Saturday, July 25, 2009

Republican Statesmen's Dinner

Nicole and I will be headed to Nashville tonight along with Rob and Angela Huddleston to attend this year's Statesmen's Dinner, after graciously being extended tickets thanks to Patrick Jaynes, Senator Lamar Alexander's State Director. Although I am greatly looking forward to Senator Jeff Sessions' address, perhaps the most enjoyable part of these kinds of events is the chance to encounter political friends and acquantances again, and to meet many new ones.

Occasionally I get the question from people whether I will seek public office again in next year's election. For now, I can say that I'm thinking about it, and Nicole and I are mulling over what the right thing is for our home and family in this challenging time.

Labels: ,

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why Paul Stanley's Private Affair Is A Public Concern

There is chatter all over the blogosphere about Tennessee State Senator Paul Stanley's affair with an intern who was/is married and had other boyfriends on the side. Stanley reported the situation to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation because one of the boyfriends of McKensie Morrison, the intern in question, was threatening to blackmail Stanley with incriminating photographs of he and Ms. Morrison. There are the predictable calls for Stanley to resign for various reasons, and the also-predictable defenses of "this is Senator Stanley's 'private life.'" I must disagree with my dear friend Stacey Campfield-I think there is little question that Paul Stanley needs to resign, preferably yesterday.

It is not because he had an adulterous affair that Paul Stanley needs to get out of the Tennessee Senate. It was morally wrong, politically stupid, and sinful for Stanley to behave in the way that he has apparently grown accustomed, but if every person in the Legislature who has ever been unfaithful to their spouse were made to resign for that reason alone, I doubt that the Speaker of either House could keep a quorum for business. It is even acceptable in some quarters at the Capitol to whore around with one's female interns, as disgraceful as that might be. The real question which raises Paul Stanley's offense(s) to the level of resignation is the question of what Paul Stanley is doing with his time while in Nashville.

When the Legislature adjourns for the day during session, it is not the least bit uncommon to find legislators going to their favorite restaurants, bars, clubs, or other hangouts near Capitol Hill. When you work with certain people for six months out of the year in an institutional setting, it is easy to see that you'll become friends with some of them. You might all stay in the same hotel, eat at the same places, and run with the same crowd. You might have a great time with your new friends some nights as a fringe benefit of the job. When in Nashville to cover the General Assembly, I stay in the same hotel with Bill Dunn, Stacey Campfield, Dennis Ferguson, Eddie Bass and Chad Faulkner (among others). In the evenings, these folks enjoy good conversation and chats about colleagues, family, and friends at the hotel bar while they share a meal. I have often been invited to lunch or dinner with Frank Niceley, Susan Lynn, Debra Maggart, Eric Swafford, and many others and have seen how our Representatives bond and form relationships with each other while enjoying themselves. This is a part of life at the Capitol, but each of the people I mentioned understands that this is not the reason they are up there.

Bill Dunn is known to show up at his office at 6:00am to begin working. Mike Bell has a blue collar work ethic that causes him to show up early and often stay late. It isn't the least bit unheard of for Stacey Campfield to work deep into the evening and sleep on a small couch in his office. These people know that their primary reason for being in Nashville is to serve their constituents, not to be a good-time Charlie or spice up their sex lives.

If someone is able to come up with enough photographs of you playing Romper Room with your favorite intern that they can then threaten you with blackmail, then you've probably spent entirely too much of your time at the Capitol tending to your desires rather than the concerns of the people you represent. Paul Stanley's libido is obviously of greater concern to him than the public business, so he needs to clear himself from the burdens of public life so that he can engage in the things most important in his universe.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Worth of a Life to the Federal Government

The President spent no small amount of time last night selling fiction to the American people, namely the fiction that "universal" health care can be provided while cutting costs and making the plan deficit-neutral. There is a way to do this, and that would be to deny care to many Americans, especially those with critical, chronic, or cancerous conditions. At the very least, such citizens may be made to wait forever for the treatment and drugs they need. As a person with a disability, I find this especially frightening-and if you don't believe that could happen, it is happening in Britain under the National Health Service today, and it could happen here if the President's plan (the bill he hasn't read) passes.

Even more bizarre is Barack Obama's attempt to blame Republicans for the fact that the American people are on to his plan-or lack of one-and they don't like it in the least. The Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, they have nearly a super-majority in the House, but the President's plan is in in trouble (thank God) because 51 Blue Dog Democrats are actually listening to the people in Middle America and saying that this plan as presented is not acceptable. Republicans can criticize and critique all we like, but we do not have enough votes in Congress to stop the lead Democratic bill. If the legislation is to be drastically changed or altogether halted, only Democrats can make that happen in a temporary coalition to defeat their own Leadership.

