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Fmr. Sen. Olympia Snowe: President is the 'engine'

After making her exit from the Senate as one of the last moderate lawmakers in an increasingly polarized Congress, former Republican Sen.

After making her exit from the Senate as one of the last moderate lawmakers in an increasingly polarized Congress, former Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe is now looking to President Obama to mend the public's lack of trust in Washington.

"He has a major megaphone and has to reach out to members of Congress," the three-term Republican senator said Tuesday on Morning Joe. He must "drive that engine. I always believe in him as being the engine, not the caboose."

This week the president has come under fire on three major issues. Officials have acknowledged that the IRS' Cincinnati office wrongly targeted conservative groups, giving disproportionate scrutiny to their applications to become 501(c)(4) organizations. Questions and GOP conspiracy theories over the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, last September also continue to bog down his administration. The White House is dealing with the fallout from a Justice Department investigation because the Associated Press reported dozens of journalists had their phone records secretly collected.

In her new book, Fighting for Common Ground, Snowe explains that Washington's inability to solve the big problems added to her decision not to seek re-election for a fourth term in 2012. Her announcement shocked the nation. She cited a dispiriting gridlock and polarization in the Senate, and the inability of Washington to solve major issues, as reasons for her decision.

Finding that common ground is needed now more than ever because of controversial episodes that have led to the American public's distrust in government, she said.

"I always believe in a crisis and emergency you have to work that much harder to address those issues, but also rise above that as well and address all the other issues. And that's what Congress and the president should be doing," said Snowe, who was elected to the State House of Representatives at 26 in 1973.

Snowe is part of a new initiative that encourages Americans to become "Citizens for Political Reform." The effort, which went live last weekend, aims to explain options to bring both sides of Congress together to form solutions.

She said she believes there has always been a major disconnect between the American public and Washington because members of Congress are removed from the average citizen's daily life. As a result, the politicians aren't galvanized to address some of the country's persistent problems.

President Obama cited this sentiment last week when he delivered the commencement speech for The Ohio State University graduating class of 2013.

"You’ll hear voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's the root of all our problems," he said. "You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, creative, unique experiment in self-rule is just a sham with which we can't be trusted."

Watch Sen. Snowe's web-exclusive greenroom interview with Morning Joe's Louis Burgdorf.

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