Words of Wisdom, From a Polarizing Source: Mike Huckabee
Image by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Mike Huckabee. Just the name conjures a response from pretty much anyone who has had access to a television over the past 6-10 years. The responses are normally either from the “love him!” or “hate him!” sides of the spectrum. Many of those people know little about the man other than what they’ve seen on his talk show, (which I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen a full episode of) but there are a few of us that have followed him for several years longer. For me, I first met him at a campaign event when I was much younger and he was running for re-election as Arkansas’s Governor. Although he was the first politician I had ever met and it is difficult to keep a middle school kid interested in a campaign dinner, he made an impression. Since then I have always had a special respect for his pragmatic approach to leadership and his ability to set aside his hardcore social conservative views when necessary to get the job done. So when I heard he was going to be in Little Rock this morning to speak at a breakfast for the Political Animals Club, I decided I wanted to be there to hear him speak. Whether you love him, hate him, or are just aware of his existence, the message he delivered this morning spoke volumes about what our political system has become and offered several pearls of wisdom and advice regardless of which side of the party line you’re on.
“When people have the attitude of all or nothing, now or never, you’re going to get nothing and you’re going to get it forever.” The Governor pointed out that the “no negotiation”, “all or nothing” approach that the President, Harry Reid, and Congressional Republicans have taken is the result of a total lack of understanding of what it means to govern. “It’s easy to campaign. It’s hard to govern.” He said that the hardest job he has ever had was Governor of Arkansas because he had to work with people that politically opposed him to get literally anything done. He said campaigning is easy because you control the message and the circumstances. Being a talk show host is easy because you control the message and if there is a guest you can’t stand you just don’t invite them to your show. Governing however, involves realizing that you are no longer in control of the message or the circumstances and you have to work with the situation facing you. “You just don’t get everything you want.” Huckabee pointed out that during his 10 ½ years as Governor of Arkansas, he had to work with a State Senate and State House that were overwhelmingly Democrat. He pushed for, and succeeded in passing, sweeping education reforms and massive road bills that were not entirely popular with either party at the time because he “put in the time” to sit down with the Democratic leadership and work on solutions that both sides could tolerate. Working together with leading Democrats, they were able to improve Arkansas’s K-12 curriculum, do a total 180 to stop the “brain drain” of top high school graduates leaving for out of state colleges, pass the largest highway funding bill in the state’s history, and leave the state government with a substantial surplus that the put away in a rainy day fund to lure in industry and fund gaps in the future. He said it is important to remember that negotiation and compromise are key components to effectively governing. Partisan hardline stances are not pragmatic and should be saved for campaign speeches. These hardline stances accomplish nothing in office, a fact that he believes both sides have lost sight of. He pointedly criticized President Obama, Congressional Republicans, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid for their total failure to reach across the aisle and try to develop a relationship with their opponents. “It’s not about whether you like them or not”, he said, it’s about getting a job done and you simply cannot accomplish anything unless you put in the time necessary to build those working relationships. The no negotiation stances, the partisan bickering, and the constant trading of punches in the press are not leadership in any form or fashion and only serve to hamper your ability to get anything done in the long run. “Some people have forgotten this isn’t a campaign trail anymore.”
The former Governor went on for a little longer and took questions about national and state level issues, as well as his ideas on immigration, social security, and medicare reform, but those are topics for another time. My point in sharing this is to hope that the few of you that read this will step back and think about these points before you vote for a candidate. Remember that those bold statements and promises don’t mean anything if the candidate doesn’t have the humility to work with the other side and accomplish anything. The most extreme conservatives and the most extreme liberals are often the least likely to solve anything because they are the least likely to sit down with each other and hammer out a compromise. Governor Huckabee’s most important point, and the one I’ll leave you with, is that we should be focusing not on how liberal or how conservative a person is, but on how they will govern. “We have a habit of seeing things horizontally; as left or right, liberal or conservative, but we should be looking at things vertically. Are they going to make things better, or are they going to make things worse?” In the end, that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?
