Friday, March 27, 2009

I wrote to my congressman

*grins* I'm actually rather proud of myself. I've said for years that Congress writes the laws, so if you have a complaint or request, then Congress is who you need to call. Still, I have never written to my representative in the House until today.

My congressman is Glenn Nye. He represents the 2nd District of Virginia, including parts of Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore. It was a very general letter. I didn't ask for anything specific; just that he remember his duty to represent my interests and the interests of the other residents of his district. I think everyone in the country should send such a reminder to their representatives. Who knows? They may just listen.

This is the letter I wrote:

Congressman Nye,

My name is Stephen Monteith. I'm 28 years old, and a resident of Virginia Beach. I've lived in this city for virtually my whole life, and have developed a great deal of affection for her in that time. I can't imagine any place where I would rather live.

I want to congratulate you on being elected to represent Virginia Beach, along with the rest of the district, in the United States Congress. Though I've never served in public office before, I know that this is an awesome responsibility you hold. As far back as I can remember, I've been taught the history of our country and government; about the struggles our Founding Fathers had over the best way to serve the American people. The purpose of Congress, the House of Representatives in particular, was to be the voice of ordinary Americans in government. Congressman Nye, I want you to be my voice in government.

I've never considered myself to be especially partisan, no matter how my views have evolved over time. I've never joined a political party, nor have I consistently voted along any party line at the booth. I vote for the people whom I believe would best represent my values. I believe in President Obama's call, an echo of calls from great leaders down through the centuries, to rise above partisan enmity and prejudice, and to simply perform our duties. Whether or not anyone else in Congress, or all of Washington, answers that call, I hope you do.

I want you to know that you will have my support, Congressman. All I expect in return is that you hear my concerns when I voice them and present those concerns in the House of Representatives. I won't ask for special treatment from you; just that you remember my concerns when debate arises and it comes time to vote on issues that will affect me. You are my voice in government, sir, and I hope you will always act as such.

Thank you for your service, Congressman. I will write again.


Stephen Monteith

In my first post, I pointed out that, even in the rare year when no one runs for reelection, our leaders still have the responsibility of leading us. They also have the responsibility to listen to us. I fully intend to write to my congressman and senators when I have an issue with our government and its actions or potential actions, and I believe everyone in the country should as well. Think of it as a suggestion box in an office building; except that, if your boss doesn't take your suggestions, you can vote him out of office.

I vote for the candidates whom I feel best represent my values. That's what we should all do; and it's the standard to which we should hold all of our leaders. If you want your congressmen to work for you, then write to them today and let them know.

Update: the Congressman's reply

Dear Mr. Monteith,

Thank you for sharing your support for my actions in Congress. It is good to stay in touch with my neighbors in Tidewater, and I appreciate having your input.

When I cast my vote, I rely on two things to guide me: my conscience and the information I receive from my constituents. I am glad that we share the same views on the issues you contacted me about, and I am sure we can work together to advance important goals.

Thank you again for sharing your support for my actions in Congress. I am proud to serve Virginia's Second Congressional District, and I am committed to working hard for you. If you would like more information about the issues I am working on in Congress, or if you would like to sign up to receive my monthly e-newsletter, I encourage you to visit my website at


Glenn Nye
Member of Congress

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you from over there

Barack Obama campaigned for the presidency on a promise of post-partisanism and consensus-building with people of all political leanings and opinions. It was a great idea, and one to which he seemed to genuinely aspire for a while. He appointed (or at least tried to appoint) several Republicans to his Cabinet, he sought input from Republican leaders on the stimulus bill, even though most of the conservative ideals were ultimately stripped from the bill before it was signed into law, and he worked hard to extend gestures, albeit mostly symbolic ones, to the conservative "Right" during the early days of his administration, starting with inviting the Reverend Rick Warren to give the invocation at his Inauguration.

I wasn't too concerned when his administration and Democrats in general started taking potshots at Republicans and other conservatives, since that's what Democrats do. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel used to be the House Democratic Whip, which meant he was supposed to stir up the left against the right. Some suggested that this would make him an ineffective consensus builder, but it's still Obama's administration, and it's still Obama's decisions.

