“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mark Sanford's Violation of the Public Trust

As I predicted in this very recent post, Mark Sanford has already come clean about lying on his expense reports regarding his alleged business trip, on his state's behalf, to Argentina.

I wrote in that post,

"Character and values are, for the most part, integral to people. When we see lying and deception occur in a politician's personal life, you can bet it's going on, or will, when necessary, or expedient, in their professional life, as well. "

Bill Bennett voiced the same concerns, and was mildly chastised in a Wall Street Journal piece this weekend for being so old-fashioned and puritanical in suggesting that Sanford is through.

Then came Sanford's admission that he needed to reimburse the state of South Carolina for expenses he incurred on what he now terms 'personal business.'


So, basically, Sanford was willing to misrepresent the nature of that part of his travel, and claimed reimbursement from the state for expenses then incurred. But after his confession of infidelity, he hurriedly suggested that, well, yes, maybe he had to repay the people of his state after having fraudulently claimed those expenses as public business-related.

Seems Bennett and I were right, after all.

Sanford had no problem submitting personal expenses as state ones, until he got caught in the act.

If I were a South Carolina resident, this expense fudging would be the reason I'd want Sanford to resign, or be impeached.

His marital infidelity is, our could have remained, his own business. His whereabouts, when in Argentina, could have simply been described as a story to cover some pressing personal matters.

But his using public money to visit his paramour, then claiming it as business, is fraud and a lie.

For this, he needs to leave office.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Potentially Winning Gambit for a 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate?

I've been thinking about a truly ground-breaking approach to the presidential election that could be taken by a current Republican- or, for that matter, Democratic- governor.

Admittedly, yesterday, the guy I most identified with this approach, South Carolina's Mark Sanford, removed himself from consideration when he admitted publicly to a year-long affair with a woman from Argentina.

Never the less, here's my idea.

Imagine a governor like Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty or Mississippi's Haley Barbour running on the promise that, if elected, they will work against the steadily-growing power of the president and Congress, and with state governors and legislatures, to convene a Constitutional Convention as soon as practical. By throwing the weight of the presidency behind this step, it would much more likely occur within his four year term than it otherwise ever could.

Building on the increasing size of the segment of voters which are neither registered Republicans, nor Democrats, and increasing voter frustration with the non-responsiveness of the federal government, such a candidate might well gain broad and fervent support.

Consider that, when the Constitution was created, it was the product of 13 states. The states' existences predated and allowed the subsequent drafting of rules for, and the creation of a federal government. The latter is a concept born of the former.

It's unlikely that today's federal government would be recognizable by the Framers of the Constitution. It has nearly completely overrun states' rights and limits on its power.

I contend that a candidate who ran on the express theme of facilitating a Constitutional Convention to revise the pact to explicitly strip the federal government of ad hoc powers, limit its future power, and insert needed modifications for the modern era, e.g., term limits, staff size limits, campaign finance remedies, prohibition of non-cabinet administration officials with significant budgets or power, and new eligibility rules for Congress, would offer voters a truly fresh, positive and meaningful alternative to the tired old, similar platforms of the two current parties.

How refreshing if a presidential candidate promised to focus on Constitutional reform, and then leave office, regardless of which term it occurred. A candidate who ran to return power to the states, and limit the government of which he would be head.

I think it would be unbeatable. Even some in Congress would probably be forced to support her/him, or lose their own local races.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mark Sanford's Confession of Infidelity

I was going to post about an idea I have for a 2012 Republican gubernatorial candidate for president today. It would have involved South Carolina's governor, Mark Sanford.

However, given Sanford's shocking announcement yesterday, I'll save that post for tomorrow.

Instead, I want to discuss my own reaction to and feelings about Sanford's behavior.

In talking about the Sanford confession of a year-long affair with an Argentinian woman, a friend expressed great disappointment in a guy who had such promise as a presidential candidate for 2012.

I disagreed, and suggested that it was better to have discovered now that Sanford doesn't honor his promises.

Allow me to explain.

If Sanford had determined that his marriage was no longer functioning and productive, for him, his wife, or his children, he had the option of filing for divorce. In today's political world, that would not have been a death knell for his career, unless he quickly remarried and were found to have been having an affair with his new wife prior to his divorce.

If Sanford was simply unhappy with his marriage, but it was still productive for his children, then I think he owed it to them, whom he chose to father, to remain in his marriage, and avoid the selfish option of divorce.

However, to simply decide that it would be too messy, expensive, or otherwise dysfunctional to file for divorce, and, instead, have an affair without his wife's agreement, tells us all we really need to know about Mark Sanford.

He made a promise when he married, and broke it. He lied to his wife, implicitly at least, and almost certainly explicitly, in order to have time with his mistress. He probably also lied to his children and various staffers concerning his whereabouts, and/or other topics involving the health of his marriage and family life.