Did We Learn Nothing?
After years of disappointment and decline, we have chosen to re-elect the same policies that have left us stuck in the mud and economic malaise these past 4 years. Have voters totally stopped learning from their mistakes, or did they just really not like Mitt Romney? Either way, I am concerned at this outcome since it makes me wonder what our priorities really are in this country. We claim that the economy is our #1 concern, but then we don’t vote for the candidate we also think (by the polls) would be better at fixing the economy. Polls show that we voted based off racial identities and vague feelings of likability or “caring” instead of logic and platforms. We want to blame our politicians for the problems we’re facing, but then weren’t willing to vote for new ones. We voted for negativity instead of change or positivity, a total flip from 2008 election, but ended up with the same result. Regardless of the reasons, we have chosen to re-elect a divisive politician that has shown little ability to reunite our fractured political landscape or manage the problems we face as a nation. As such, anyone expecting big progress or big solutions in the next four years is likely to be disappointed. The political gridlock will continue, and regardless of “efforts” on both sides, the economic difficulties and pending crises in our entitlement programs will continue to be kicked down the road.
I hope that without the political pressure of re-election he was so focused on that the President will be more effective in his leadership. I also hope that the fact almost as many citizens in our country voted against him as for him will be a wake-up call. I hope we see a better four years ahead of us than the last four, but I certainly don’t expect it. Congratulations to President Obama on a hard fought and well played (and unfortunately nasty) campaign, now change the game in D.C. like you promised to 4 years ago and actually try to work with people on the other side of the aisle. Now all your actions will only affect the legacy you leave. Make it one worth leaving.
Keeping with the someecards theme today, I offer this as the polls close and the results start trickling in.
Why I’ll Be Voting for Romney
I’m rarely this bold with writing about my political preferences on an individual candidate, but considering there are only two (real) options at this point, I figured there’s no point in pretending to be objective. I’m not going to go into deep detail here, everyone reading this is well informed enough to make their own decisions and vote according to their own priorities, but I have been asked by some of my (less informed) liberal friends “How could you vote for Romney?” as if it were akin to beating a puppy. As such, I decided to make my last minute case for why I’ll be voting for Mitt Romney in hopes that you can at least understand, even if you disagree.
He has the experience we need: Okay, so a lot of people don’t like Romney. There are a variety of reasons, some valid, some silly, but I can understand why he’s not the most popular guy on the block. Regardless, his resume (love it or hate it) reads like the perfect applicant for the job position right now. We have a country that is in bad financial shape and getting worse, and a candidate that has experience at… turning around under-performing or near bankrupt businesses. Sure, they’re not exactly the same thing, but they’re a heck of a lot closer than some people would like to believe. He’s proven that he can balance budgets and spend within his means, a lesson our country desperately needs to learn right now. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be fun, but it needs to be done and Romney is the only candidate right now that has a resume showing he’s willing to get the job done.
He’s a leader: I can already hear the Obama fans starting to type angry replies. “You mean President Obama isn’t?!?!” Well, yes and no. I certainly don’t deny that it takes a great deal of strength and leadership capability to achieve the highest political office in the country. However, once he obtained that position he quit acting like a leader. Leaders don’t make excuses or blame their predecessors. Leaders don’t shift blame and focus away from their own short comings to put it on the people they work with. Leaders don’t base policy off the winds of political convenience. What leaders should do is develop a plan they intend to follow and keep their focus on their goals even when others doubt them. Leaders unite opposing views, they don’t deepen the divide. Leaders fix problems, they don’t push them off on future generations. Romney has shown, as a (moderate) Republican leading a solidly Democratic state, that he can be that kind of leader. Whether some of the President’s loyal followers are willing to realize it or not, we do not have a leader capable of uniting the opposing factions running our country right now, and until we have that kind of leadership, we will not break out of this unproductive political gridlock, and things are only going to get worse.