One decision that he's made lately, though, has caused me a certain amount of concern. I read a report, put out by Politico and Yahoo! News that said the administration, at Obama's behest, will seek to bypass the White House press corps and reach out to "liberal commentators, local reporters and ethnic media".

The article says the aim is "communicating directly with audiences the White House believes are more sympathetic to the president’s agenda". Those audiences include the Huffington Post, "progressive" radio and bloggers, and some ethnic media outlets like Telemundo and Black Enterprise. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says this is an effort to reach "people that aren't cable junkies or news junkies".

Others see a slightly different agenda, though. For one, as the article states repeatedly, the outlets are all liberal or liberal-leaning, at some points characterizing them as "friendly". Some see this as a sign of trouble for the president, that he needs to reach out to his "friends", campaigning for his agenda among those supporters of his who don't seem to support him as much lately.

Personally, I don't care much about that. A president should take the time to promote his agenda, to let the American people know exactly what his plans are and why he made them. Perhaps, if President George W. Bush had done a better job of explaining himself, he would have garnered more public support for his own initiatives.

Targetting liberal audiences, though, is not a move that I think a liberal president needs to make. Doing so ignores fully half of the country. At a time when shows like The O'Reilly Factor consistently draw larger audiences than Countdown with Keith Olbermann, when the New York Times is in decline and the Wall Street Journal's stock is on the rise, and when attacking conservative radio only drives up its listenership, if you want to take your message to the American people, then you need to start using conservative outlets.

I don't recommend that the president go on the Rush Limbaugh show, but it certainly couldn't hurt him to hold interviews with more conservative pundits. When he was interviewed by Bill O'Reilly, his standing in the eyes of Republicans rose considerably. He effectively countered the popular argument of the time that "Obama will meet with terrorists without preconditions, but he won't even let Fox News interview him".

If he wants to show true post-partisanism, then it will take much more than a Republican Secretary of Transportation. Gibbs' argument seemed to be that Obama wants to speak to people who typically do not tune in to CNN. Well, his words aren't likely to reach Republican eyes and ears if they appear in the Daily Kos. He's selling to walk-in traffic. If he wants to increase sales, then he needs to set up some billboards.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

More money, more problems in Virginia politics

The gubernatorial race here in Virginia is becoming a microcosm of the 2008 presidential election; in one respect, at least.

I give most of the credit for this post to a well-researched article by Patrick Callahan in the James Madison University publication The Breeze. The full article may be read here.

Essentially, Mr. Callahan points out that Terry McAuliffe, one of the contenders for the Democratic nomination for governor, brings a certain amount of star power and superb fundraising ability to his bid for the candidacy and the governorship ... but not much else. As former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former manager for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, Mr. McAuliffe certainly is a highly recognized and respected member of the Democratic Party, and possesses incredible potential to raise funds not just for his own campaign but for delegate races across the Commonwealth.

Beyond that, though, he doesn't have much to offer Virginians. Representative Creigh Deeds and former state Delegate Brian Moran, the other Democratic contenders, both have been active and influential figures in Virginia politics for years, now. Bob McDonnell, the sole Republican in the race, was the Attorney General until very recently. While Mr. McAuliffe busied himself with getting Democrats into offices and, by nature of his job, beating Republicans, the other candidates were solely serving the Commonwealth.

It reminded me of the 2008 presidential election season, when star power and fundraising totals were seen as positive indicators of ability to govern. Terry McAuliffe may be a competent executive, but so far all he has brought to the table is millions upon millions of dollars. As Mr. Callahan points out in his article, this election's projected cost was between 25 and 35 million dollars, but when Mr. McAuliffe announced his bid, the projections tripled.

The other candidates are doing their best to fight fire with fire, sending out mailers and anything else they can think of to raise enough money to present a serious challenge. Personally, I would much rather this election be about who can best govern the Commonwealth, especially with the economy in its current state. Everyone knows I despise popularity contests. However, in the world of politics, popularity is king, and elections are about who can afford to convince the voters that they deserve the crown.

