Mike Kueber's Blog

October 19, 2011

The Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas

Tonight I decided to watch the presidential debate while sitting on a friend’s patio.  Actually, Tuesday night is the night that I normally have drinks with a couple of friends, and I decided to maintain that routine rather than modify it because of the debate.

My Tuesday night drinking friends are football fans, so we typically drink and talk football.  Tonight we drank and listened and talked politics.  The transition was easy for one friend because he is a conservative talk-radio junkie, but the transition for the other was more difficult because he is an apathetic rust-belt type.

Our take-away from the evening is that Romney did excellent (an eight) while Perry did poorly (a three), but at least Perry exceeded expectations (a two).  Gingrich again
showed that he deserved to be in the first tier, but his baggage precluded it.  Santorum (the Boy Scout), Bachmann (the priss), and Paul (the ideologue) cluttered the stage.  Herman Cain again showed that he is the only serious alternative to Romney.

The issue that most frustrated us was “birthright citizenhsip.”  Finally, after all these debates, some candidates were asked to opine.  Unfortunately, the first candidate asked the question chose to specifically state that he was going to ignore the problematic question and go back to answer a question for which he had prepared a mini-speech.  When Anderson Cooper tried to bring Perry back to the problematic question, Perry told Cooper to go pound salt because he was going to use his response time however he wanted.

That’s the first time I have heard a candidate blow-off a question so directly.  Cooper, thinking on his feet, tried to pull Perry back, but he was totally ineffective.  I suspect in the future, moderators will develop a more compelling response.

Following Perry’s nonresponse, Cooper attempted unsuccessfully to get Santorum and Bachmann to answer the question.  Both fudged.  If anything, this stonewalling should motivate future moderators to redouble their efforts to get the Republican candidates to indicate whether the 14th Amendment should be amended to prevent birthright citizenship (anchor babies).

I’ll be watching.

July 3, 2011

Term limits for the U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Constitution provides that federal judges receive lifetime appointments.  Through the years, this provision has been deemed appropriate and necessary to prevent politics from improperly influencing judicial decisions.  Of late, however, the Court has been afflicted with justices who come early and stay late, resulting in a sclerotic bench.  Because Presidents want to maximize their influence for many years into the future, they limit their search to middle-aged judges who are expected to stay on the bench into their 70s and 80s.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who is currently 78-years old, has indicated that she plans to stay on the Court for several more years.  This is perplexing liberals, who are beginning to fear that President Obama will not win a second term and that conservative
Mitt Romney will ultimately replace Ginsberg with a conservative jurist who will reverse Roe v. Wade.

Politics aside, I think America would be better served if Supreme Court justices served a single ten-year term (like the FBI Director) and then moved onto something else in life.  A single term would continue to enable them to serve without undue political influence and it would remove the incentive for Presidents to focus on young prospective justices and would prevent justices like Ginsberg from hanging around too long.

This goes on my list of useful changes to the Constitution.

December 28, 2010

Political hypocrisy

Hypocrisy means pretending to have beliefs, opinions, feelings, virtues, values, qualities, or standards that one does not actually have.  That word came to mind on Christmas Eve when I heard Joe Biden say that gay marriage in America was inevitable.  Not surprisingly, Biden’s boss had said earlier that his view on this issue was “evolving.”  Both politicians had previously opposed gay marriage in 2008 when they were running for the presidency.    

I don’t have any problem with a person’s values evolving, but does anyone believe that the gay-marriage beliefs of Obama and Biden are evolving?  The only thing that is evolving is their political calculation on which position will do them the most good. 

Everyone watching closely the 2008 election process knew that Obama and Biden supported gay marriage, but because that position would have cost them votes in 2008, they decided to profess a value they didn’t actually have – i.e., civil unions were enough – separate but equal, if you will.  Can you think of a better example of hypocrisy?

Other examples of political hypocrisy are legion, and it usually is exposed when the politician’s electoral situation changes (new district, higher office, different state).  My favorite concerns the issue of term limits.  Too many politicians endorse term limits because it is the politically expedient thing to do, but their heart isn’t really in it.  Is it any surprise that the plank on term limits was the only plank in the Contract with America that did not succeed?

There is a website that provides a lengthy history of all the politicians (mostly Republicans) who have crawfished on their belief in term limits after being elected.  http://www.opencongress.org/wiki/Term_limits.  Some of their explanations make my skin crawl:

  • As a rookie candidate, I underestimated the value of experience and seniority.”  Ric Keller (R-FL).
  • Term limits for the 2nd District only could put us at a disadvantage.”  Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ).
  • The movement to term limits has “just petered out.”  Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Best of all was the explanation from Gil Gutknecht (R-MN) – “Does it make any sense to keep a stupid promise?” 

Some people think so. 

Remember Woodrow Call in Lonesome Dove, who imprudently promised Gus McCrae that he would haul his body back to Texas for burial.  Although Woodrow eventually realized his promise was stupid, he followed through on the promise and buried Gus along a creek near Austin and said, “Well, Gus; there you go. I guess this will teach me to be more careful about what I promise people in the future.”  That’s what people with intergrity do. 

Other recent examples of political hypocrisy include (1) Congressman Harold Ford moving from Tennessee to New York and suddenly deciding he believed in abortion, gay marriage, and gun control, (2) Al Gore declaring that ethanol subsidies have always been a bad idea, but he endorsed them during his presidential run in 2000 because he wanted to be liked by voters in Iowa, (3) Mitt Romney believing in abortion rights as a Massachusetts politician, but opposing them as a Republican candidate for president, and (4) Barack Obama believing in public financing of campaigns until he realized that he could raise unprecedented amounts through private financing.

You might suggest that political candidates can’t be expected to commit political suicide over issues like this, and I agree.  But there is a way to address these issues without mortally wounding either your candidacy or your intergrity.

When I ran for Congress, my first magazine interviewer asked about my position regarding gay marriage.  I responded that, personally I thought gay people should have the right to get married (civil unions were not “separate but equal”), but politically I accepted the fact that a vast majority of Texas recently approved an amendment to the Texas constitution prohibiting gay marriage and that I would act accordingly.

Voters get the politicians they deserve.  If voters want politicians with integrity, they need to stop voting for politicians who have shown themselves to be integrity-challenged.