He’s not interested in expanding the government: This is the one that matters a lot to people regardless of their political affiliation (but I know it’s especially crucial to my libertarian friends). Romney has made it clear that his plan for getting the US economy and day-to-day government functioning back on track is shrinking the government. This is a clear distinction between himself and President Obama. This is not to imply that all Republicans are for small government, President Bush oversaw dramatic increases in government reach, intrusion, and overall size, but it is to explain that this Republican candidate disagrees both with his challenger and his predecessors over the role government should play in our lives. The simple math shows that the government has gotten larger, and most people believe that the government alone is not the answer to our economic problems and expanding it is a redistribution of resources to less productive measures at best. (Most economists flat out say that it’s a band-aid fix, and a dangerous one.) The President has shown that he thinks a government-centered approach to fixing the economy is the best path through his words as well as his actions. Romney’s intent to trim the government down will not please everyone, but history and economic theory suggests we’d be better off in the long run.
And finally, the one people like least:
“He’s not President Obama”: I hate it when people say things like this, so I can imagine what you all think as well, but let me explain what I mean by this. I don’t mean that it’s worth voting for Mitt Romney simply because he’s not Barack Obama, that would imply that Obama is somehow the political devil and anyone is better. I disagree with that view. I would suggest that Obama isn’t the best, or even one of the best, candidates on the ballot, but that’s beside the point. The point is that Romney is new to the job, and comes with a great resume. We know Barack Obama. We know his record. And honestly, it’s not good. His most significant achievement was the healthcare reform bill, a law which has already been shown won’t really fix the problems facing our healthcare system (at all) and was passed through less than kosher means with a whole lot of bureaucratic pork added on along the way. It’s a terrible piece of legislation with seemingly noble intent, and that’s what we’ll remember the first Obama term for. The economy is in a “recovery” that’s so slow many have wondered how we can pretend we’re not still really in a recession. Even though we emerged from that in technical terms, we haven’t shaken off the economic malaise our country has been in the past 5 years, and it’s no longer possible to pretend we can somehow blame everything on Bush. (If you chose to believe that, you’re in denial.) We’ve had four years of failed attempts to address the problems facing us. Four years of blaming others for his own short comings. Four years of slinging mud on national television at the very people he claims he is trying to foster bipartisanship with. Four years of broken promises. Four years of fiscal standoffs and deliberately polarizing budgets. Four years of the leader of the free world behaving like a celebrity instead of a leader. Four years of disappointment, not hope, or change, or progress. I don’t know if another four of the same thing would somehow destroy the US like some seem to believe, but I can promise you this: It isn’t going to put us on a better long-term path. I want an America where people work hard and reap the rewards of their work. A land of opportunity that sets a good example by not spending more than it can afford to or passing debt off to future generations because we don’t have the guts to fix the real problems facing us. The country I want will not come from a second Obama term.
I’ll close with this: If the United States were a business with the taxpayers as its shareholders (and in many ways, it is), CEO Obama would have been fired at least a year ago and a new candidate with the right credentials would have been sought. In 2008 the company was hemorrhaging money and taking a public relations beating. We thought this new leader could turn things around and deliver the prosperity and change he promised the shareholders. He tried some bold, expensive moves, which ultimately were not successful. He kept the company limping along, but now in deeper debt and with even more executives and administrators than before and no strong benefit for the shareholders. Now the projections for the future health of the company have gone from bad to worse and our CEO claims to be able to fix that despite having shown no sign of being capable of doing so in the last few years he has been working here. So the shareholders have to make a tough decision and find a leader with experience at turning around this company that is now facing even bigger problems. Of the applicants, one has emerged that looks like he can pull it off, and that is Mitt Romney. We don’t know that he’ll succeed, but we do know that there’s no point in continuing on a path we can see isn’t working for our company. It’s time to move on.
Now, go vote today, or you’ll lose the right to complain about the outcome after the dust settles.
Go vote today! To those of you that disagree with my last post, I offer you the above words of kindness, courtesy of someecards.
With the migraine I have tonight, I will not be attempting to summarize the final presidential debate. I’ll let the inevitable memes and soundbites do the job for me since that’s all we ever remember any way.