Will this be the year that I finally contribute money to a political campaign? Time will tell. For now, I'll continue simply contributing my words.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tax and Tax

This is outrageous. The House of Representatives is voting on a bill to tax 90% of the bonuses that AIG executives are receiving. Forgetting the fact that they have no basis for imposing this tax other than they need to look like they're doing something, who is really at fault for allowing these bonuses in the first place?

The stimulus bill that was passed a month ago went through several incarnations. The version that passed the Senate would have been sufficient to keep these bonuses from ever being paid. However, in the conference before passage of the final draft of the bill, Senator Chris Dodd inserted language that would allow bonuses agreed upon before the signing of the bill to be paid. (It took a while, but he finally admitted that he was the one who wrote the final language of that stipulation.) The House and the Senate were supposed to have two days to review the final draft before voting, which makes perfect sense when you're dealing with any sort of bill at all. Speaker Pelosi, however rushed the final bill through in less than a day.

Would the bill have still passed if Congress had been given the full two days? Probably not, which I suspect is the reason they were not given those two days. Did Speaker Pelosi know about the bonus provision? Did either she or Senator Dodd know about the multimillion dollar bonuses already promised to AIG executives? Personally, I doubt it. That wouldn't change the fact that this legislation was passed irresponsibly without proper review and at least one consequence is that the United States is now required to pay millions in bonuses to AIG executives who most likely do not deserve them.

What's Congress' solution to this mess of their own making? Admit they made mistakes? Contritely ask the public's forgiveness? Vow to do better the next time they bail out a failing company?

Nope. Their solution is to impose a massive new tax and hope that the American taxpayers will continue to view the executives as the bad guys, despite the fact that all they've done is collect contractually guaranteed and Congress-approved bonuses.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Let AIG fall.

There's a lot of furor over the current situation with American International Group, the sometime insurance giant that the government told us was "too big to fall". It was decided to give billions of taxpayer dollars to the ailing company, in the hopes that all the businesses, American and foreign, that have a vested interest in AIG's future wouldn't collapse if AIG did.

Lately, though, it's been discovered that, before AIG's current economic straits, a certain number of executives signed contracts that included multimillion dollar bonuses to remain with the company. Now, Edward Liddy, the new CEO, intends to honor those contracts to keep the executives from leaving, which could cause the company to fall anyway, which the government has worked so hard and spent so much to prevent.

Naturally, the average taxpayer and his representative in Washington is furious about this. Paying hundreds of millions in bonuses? The president and Congress are vowing to find ways around these contracts so that the company will no longer be a burden on the taxpayers. Personally, I never wanted it to be a burden at all.

So, I have a suggestion: let AIG fall.

It's going to happen. The only way to prevent it is to keep increasing government funding and government control of the company. American taxpayers "own" about 80% of the stock, but who really wants it? As for the new head of the company that the government recruited and installed, he has no choice but to follow the law and honor the contracts.

What do they expect will happen if those contracts are broken? Again, it is government interference, for whatever reason and under whatever justification. Either those executives agree willingly to let Ed Liddy release them from their contract obligations, or the company goes bankrupt and the courts order them to renegotiate. Any other avenue is, by definition, unconstitutional.

This is why bailouts are a bad idea. You cannot give money to a company without taking a stake in how that company operates; and when the government takes a stake and starts dictating, that's socialism.

They should never have given them any money in the first place. Now they have the choice of letting the executives keep their bonuses in the hopes that AIG is once again successful and pays back the loan (some day), or breaking the contracts and watching these executives leave for much better jobs at companies that don't deal with government interference. At that point, AIG really will fall. Or the government can always bring in even more of its own handlers to take their place.

You break a vicious cycle ... by breaking it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Did I forget anyone?

Are any of you familiar with the term "gimmick infringement"? It's what happens when someone starts using another person's gimmicks as his own. I'm not sure if it's illegal, but there are certainly cases when it's in bad taste. Sometimes, though, imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery, as long as you give the proper nod to the original. Other times, it's simply a good idea.

