A Word of Explanation

Welcome to my political commentary blog. I figured I’d use this introduction to explain how I arrived at writing this blog. I grew up as a Conservative Republican and went through college and law school essentially holding to those beliefs. Being an Evangelical Christian as well, I would have been considered a member of the Religious Right. However, over the last few years, I became increasingly disillusioned by the Republican party. For instance, I believe in conservative fiscal policy, so I could not agree with continuing massive tax cuts aimed at the wealthiest Americans while the country had a serious budget deficit which was only increasing due to fighting two wars. I am also a firm believer in the rule of law, so I took issue with the Bush administration using the cloak of national security to deny habeas corpus rights. Finally, the politics of fear & division used by the Bush political team, turned me off. Especially, their use of the War in Iraq, which I now believe was a major mistake.

In 2008, this caused me to do what 5 years before, I would have thought to be the unthinkable – I voted for a Democrat for President. In supporting Barack Obama and since I am an advocate by trade, I decided to write a political essay setting forth my rationale. I enjoyed the process so much, I was looking for an outlet to continue my political thoughts. When my cousin started a personal blog, it gave me the idea to start a political commentary blog.

Like the name suggests, I still consider my self a conservative as many of my political stands are conservative, but I definitely have a more progressive line of thinking. You should see both sides come out as I post. Some of the posts will be more analysis while others will be more editorial and take a position. I look forward to any feedback. Let me know if there is a topic you would like me to discuss (see my contact info at the bottom of this page).


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reflections on Ted Kennedy

Unless you were completely hiding under a rock this week, you know by now that Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy passed away Tuesday of this week. His passing made me think a lot about my political pilgrimage as my reaction to his death was clearly not what it would have been 10 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I would never have celebrated someone’s death, but I used to tell a joke in reference to his future passing. It went – “When Ted Kennedy dies, they won’t elect a new senator in Massachusetts, they’ll just stuff him & sit him in his senate chair & keep voting the way the liberal faction of the democrats would want.”

Obviously, the joke was filled with sarcasm, but as I think of it now, it certainly wasn’t a respectful way to talk about a man who served as a senator for well over half his life just like a similar comment would have been inappropriate from the left to say about an arch conservative like Jesse Helms. It is this lasting legacy that Ted Kennedy has left on me. Once, I considered him to be the punch line of jokes about the liberals in this country, but now my perspective has changed. While I still enjoy good political humor, I now view it as just that – humor. I don’t let it mold my thinking of the individual about which the joke is being told.

I think too often those of us on the different ends allow political humor to shape our image of the people on the “other side.” It reminds me of a story I put in my political essay on my view of the 2008 election regarding an incident that happened while I was in college. The story I wrote at the time follows: A friend of mine who was a fellow political science major had returned from a summer internship back at his home in Maine. It was with US Senator George Mitchell, who was the Democratic Majority Leader at the time. Upon learning this and knowing we were both conservatives, I asked him how he was able to work with them for the whole summer. His response was simple, “Karl, even though we disagree with their policies, they love this country just like we do.”

Think about that the next time you tell a joke about people in this country on the other side of the political spectrum. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have a good laugh with some political humor; just don’t let the caricature created in the joke affect your image of the real person.

One of the books that I read a couple years ago that really got me thinking about this was No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner by Bob Schrum. Bob Schrum was a clear liberal and was a campaign worker/advisor/manger for virtually every democratic presidential candidate from Jimmy Carter to John Kerry. He was one of Ted Kennedy’s closest advisors in his ill-fated attempt to take the democratic nomination from Jimmy Carter in 1980. I read the book as a staunch conservative because I just love the idea of a book that is sort of an Inside Baseball approach to politics, no matter which side it is. However, as I read the book, I was struck with how it showed the humanity of the politicians in the book and the fact that they love America even if we disagree with them. Even though I disagreed with many of the policies that Schrum and his candidates were proposing, I found that I had to respect their love of country.

The amazing thing is that the politicians themselves seem unfazed by the caricatures we place on them. I was watching MSNBC’s Morning Joe the day the news broke of Senator Kennedy’s death and I was fascinated by a conversation between Bob Schrum and Pat Buchanan about Ted Kennedy and his relationship with those on the right. Here you had two commentators now on completely opposite sides of the political spectrum talking about Senator Kennedy and how Kennedy and Buchanan used to battle oratorically over policy, yet at the end of the day they could still respect one another and share a laugh about what the other was saying about them.

In other words, they weren’t letting the words of the debate shape their respect for the person. That will be my lasting impression of Senator Ted Kennedy. While I disagreed with many things he stood for, I truly believed he loved his country and wanted what he thought was best for it. He also respected those on the other side of the aisle and was willing to try and work with them. Let that be our goal in life as it relates to politics. Fervently advocate for what you believe in, but respect others and ultimately try and find what is best for our great country.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Random Thoughts

It has been a while since I posted on this blog and with everything that has happened in the past couple of months, I figured I drop a few random thoughts.

Sonia Sotomayor: When I last posted it was to give my thoughts on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court. At that time, I took the position that I thought she should be confirmed and that the Republicans should avoid a big nomination fight. So I was pleased that she was confirmed as the first Hispanic justice on the high court. As I said in my last post, I am sure that the worst case scenario for conservatives is that the balance of power will remain as is.