The VP Debate That Taught Us… Nothing?
Against my better judgement I decided to spend the evening watching the Vice Presidential debate to see how Ryan and Biden compared to each other (and maybe a little bit just because I was hoping Biden would say something profane on national tv). It was an interesting ride and honestly involved a lot more policy discussions than the recent Presidential debate did, but I still felt like at the end of the day we didn’t learn anything from it. Why? Well, let me explain (rant) for a little bit…
Well, it appears Joe Biden is a volatile old man who can’t allow anyone else to finish their sentence before offering his own loud opinion on an issue. This is not news. What was interesting is that Mr. Biden seemed dead set on making up for President Obama’s lukewarm performance last week by making sure he came across as aggressive and passionate this week. He may have overdone it. Mr. Biden interrupted Paul Ryan 82 times (according to the pundits) in a 90 minute debate. I might have guessed an even higher number. He simply couldn’t sit there and let Ryan talk, he had to hear his own voice throughout the entire thing. It was obnoxious, and worse, made his complaints at the moderator appear laughable when he complained about getting to talk less than Ryan. The moderator was quick to point out that he wasn’t getting less time than Ryan, but when you talk through half of your opponent’s time in what appears to be an attempt to drown them out, you’re not going to get a lot of sympathy from anyone. That said, the Vice President did relatively well tonight aside from his rambling, loud, and sometimes incorrect statements. He made his attacks on Ryan well, kept him on the defensive the entire time, and made lots of references to the middle class. It wasn’t a performance that’s likely to sway anyone towards the Obama/Biden ticket, but he didn’t curse on national tv and he didn’t say something incredibly stupid, so I imagine his campaign team is pretty pleased right now. Note: It will be interesting to see what the other side does with his “I never say anything I don’t mean” comment considering his past colorful remarks.
Paul Ryan came across as a numbers-minded, soft-spoken young politician that thinks his opponents are at least a bit dumb. This also surprises no one. Ryan was put on the defensive from the get-go by Biden, but he handled himself well overall. It did handicap his ability to get the Romney/Ryan priorities across at times, but he attempted to compensate for this at the end of the debate (with limited success). He attempted to make human connections with middle class and family references while talking economic policy, but it came across as even more forced than Biden’s own awkward pandering. As expected, Ryan focused on economic issues and broken promises as much as possible, and did well at articulating his vision for some of America’s best known, and most expensive, programs. He was less specific on the details than many would have liked I’m sure, but he was at least as specific as Biden on the very same issues (this is not a compliment, simply stating that they were equally vague). Ryan’s real strength was his demeanor throughout the debate. He managed to appear calm and collected throughout the night, which was a dramatic contrast with the firey frustration that Biden was projecting from across the table. Nothing makes your opponent look more like an angry jabbering mental patient than sitting there smiling calmly while they yell at you. I doubt Ryan succeeded in getting all of his platform’s views across during the debate, and at times appeared to stumble in his defensive responses, but it was still a decent night for him overall.
Honestly, no one. The majority of polls are showing that most people think Ryan performed better overall, but I think that’s mainly because of how aggressive and rambling Biden came across overall, not because Ryan performed especially well. Don’t get me wrong, neither candidate did poorly, and both succeeded in making good points for their respective candidates. By the same token, neither candidate did particularly well. Biden looked like the angry old man compared to Ryan’s youthful confidence. Ryan was unable to turn the tables back on Biden and never really had control of the conversation. I personally think this was a wash overall. If it helped anyone at all it might be the Romney ticket, but I doubt we’ll see a bump in the polls for either side from this debate.
As always, your thoughts, questions, and rants are welcome.
Ladies & Gents: the winner of tonight’s debate.
Repeating a statement I said to another poster earlier tonight: So is cutting subsidized student loans to low-income graduate and professional students to “decrease the deficit”, but that didn’t stop the President from doing exactly that. If you think either of the candidates is willing to tackle what would really balance the federal budget you’re crazy.