Take the Republican and Democratic Parties, for example. The Democrats have branded themselves the party of inclusion, where minorities, gays, lesbians, poor people, and even women can find safe haven against the big, bad rich white males in the Republican Party. It's how they win elections, by appealing to "non-whites" and standing up for "equality". You would think that they, and the country, would be ecstatic to learn that the Republican Party has been taking cues from them for decades now in this area.

And yet, when Michael Steele was elected the first African American chairman of the Republican National Committee, all that liberal pundits had to say about the matter was that Republicans only elected him because he was black. I suppose it never occurred to them that the RNC simply might have decided that Mr. Steele was the best man for the job (though in recent weeks, some have begun to wonder). They most likely just didn't want to give anyone the impression that the GOP was open to the idea that black people might have good ideas for the party and for the country itself. After all, they had just spent a year and half holding their breaths waiting for some Republican or another to say or do something racist while Barack Obama was running for president.

The idea that the GOP actually might be multicultural is not an idea that will serve the Democratic Party well in coming elections. Since Barack Obama became president, a host of non-white male Protestants have risen to national prominence from the Republican field. Women don't just need to rely on Sarah Palin to represent them in the GOP, as Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas has served in the United States Senate since 1993. Other Republican women have served and do serve in Congress and top state positions across the nation.

Governor Bobby Jindal, the son of immigrants from India, reminds us that Latinos and African Americans are not the only minorities in America. Lest we forget those elements of the conservative movement, though, both Presidents Bush nominated minorities to the Supreme Court of the United States. Clarence Thomas is a conservative African-American and Samuel Alito is a son of immigrants. Colin Powell was a close advisor to both presidents, and of course Condoleezza Rice served as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State to George W. Bush. Alberto Gonzalez is Latino, making the most recent President Bush's Cabinet one of the most diverse in modern history.

As for claims of religious singularism in the GOP, though Latter-day Saint Mitt Romney did not fare well among evangelical voters during the early primaries, he recently won the endorsement of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) for the third year in a row. In addition, the House Republican Whip Eric Cantor is Jewish, and is credited with uniting Republican House members in a no vote on the overbloated stimulus bill last month. He has become the target of attacks from the Democratic Party because, to hear his Republican colleagues tell the story, he's just too good at his job.

The gay movement has suffered a blow recently, in the form of Proposition Eight in California, which bans gay and lesbian marriages. But even gays can find a home in the GOP, as Log Cabin Republicans have been a force inside the Republican Party for years now. Originally based in California, they now have chapters across the United States, and they recognize that, this issue aside, Republican ideals and values tend to align with their own.

The politics of divisiveness have existed in this country since the Founding Fathers first began contemplating a revolution. Even in the earliest days of our government, it was debated whether there should be political parties at all. George Washington warned that "[t]he alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism." His intent was to show that, no matter which party is in control, it will most likely begin to abuse its authority over the other almost as soon as it has that control.

We've seen examples of this from both of the major parties in America, and not just in decades past. Democrats in Congress today have already begun to flex their muscles against the minority party, flush with power after the November election put a Democrat at the head of the executive branch. Personally, I believe in divided government, and there is no surer way to have that than to have one party in Congress and the other in the White House.

President Obama has shown that he is willing, and even eager, to gain support from Republicans on his initiatives. This shows a humility that is very becoming in a president. How long, though, until he listens to calls from Speaker Pelosi and other like-minded Democrats to simply promote his own agenda regardless of what the opposition says or does? Who cares what Republicans think, anyway? The answer: fully half of the country. And even if there were only one Republican left in the United States, he or she would still have the Constitutional right to demand representation and accountability from his leaders.

I have always admired the Democratic Party for giving voices to those who didn't have them. It seemed the perfect ideal, and one that I wanted to spread myself. I was wrong, though, in thinking that it was only the Democrats who represented African, Asian, Latin, European, and other types of Americans. I was wrong in thinking that all or even most women supported Democratic ideals. I was wrong to think that the Democratic Party was the only "party of inclusion" in this country. There are many parties, in fact, and they all appeal to more than one type of person.

