Wondering why Erskine Bowles signed on as co-chair of a new federal panel tasked with making sense of the federal budget deficit?
To simplify things a bit it has something to do with the fact that when the president calls, you answer.
At least, that was one of the reasons Bowles gave when he wrote to members of the UNC system's Board of Governors last week to tell them the news. I've posted his letter here so you can read it yourself.
Also - I asked Bowles last week about the time he'll spend on this task in this, his final year as the president of the UNC system.
He told me, in part : "I'm going to get my job done here. That's my commitment 100 percent. I'm not going to allow this to infringe on it. But at the same time - there's good argument this is part of my job. Public service is part of our three-part mission, to do things for the state and nation. President Friday certainly did. President Frank Porter Graham certainly did. I'm going to make sure I do a good job on both of these. I'm going to finish strong. I have a significant capacity to work and I believe I can do it. Do I think I'll have a lot of free time? No. "
And on a side note: Jay Schalin with the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy - a conservative thinktank in Raleigh, has penned a long appreciation of Bowles, a Democrat. Gasp!
Here's Bowles' letter to the Board of Governors.
This morning, President Obama announced the appointment of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform charged with proposing long-term strategies for reducing the federal budget deficit and restoring our nation’s fiscal health. President Obama has asked former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming and me to lead this Commission, and I have said “Yes” for several reasons:
1. I believe that when the President of the United States believes you can help your Country in a matter of material importance, you have a moral obligation to say, “Yes.”
2. Having previously served as Chief of Staff and having been responsible for negotiating the Bipartisan Balanced Budget Agreement in 1997, the fiscal health of our country is something I obviously care about very deeply.
3. This Commission will examine these issues on a nonpartisan basis. I have made it crystal clear to all involved that I have NO interest in partisan politics.
4. The President has assured Senator Simpson and me that “everything is on the table.”
5. I can serve as a volunteer, continue to reside in North Carolina, and fulfill my responsibilities to the University. I think it will be good for our students to see their leader working on this important national issue.
6. This assignment is time-limited, with a report due to President Obama by December 1, 2010.
Believe you me, I thought long and hard about taking on this effort before I agreed to serve on this Commission. I also want to be clear that it had no bearing whatsoever on my retirement plans, and it certainly has not lessened by resolve and determination to fully execute on our UNC Tomorrow Action Plan before my time here is done. But restoring our nation’s fiscal health is an absolute necessity.