Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Speaking Politically

The Senate failed us yesterday, and Russ Feingold is as unhappy about that shameful lack of courage as I am. You can read more about his opinions at Bob Geiger’s post today. Feingold says, in part,

"I simply can’t go home every week knowing that Wisconsin men and women are going to die for no good purpose at this point. Simply because politicians want to play it safe," he said quietly, near the end of the conference call. "There comes a point where it’s against my conscience to put up with that. So I am for as tough an approach as is necessary to end this war."

Mr. Feingold speaks plainly. He doesn’t say what he thinks you want him to say, he doesn’t express what he thinks you think he ought to think. (That was a little convoluted, did you stay with me?) When he speaks, his words reveal the man. I encourage you to click on the link and read the entirety of what Feingold has to say.

He reminds me of a couple of other senators I admired.

One was Sam Nunn of Georgia, another Democrat. There was a big Air Force project pending, with bidding between Lockheed-Martin and Boeing, and Nunn was favoring Boeing. When asked why he did not support the Lockheed-Martin bid, when the plane would be built in the factory near Atlanta, he minced no words. He said that he was a United States Senator and that it was his responsibility to vote for what was in the best interest of the country, that if Lockheed-Martin wanted the project they needed to improve both the airplane and the cost. Boeing won the contract and Nunn was reelected with a strong majority in the following election.

Sam Nunn was a brilliant thinker and his chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee was one of the best things that ever happened to our military. He was a moral (in the true sense of the word) and decent man. He never said why he decided to quit running for reelection, but I always suspected that it was that Congressional policies and processes had simply become too distasteful.

The other was Barry Goldwater. (A Republican, but remember, I am originally from Arizona.) I didn’t always agree with Barry, but the man was as honest as the desert is dry, and as direct as the Sonora mid-day sun.

Ronald Reagan once described him thusly,

“This is a man,” Reagan said, “who in his own business, before he entered politics, instituted a profit-sharing plan, before unions had ever thought of it. He put in health and medical insurance for all his employees. He took 50 percent of the profits before taxes and set up a retirement program, a pension plan for all his employees. He sent checks for life to an employee who was ill and couldn’t work. He provided nursing care for the children of mothers who worked in the stores.”

He loved kachinas, and amassed a world class collection of them. Did he hide them away in some museum, or in his home for his own private pleasure? He did not. He placed them in his department stores so that all of the people of Arizona could share their beauty.

I can cite an aircraft project to illustrate his integrity also. Asked why he was not supporting the builder in Phoenix for the Apache helicopter, he replied, “Hell, they could build the damned thing in my living room and I’d fight ‘em till they get the price down.”

He was greatly loved by the people of Arizona, and was reelected overwhelmingly after that episode.

Contrast that with Hillary Clinton. Asked whether she was wrong to vote for the Iraq War Resolution, she replies as follows (several sources):

"Well, I've said over and over again, knowing what I know now, I would never have voted for it. The President was the one who was wrong. The President led people to believe that he would be prudent in the exercise of the authority he was given. That proved not to be true. I think keeping the focus on the President and Vice President about what they did and didn't do, the mistakes they made, is really where it needs to be, because he's the only one who can reverse course."

Instead of actually answering the question, she uses the question to launch a political attack upon an opponent. That’s the formula today; one sentence which is marginally related to what the interviewer asked, and then switch to your own agenda and divert attention completely away from yourself.

She speaks carefully, and does not answer the question. What does that non- response really tell you about her? Does she believe that she should have known more about that vote at the time she made it? Does she believe that she could have known more? Does she have any sense that she was a participant in the Senate’s abdication of responsibility?

I remember once when Bill Clinton was debating Bush. It was one of those debates in shirt sleeves and wandering around. Clinton was answering a question from the audience and the moderator interrupted to offer Clinton an opportunity to slam Bush. I mean, it was an opening so obvious that a moron could walk in that door. Clinton’s response was, “Yes, I’ll address that in a moment if you want, but right now I’d rather finish answering this lady’s question if that’s okay.”

He went ahead and finished answering the question, and he really did answer it, thoughtfully and not just with slogans. The invited slam never happened, and I wanted to go to a polling place and vote for him at that moment. I didn’t want to wait for election day, I wanted to do it right then.

We need people who are not politicians but leaders. We need leaders, unlike the people presently in our Senate, with courage. We need leaders who are more concerned with leading than with polling well. We need people who, when asked a question, speak plainly and give real answers instead of making speeches and spouting slogans. We need candidates who have the courage to win and are not afraid to lose, candidates who do not “speak carefully” but who speak plainly and honestly.

I don’t want to hear about your opponent from you, I want to hear about you.

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