This is the 21st century. It's time that we stopped adhering to the old stereotypes about the parties in this country. Republicans are not just rich old white Protestants, and Democrats are not the only ones who stand up for minorities. Remember, the things that unite us are greater than those which divide us.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Eric Cantor - The New Dragon

I have to say, I'm pleased as punch that the Democrats now have a legitimate dragon to slay. Maybe it will begin to shift the focus from the Rush Limbaugh non-story to a debate that will actually benefit the country. I'm also pleased that this particular dragon makes his home (or lair, if you will) in Virginia. I just love it when my home state makes the news (except that whole Michael Vick thing).

Eric Cantor, the House Republican Whip, is the representative in Congress of Virginia's 7th district, which covers most of northwest Richmond and its suburbs in that area, as well as part of the Shenandoah Valley. He has represented the 7th district for four terms. He became the Whip in November, after being elected for the fifth time.

What does a whip do? According to Wikipedia, the House whip "manages [his] party's legislative program on the House floor. The Whip keeps track of all legislation and ensures that all party members are present when important measures are to be voted upon."

Though Rep. Cantor has only been Whip a short time, he has already earned the respect of his Republican colleagues. He was unanimously elected Whip, after making a name for himself as chief deputy whip and directly taking on Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the $700 billion bailout bill last fall. This last month, he has been credited with keeping House GOP members united in voting against the Speaker's version of the economic stimulus bill. He clearly has made himself a force to be reckoned with in the Republican Party.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Democrats from all walks of life are now united in an effort to keep Cantor from gaining support and popularity among the American public at large. (I guess it's a step up from trying to pick a fight with a radio host.) President Obama pledged last month to find a way to get Cantor to admit that he (Obama) has "a good idea". David Plouffe, who ran Obama's presidential campaign, said that Cantor was merely echoing Limbaugh's voice in everything. Already, you can hear "robocalls" in Michigan, Florida, and California characterizing Cantor as the leader of the Republican Party, calling it the "party of no".

Independent groups are taking aim at him, as well. Americans United for Change features him in a number of TV spots, highlighting his efforts to oppose the stimulus bill. Spokesman Jeremy Funk says he's just "representing the same old policies the right wing has been promoting".

House Republicans, of course, are pleased with the attention Cantor is receiving. They say it's an indication of how effective he is at strategy and as a leader of the opposition party. It's even said that Rahm Emmanuel, the White House Chief of Staff and a former House Whip for the Democrats, may be personally fixated on Cantor. Some of his tactics mirror Emmanuel's during the Republican Majority. They also line up with tehcniques employed by Speaker Pelosi back when she was in the minority fighting against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

House Democrats try to characterize all the attention Cantor receives as the natural consequence of being in Washington. Basically, you work there long enough you make enemies. Cantor has done a good job of that, clearly. Politics in Virginia have been rather hectic in recent years, with a decidedly leftward slant. With our history of firm Republicanism seeing two Democratic governors elected in a row and now two Democratic senators, Eric Cantor has reason to look forward to the midterm elections with some uncertainty. As I said, ads are already airing against him, both abroad and in his home district.

As a conservative, I'm happy that liberals are finally acknowledging one of the true leaders of the conservative movement. As an independent who personally believes no party should control both the White House and Congress, I'm glad to see the Republican Party begin to find its feet. The midterm elections in 2010 will certainly be exciting; and though I don't live in Representative Cantor's district, if he continues to represent the best of conservatism, then he'll have my support.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

In Local News ...

I live in the city of Virginia Beach, in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We're electing a new governor this November. In Virginia, no one can serve two consecutive terms as governor, so our current Governor Tim Kaine will not be seeking reelection. He'll have his hands full as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, anyway.

Before I continue, I want to ask a question of all the Virginians reading this blog: do you know who the candidates for governor are this year? Not do you know where they stand on the issues, or what their current or past job titles have been, or if they've ever fallen behind on their taxes, or if they've ever been in trouble with the law; do you know their names?