Republicans and the Hispanic Vote: In my last post, I also indicated that I wanted to do a post regarding the growing Hispanic vote and what that means for the Republicans. I still plan on doing that in more detail in the future, but for now I was glad to see that, except for a wayward comment by Newt Gingrich, the Republicans seemed fair in their treatment of her and those that voted against her clearly did so on ideological grounds. In other words, I do not think that the Republicans did anything in the confirmation vote that would specifically turn off the Hispanic vote.

However, on a bad note, the Republicans lost their only Hispanic member in the Senate with the resignation of Mel Martinez. I have already begun doing some research on the Hispanic vote for the Republicans and I will write about it as we head into next year’s mid-term elections. However, suffice it to say if Republicans do not figure out how to begin to make more inroads into the Hispanic vote, they will be a minority party for many years.

Health Care: At this point I am still doing a lot of research on the current health care bill(s) pending in Congress and I really have not decided what my position is on the controversial bill. I do know that something needs to be done, but I want to know more about the current proposals before I decide if they are appropriate. My wife, who is a nurse, has given me plenty of suggested reading. If any of you would like to add to this list, feel free to let me know. In the meantime, I have contacted my local Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA) and requested a meeting to discuss what the bill means for those with disabilities – an issue that is obviously close to my heart.

At this point, I will hold off on my other thoughts regarding the bill, but there is one thing that has me very fired up and that is some of the out right misinformation that is being given about the bill. It is one thing for someone who is advocating for or against a certain measure to misstate a fact or get some statistics mixed up, but with the debate on this bill it seems as though advocates on the right such as Sarah Palin have crafted an outright lie as a way of stoking the right into a frenzy about the bill.

By now you may have heard of Sarah Palin referring to a “death panel” that her down syndrome son would have to face if the current bill is passed. It has caused many on the right to become very fired up about this bill. Now I know that there are other reasons why the town hall meetings that congressmen have been holding have been so contentious, but Ms. Palin’s comments certainly did not help.

So what is the truth? There is a provision in the House bill which would reimburse doctors who have a consultation with their patient about making end of life decisions. It is a voluntary consultation for the patient and the patient and their own personal physician ultimately make the decision about that end of life care. It is being supported by The American Medical Association, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and Consumers Union. Additionally, AARP has come out and called the claims false as well and will take out print media ads to say so. However, it is this provision that the right is now using to say that there would be a “death panel.”

An interesting note, as an attorney I have helped numerous clients prepare living wills which make these same end of life health care decisions. Sometimes the client is uncertain about various parts of the living will, so I counsel them to consider it with their family and their doctor. With the proposed provision, the client would then be able to make an appointment with their doctor to discuss the living will and it would be paid for so that the client would not have to pay for such an appointment.

What bothers me most about this misinformation is that it is so blatantly false that the only explanation for it is that the right is trying to use it to anger its base and get them to oppose the bill even more ferociously. For those of you who read my essay on the 2008 election and why I supported Barack Obama, one of the reasons I gave was that I was sick and tired of the way the right campaigned in elections and issues. While both sides can debate in a divisive manner, in my opinion the conservatives have been more guilty, at least recently, of trying to use distraction, misinformation and division in politics. President Obama clearly tried to “change the tone in Washington,” but it seems clear to me that many of the Republicans are not willing to let that happen.

It is obvious that the tone has not changed in this debate and many Republicans are of a mindset that they just want to “win.” They do not care about the hearth care crisis in America. Well as long as they just try to use the issue to damage President Obama’s approval ratings rather than actually come up with a solution, this is one Republican vote that they will NOT win back. I want statesmen right now, not individuals who are just trying to see how they can win some seats back in Congress next year. A note to you Republicans who are trying to win the “issue” so you can win an election: by being more divisive you only further alienate those of us in the middle. You may “fire up” your base and you may actually win a few seats back in the House, but at what cost?

Like I said, I am unsure on how I feel about the health care reform bill as a whole, but I know something needs to be done. As someone watching the action from the sidelines, it appears to me as though President Obama is actually trying to craft a solution while the Republicans are just trying to turn back the clock to 1993-94 all over again. I wish that Congress would put aside some of the party labels every once in awhile on a very serious domestic issue and come up with one bi-partisan solution and rather than try and use every issue for political advantage. We see Congress unite when there is a serious foreign threat to our country. Why can’t they behave the same way for a serious domestic threat?

I’m not saying that Republicans should give the President whatever he wants, but they should pull their heads out of the sand and realize that there is a health care crisis in this country. If there is a crisis, then shouldn’t something be done about it? And if something should be done, isn’t there some common ground that can be reached? No, instead the party to which I have belonged for my adult life is more content to just sit back and try to play political football with the issue in order to score some points and possibly help their chances in the next election. That is not statesmanship, it is politics at its worst.

Please Republicans in Congress, will more than a handful of moderate Senators step up to the table and have a meaningful conversation about how to solve an issue which does threaten our economic vitality? I know I would feel better as a citizen if both parties hashed out a plan that most could agree upon.