Perhaps most telling was this line from the President's news conference:

"This isn't about me," he said. "I have great health insurance, and so does every member of Congress. This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day, and the stories I hear at town-hall meetings...This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they cannot afford to wait for reform any longer."

Mr. President, if the health care plan that you are proposing for the American people is so fine, it ought to be good enough for you and good enough for the Congress. If it is not good enough for you, it shouldn't be forced on us either.

There is a reason the President is in such a hurry, and that is because he knows that if the political trends continue, he will lose the ability to pass anything on this issue in the next Congress. He and the extreme Left are on a political kamikaze mission to make the population as dependent on the federal government as possible before any election intervenes to stop it.

How much is my life or yours worth to the federal government? We may be about to find out.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Jefferson County Public Being Railroaded

If one reads the "Letters to the Editor" section of the Jefferson County Standard Banner, it quickly becomes apparent that citizen opposition to the proposed Norfolk Southern inter-modal rail facility is widespread and vocal. It doesn't seem to be heavily organized, but there is little doubt at this point that it is going to impact next year's May and August primaries and local election in Jefferson County.

The problem that most local folks seem to have with the inter-modal proposal is the secrecy with which it is being rammed down the throats of the general public. At least one member of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Board has seen Norfolk Southern's plans and was made to sign a confidentiality agreement. Jefferson County Mayor Alan Palmeiri is also strangely mum-lipped about an issue that will impact our county for decades, and perhaps generations to come.

Confidentiality agreements about public matters-and rest assured, this is a public matter-are not only bad government, they violate both the Tennessee Open Meetings Act and the Open Records Act. The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce seems to be complicit in the conspiracy to hide information about the railroad's proposal from the public because they say it will bring the county needed jobs. Norfolk Southern has laid off a lot of people over the last 2-3 years, and union rules require that if this facility does become a reality, those laid off union workers will be the first people who get the call. There is certainly no guarantee that these people will be Jefferson County residents who live and pay property taxes here, and the experiences of other counties with similar facilities seem to indicate that surrounding counties may benefit more than Jefferson County will.

If the inter-modal is good for the county, it should not be something that is shrouded in secrecy and backroom dealing. People have never been given a clear presentation of the pros and cons for our community. The conduct of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce in this entire affair is a demonstration of why I have never been a blind political follower of chambers of commerce. The Chamber as a body (as opposed to individual members) is out for what seems to be good for the Chamber, not what may be good for the county as a whole. The attitude of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce seems to be that if the Chamber likes something, it is good for the rest of us. I would humbly submit that this mentality not only lacks in civic-mindedness, it also may not be best for business. The Chamber is behaving in a way that is extremely short-sighted and is failing in its larger role to see to the county's best public interest.

The railroad might be viewed more favorably without the perception that the public are being railroaded.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Color of Polls

A near-majority of Americans now no longer trust the President's handling of the economy, while 50% disapprove of his handling of health care:

The public's confidence in President Barack Obama's ability to handle the economy is eroding amid concerns about higher federal spending and expanding government power, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds — a development that could complicate his efforts to push a health-care plan through Congress in the next few weeks.

In the survey, taken Friday through Sunday, Americans by 47 percent to 49 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy, and 44 percent to 50 percent disapprove of his handling of health care.

And there is more bad news for Barack Obama politically from a historical perspective:

His overall approval rating was 55 percent, the lowest of his young presidency. That puts Obama 10th among the 12 post-World War II presidents at this point in their tenures. When he took office, he ranked seventh.

"His ratings have certainly come back to Earth in a very short time," Republican pollster Whit Ayres said.

The disconnect is also showing between the President's personal popularity and disagreement with his policies:

59 percent say his proposals call for too much government spending.

52 percent say they call for too much expansion of government power.

Expectations about when the economy will recover are souring. In February, the mean or average prediction for a turnaround was 4.1 years; now it's 5.5 years.

There's limited faith in his economic stimulus package, especially when asked about its likely impact on their own finances. A third predict it will make things better for their families in the long term; a third say it will make things worse.

To paraphrase one of the President's mentors, it appears that Barack Obama's chickens are coming home to roost. This may be taken the wrong way by some, but it must be considered that there are some who are responding positively to the Presidential approval poll out of fear of being seen as racist if they let their true views of the President be known.

If that hypothesis is true, then it is sad that political correctness has now managed even to dillute our political polling. I have never believed that the President should be judged by the color of his skin, but neither should we avoid passing judgrmrnt on the President or his policies because of the color of his skin.