What about the candidates for lieutenant governor? For those who don't know, it's not like a presidential election. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor from the same party still run separately. Currently, we have a Democratic governor and a Republican lieutenant governor. Do you know what the lieutenant governor does, besides step up if the governor steps down?

Do you know if there are any other elections taking place in Virginia this year, at either the state or local level? Do you know who your representatives in the state legislature are, or even your city council representatives? You probably know your mayor's name, but what about the vice mayor?

The elections aren't until November, of couse, but how early is "too early"? People talk all the time about wasted votes, but you don't have to wait until election day to make your vote count. We're only dealing with Virginia, after all; we're not running a national campaign here. You have plenty of time to make a real difference.

I'd say start by learning what you don't know. Find out about elections in your area, who your choices are and what they believe. I know a lot of people are tempted to vote a straight party ticket, but there's more to "hope and change" than simply doing the same thing over and over. I'll get you started.

The GOP candidate for governor of Virginia is Bob McDonnell, our current attorney general. He is running unopposed on the Republican side. Our current lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling, is up for reelection. On the Democratic side, the candidates for governor are former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, Representative R. Creigh Deeds of Bath Co., and Brian J. Moran, a former state delegate from Alexandria. The lieutenant governor race is even more crowded. Former state Secretary of Finance Jody Wagner, Russell Co. businessman Jon Bowerbank, former gubernatorial aide Mike Signer, and Pat Edmonson of the Virginia Beach School Board are all in the running on the Democratic side. As you can see, the Democrats have quite a bit to do before the June primary, when they choose their candidates for the top two spots on the ticket.

Now you know their names; it's time to learn who they are.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Knights In Tarnished Armor

Does it seem to anyone else that the Democratic Party has better things to do than to speculate on national television about whether or not Rush Limbaugh actually runs the Republican Party? Is there anyone out there who needs a list of the problems this country faces? I really didn't want to waste a blog entry on this, but as I noticed that neither CNN nor MSNBC is willing to let this non-story die, it seems unavoidable.

I have a theory, and it occurred to me last night as I listened to one talking head mention that the focus had shifted from George W. Bush to Rush Limbaugh. It hit me, then, that the Democratic Party doesn't have a nemesis anymore.

Imagine a medieval knight, decked out in full armor, at the head of a forked trail. One fork leads to a village full of starving people, and the other to a dragon who needs slaying. Both are tasks are fit for heroes, but given the option, knights usually chose to slay the dragon. After all, you can feed the villagers later, but not if they've been killed in a dragon attack.

The Democratic Party, on the other hand, has already slayed its dragon; two of them, in fact. They took control of the House and Senate, and they put a Democrat in the White House. Now they have to go feed the villagers. Instead, though, an alarming number of them seemed preoccupied with slaying the same old dragons, or finding a new one to slay. First, you have members of Congress spending time they (and we) don't have chasing down everything that George W. Bush did during his time as president, looking for anything they can use to slay him again. Whether or not Congress can do more than one thing at a time is certainly debatable, given how poorly they're managing the current crisis.

And then you have Rahm Emmanuel, White House Chief of Staff, who certainly has better things to do, trying to crown Rush Limbaugh as the "head" of the GOP. Setting aside the fact that there are many leaders in the Republican Party, just as the Democratic Party has a plethora of leaders who fight with each other on a daily basis, what purpose does it serve to elevate a radio personality, albeit a popular one, to the post of White House Archenemy?

It's sort of like the movie Dragonheart, wherein Dennis Quaid plays a knight who vows to kill every last dragon in the world. When he meets the last dragon, however, the dragon (voiced by Sean Connery) points out that once all the dragons are gone, Dennis Quaid will have nothing to do. A true knight, of course, would just go and feed the villagers, but it takes almost the entire movie for that to occur to Quaid's character. In the meantime, he persuades the dragon to fly around, scaring the simple townsfolk, while Quaid pretends to "slay" him at each stop.

