Commentary by James H. Shott
The Republican debates certainly have been, well, interesting. The candidates have managed to dredge up all kinds of dirt on each other, and talk liberally about each other’s shortcomings.
Political insiders tell us that it’s good to get all the dirt and negatives out now, so that whoever wins the nomination won’t have all of that coming out during the more critical campaign. Maybe so.
They say politics is a dirty game. But really, politics isn’t inherently dirty; the players are dirty, and the public perceives this, according to a bipartisan survey commissioned by the Project on Campaign Conduct. Of those surveyed:
• 59% believe that all or most candidates deliberately twist the truth.
• 39% believe that all or most candidates deliberately lie to voters.
• 43% believe that most or all candidates deliberately make unfair attacks on their opponents.
• 67% say they can trust the government in Washington only some of the time or never.
• 87% are concerned about the level of personal attacks in today's political campaigns.
Does negative campaigning work; is mudslinging effective? Herman Cain is the most visible recent target of mudslinging, being accused by three women of having made unwanted advances, and another alleging a long-term affair. Are these charges true? Who knows, other than the women making the accusations and Mr. Cain. But have you noticed that since he suspended his campaign, you don’t hear much from those women?
Nobody’s perfect, of course, as is more than amply illustrated by President Barack Obama, whose dismal performance has disappointed nearly everyone at one time or another and left the nation in the economic doldrums. The Republican field also has weaknesses, as we learn daily. However, despite the mudslinging that covers up nearly everything else, there are some good ideas from people who have much to offer in the way of experience and accomplishments.
Rick Perry served five years as a pilot in the United States Air Force, was elected Lieutenant Governor of Texas in 1998 and assumed the governorship in December 2000 when then-governor George W. Bush resigned to become President of the United States. He has served as Governor of Texas ever since, and the state has been at the top of all states in job creation and for low unemployment rates through the current downturn.
Gov. Perry wants a part-time, bi-annual Congress. This would be a return to the original concept of citizen legislators. That change would save a good bit of money on the operation of Congress, and having Representatives and Senators who live and work in the real world certainly couldn’t hurt.
Just imagine all of the laws they couldn’t pass with that schedule, the legislative mischief that we would avoid, and the insider trading that Congresspersons could no longer indulge in.
He also wants to impose 18-year term limits on the federal judiciary, which sounds like a reasonable idea. Why should judges enjoy lifetime tenure when neither the president nor members of Congress do? Congress should not be a career choice, and neither should the federal judiciary.
Newt Gingrich earned a history PhD from Tulane University and taught college history and geography before entering politics and being elected to the House of Representatives. Rising to become Speaker of the House, he engineered the first Republican majority to be re-elected in 68 years. Among the first pieces of legislation passed by Congress with Mr. Gingrich as Speaker was the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, which subjected members of Congress to the same laws that apply to businesses and their employees. He led the way in Congress and negotiated with President Bill Clinton to pass welfare reform, and led the House when it produced the first balanced budget in 30 years.
Mr. Gingrich’s ideas are frequently criticized, even ridiculed, and it is true that the man has dozens of ideas and not all of them are equally great ideas, It is common for his critics to take what he says out of context, or to deliberately misstate the premise of his ideas.
He thinks teaching kids about work and responsibility by paying them to work in their school assisting janitors, librarians and office staff makes sense. Given how many Americans have to be taken care of by taxpayers because they are unprepared to get and hold a job, helping young people develop a work ethic and learn the value of earning their own way can’t hurt, and would go a long way toward reversing the dependency that the big government folks in Washington so dutifully cultivate.
Perhaps Mr. Gingrich’s and Gov. Perry’s ideas need fine-tuning or modification, but it certainly cannot hurt to consider reforming how our government operates, or finding ways to help young people learn the value of work.
All the Republican candidates have baggage; they are human, after all. But we are not electing a savior. We tried that in 2008, and it did not come out well. We are electing a president who will be , like the rest of us, a fallible human being. What we want is someone who has a record of accomplishment, and some productive ideas to make things better.
Cross-posted from Observations