Foodservice is “extremely important to the viability of our economy,” Panetta said, pointing to the 13 million jobs created within the industry and its annual sales in excess of $500 billion. —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.

“This is the land of opportunity,” Panetta declared. “Your industry is all about making the American dream real.” —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.

But the lack of leadership in Washington has harmed the industry’s top line and could send many of its immigrant workers back to the unemployment lines of their native countries, Panetta said. —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.

For instance, he said, the “dysfunctional” federal visa and passport systems have kept out 59 million short- and long-term visitors who might have otherwise eaten at or worked in American restaurants. What’s more, Panetta maintained, those problems are denying many foreigners an opportunity to see the United States and its citizens and “our most powerful weapon in the war against terrorism is the American experience.” —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.

He chided Congress and President Bush for failing to take advantage of the opportunity to enact comprehensive immigration reform during the past two years because partisanship is likely only to increase in the run-up to the next presidential election. —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.

Panetta also decried Washington’s lack of fiscal discipline, particularly in light of rising Social Security expenditures and the pending mass retirement of baby boomers. Also a concern, he said, are the potential negative consequences of having foreign interests hold half of our national debt. —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.

Partisan politics has made the war in Iraq “a major challenge facing this country,” said Panetta, who served on the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, whose consensus findings have been largely ignored by President Bush and politicized by leaders of both major political parties. Regardless of whether all parties agreed with all of the study group’s findings and recommendations, they were something policy makers could build on, he said. —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.

“There is no reason the president and Congress cannot sit down and develop a common strategy” for dealing with the war, Panetta said. —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.

Handicapping the upcoming presidential election, Panetta said among Democrats it is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “race to lose” because “she has the money, she has the organization, and she has not made many mistakes.” Sen. Barack Obama, whom he called an attractive candidate who represents change, is being dogged by the “experience factor,” and John Edwards’ campaign organization “doesn’t have the depth” to beat Clinton, Panetta said. —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.

The Republican race is “wide open,” he observed. Panetta noted that Mitt Romney “is in a key position” because he has money and a strong organization and because he has a good record, he said. He called Rudy Giuliani a “strong candidate,” in part because of his position on terrorism, but he is also a candidate with “issues, even within his own party,” including his stance on abortion, Panetta said. John McCain, he added, is being hurt by the war issue, while Fred Thompson did not help his cause when he was late entering the field. —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.

With major sociopolitical issues looming—war, global warming, health care and immigration reform—America’s leaders and its people need to resurrect the spirit of “sacrifice for a common cause” that was prevalent in this country during World War II, Panetta said. —Partisan “gridlock” is preventing America’s political leaders from setting important policy and enacting reforms, such as overhauling the immigration system, former congressman and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta told restaurateurs here.