The Democratic Party seems bent on convincing the American public that there are still dragons to slay. They have their pick: Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Michael Steele, and a few others; but they already slayed Palin during the election, and if you're the party that just put Barack Obama in the White House, then you don't go around slaying blacks or the sons of immigrants. Rush Limbaugh, on the other hand, is the stereotypical fat, old, white, male archconservative blowhard. He's perfect.

Except he's a radio host. You just don't go on a crusade against radio hosts. We learned that when the Christian Right tried to shut down Howard Stern. Now the Democrats want to tilt at windmills? Go feed the villagers, already.

Monday, March 2, 2009

That elusive quality

I've railed often, mostly during the 2008 presidential election season, against that elusive quality referred to in the media as "electability". It propped up such terrible, in my opinion, candidates as Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, and especially Fred Thompson. It kept thoroughly competent candidates, such as Mitt Romney, from capturing the hearts of the voters. This election was practically tailor-made for Romney to win, I argued on every blog post I could find, but his "robotic" demeanor and, yes, his Mormonism, made him entirely too "unelectable" for most people.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with my father during the Clinton impeachment hearings, about how people probably expect too much of a president. In England, for example, the Prime Minister runs the government but the monarch leads the people. In the United States of America, though, our figurehead is also our chief executive. We have had competent administrators, executives, and legislators passed over in favor of men and women who appeal to our emotions, our feelings, and our basest urges. If we did it differently, then perhaps we would have both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama leading the country, one as administrator, the other as Speechgiver-in-Chief.

When it comes to leadership, though, a country needs a man or woman who can inspire it. Last week, Newsweek ran an article that posited perhaps President Obama could "talk us" out of recession. Granted, confidence is something Americans need if we're to regain our place as a leader in world economics and finance. However, leadership also requires competence. We need a president who understands economic policy, who ideally has had experience in implementing it, and who understands the world market as well as our own.

Mitt Romney fits that bill. He would have been an outstanding president to have in this time. But, because he was unable to win the hearts of the voters, we are left with a president who, every time he proposes a new economic proposal, creates a dip in the market. So far, the president lacks both competence and "that elusive quality".

If you ask me, then I say it's time we stopped looking for leaders who inspire us and start electing leaders who can lead us.


The conservative movement needs a makeover; not a revolution, not an evolution, just some image consulting.

Oh, and some new leadership.For the past eight years, we've been painted as the party of George W. Bush and, through no effort of our own, John McCain. And while both of them have done their best to keep America safe and prosperous, they simply weren't the men for the job. Many Republicans didn't even want them for the job.

Nor was Sarah Palin the woman for the job. It's true that she fought corruption in the Alaskan GOP and did her best in the face of massive media opposition, but she simply wasn't ready to be put on the national stage.

Governor Bobby Jindal would have been a better fit. More so than Palin or RNC Chairman Michael Steele, he reflects that the Republican Party is not just the party of old white male Protestants. He's the children of immigrants who rose to become one of the strongest leaders in Louisiana politics, either Republican or Democrat. He's the leader that conservatives wish had been in charge during Katrina.

Eric Cantor, the House Minority Whip from my home state of Virginia, is another example. He was able to convince House Republicans to stand by "conservative" principles of fiscal responsibility that have been lacking in the last couple of decades. "Deficit hawk" used to be a term worn by the GOP until the Bush administration. Now, leaders like Cantor are helping conservatives earn that title back.

And then there's my personal favorite, Mitt Romney, who won the conservative straw poll at CPAC for the third year running this last week. With his incredible business acumen, his governorship of one of the most liberal states in the country, his record of salvaging (nearly) lost industries and businesses and turning them into successes (not the least of which was the 2002 Winter Olympics), he could have been the president that George W. Bush was supposed to be. With his economic credentials, he'd certainly have done better in this last election than John McCain did.

Marketing types call it "rebranding". I call it "prebranding", returning to the previous brand. The conservative movement has gotten away from its founding principles of economic stability, prosperity for all and not just the rich, strong families, and a strong national defense. We haven't been the leaders we should have been, and that's on us. I'm not dedicated to ending the conservative movement; I'm dedicated to reinventing it.