If Americans really want a colorblind society, the most powerful office in that society must be colorblind in every direction.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, July 20, 2009

Having Our Cake and Eating It Too

Tennessee State Representatives Jon Lundberg and Tony Shipley were to be found quoted in the Kingsport Times-News on their opposition to the so-called compromise budget and why they voted no:

Shipley, a freshman Republican from Kingsport, and Lundberg, a Bristol Republican in his second term, joined just 10 other House members and one senator in opposition to the compromise budget that passed last month.

Lundberg said that he doesn’t go to Nashville with the goal of doing things that will get him re-elected. “It’s to set good policy and make the decisions people need me to make, not based on being re-elected,” he said. “I stand very firmly behind the logic of this and I think most people would agree.”

“When people knew that we were going to cut the budget, all year long I had phone calls, I had letters, I had e-mails saying, ‘I know it’s a bad year, but here’s the reason we can’t afford to cut my program,’” Lundberg said.

“The stories are indeed compelling, they are truthful. Not only do people believe in those programs but they accomplish important things.”

“I think that’s good PR, frankly, because technically we did cut state appropriations 10 percent, but if we had cut the pre-K program, you would have seen letters from parents saying we’re not taking care of children any more.

“For politicians, this is what they like — they like consensus.”

“When the federal stimulus dollars no longer exist, and the holes we have patched up now with the stimulus money are still there, we will have no choice but to make cuts, and potentially Draconian cuts in many ways,” Lundberg said.

“I didn’t come down here to cut deals on issues like fiscal responsibility and social responsibility,” Shipley said. “Those issues are black and white, and I think you’ve just got to balance your budget and be responsible.”

When people discuss those who serve in public office, one of the common complaints that is heard from average citizens is that everyone enters office being concerned about the next election, not necessarily about doing what they believe to be right. This is very often a valid concern, but many of the same people who say that there is a distinctive lack of principle among elected officials are the first to cry foul when people like Reps. Lundberg and Shipley take a principled but unpopular stand on an issue as important as the budget.

Put more simply, people want principled leadership and a government that can do it all at the same time-they want to have their cake and eat it too.

Both men (as well as the other 10 House members who had the courage to vote no) are correct that the current budget simply uses stimulus money to plug holes that will likely be present in next year's budget with double the force. The cuts which the General Assembly will be forced to make next year will likely be, as Lundberg says, draconian in nature, and all because the Legislature wanted to avoid a political backlash in the short-term this year. We can't entirely disparage those members who voted for the budget (my own Representative changed his mind and voted for it) because many of them believed that it was the best that we were going to get this year, and they were probably correct in that line of thought. Knowing that this year's budget was the best that could be done under the circumstances did not make it the best that it could have been, however, and if you were really going to stand on principle alone you had no choice but to vote against the budget. Had I been the Representative for District 17, I likely would have been the 13th "no" vote.

Both Jon Lundberg and Tony Shipley are to be commended because they have shown that they really are less concerned about the next election and more concerned about the legacy that we will collectively leave for our children's children. These men have set an example of how an elected official is supposed to behave, to do what you believe to be right first and foremost and to be willing to face the political consequences of your actions.

Citizens really need to think very hard about what they want in a leader. If people say that they want principles in their elected officials, but then loudly complain when those principles clash with their personal priorities (i.e. "we know you need to make cuts, just don't cut my program, don't cut me off," or "make everyone else pay but not me, not in my community, not in my back yard") the message that is sent to our elected officials that principles really aren't important to constituents, just as long as individuals get what they want. If I get what I want Mr. Politician, your job will be safe.

People forget that the problems that we see in our elected officials are often problems that we have created ourselves. Ours has become a culture of "me me me" and "I must have what is important to me, forget the right thing," or worse "the right thing is always what is good for me." If people have this mentality for themselves, that same attitude will be reflected in the people that they elect to office. Those officials will do the safe thing, the popular thing, the action which appears to be popular regardless of whether that action is right or wrong. If principled leaders are what we want, we need to begin to respect the very principles which we say we want our leaders to have. If we do not respect those principles, our elected officialdom will not continue to vote according to their principles. The people we elect and the way that they conduct themselves are very often a reflection of the contituents who elect them.

Even if one does not agree with Jon Lundberg and Tony Shipley's votes against the budget, the reality that they were willing to stand for what they believed was right and risk their own heads to do it is precisely why both of them deserve to be re-elected. The fact that some of their constituents may not see that reality is at the root of why too many public figures are blamed for being two-faced, when really they are merely doing the bidding of certain constituents.

If constituents reward perincipled stands with re-election, we would see better and more principled leaders in our government.

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 19, 2009

And That's The Way It Is...

Walter Cronkite's last CBS Evening News. March 6th, 1981. We can only wish the mainstream media today were anywhere near as great, or held to standards as high as the Great Cronkite.


Locations of visitors to this page
Profile Visitor Map - Click to view visits
Create your own visitor map