It would have been, to me, perfectly acceptable had Sanford shared the knowledge of his affair with his wife, a priori, as part of an 'open marriage.' Granted, most politicians don't feel they can get elected with that value as part of their persona. But I'd personally have had a lot more respect for Sanford, had the affair simply been something acceptable in his marriage, and not covered up.

To me, the Sanford situation has nothing whatsoever to do with his political convictions. Whether liberal, or conservative, an elected or appointed official who is found to have lied and/or obstructed justice in order to conceal behavior of which s/he was not proud has a profound character flaw which, in time, will also appear in her/his professional activities.

In former president Bill Clinton's case, it's clear he obstructed justice and lied to cover up his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. Despite Democratic charges of prudishness on the part of Republicans who brought impeachment charges, it was Clinton's cover up, not his affair, that was of concern to the voters.

Similar to my comments about Sanford, I believe that the Clintons had an open marriage. But I think they realized that they could not get Bubba elected carrying such baggage. So they pretended to be a happy monogamous couple, and even had a child. But various reports, public and private, have convinced me that the two had, and probably still have and open marriage.

While personal matters are, per se, private, we can learn a lot about an elected official, or candidate, by how they handle their personal matters. It should be fairly obvious that the character and values of a person are integral, so what you see in their personal life is pretty much how they'll behave with the public trust.

Kennedy dissembled about his affairs and health. Nixon covered up the Watergate burglary. Clinton lied and took actions to prevent the truth being discovered about the Lewinsky affair, and his wife did the same with Travelgate and the infamous missing Rose law firm documents regarding Whitewater.

Our current president has lied about his associations with Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright when both proved embarrassing, only to return to those associations, according to various sources, when the heat was off.

Sanford has demonstrated that, when necessary, he will lie to those to whom he made promises, and will break those promises, in pursuit of selfish personal fulfillment.

Do you really want someone like that as your president? I don't.

I'm pleased that, if this were to happen to Sanford, it happened now, rather than after a presidential nomination, or election to that office.

Despite many admirable traits and political values, Mark Sanford has some glaring character flaws which should not be in a man or woman who becomes president.

To overlook distasteful behavior or values in a candidate's personal life and believe they won't also color that person's judgments and behaviors when in elected or appointed office is to be naive.

Character and values are, for the most part, integral to people. When we see lying and deception occur in a politician's personal life, you can bet it's going on, or will, when necessary, or expedient, in their professional life, as well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Medically Uninsured

Last week, on CNBC, I saw a very provocative segment on 'the uninsured.'

The anchors, Trish Regan and Erin Burnett, began with the now familiar 40MM or so who are allegedly Americans without health insurance.

During the segment, Erin Burnett began to further describe each subsegment of the 40MM, identifying those who could afford insurance, but simply declined to enroll. Or those eligible for publicly-paid insurance, but, again, did not enroll. There were other groups, which, when totalled, left only 8MM really unqualified, poor, uninsured not covered, wanting coverage, and unable to afford health insurance.

I've since seen similar numbers elsewhere, too.

Quite the difference, eh? A factor of about 5x overstated 'uninsured.'

You'd hardly tear up an existing private insurance system just to insure 3% of Americans, would you?

Modfiy and improve the system? Yes. Eliminate it? No.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast The First Stone"

Funny, isn't it, how we are being led into expensive, rationed universal healthcare by a smoker?

That's right. Wonderboy smokes- cigars and cigarettes, if I recall.

It's kept quietly under wraps, of course, but some mentions of this filthy, unhealthy habit leaked out during the campaign last summer.

Ironic, isn't it?

A person afflicted with one of the most expensive long-term habits, in terms of eventual disease, is telling us all to let the government manage their healthcare to cut costs.

Maybe Wonderboy can get his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, to remind him of the biblical verse alluded to in the title of this post?

No, that's probably unlikely, because that would involve Wright in something positive about religion.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Dissolution of The United States?

This weekend's Wall Street Journal carried an article loosely predicting the splintering of the United States of America into several un-united mega-state blocs. As evidence, the author pointed to an evolving jointly-created Mexican-American economic bloc around San Diego, as well as the writings of the late US foreign policy expert George Kennan.

It's all well and good, and maybe even correct. The general theme of 'smaller is better' and the continuing blunderbuss-style federal government we get certainly have many voters wishing for a time of less federal intrusion into their lives.

But I believe the piece ignored an important feature of both our Constitution and our national character. Our country began as an experiment. The present Constitution is the second try at creating a national US government.

I personally doubt that the 50 states would dis-unite and form blocs of mega-state groups, possibly, in some cases, with other countries.

Isn't it more likely that, before such a schism came about, either the states or Congress, according to the Constitution, would convene a Constitutional Convention to modify the rules by which we govern ourselves?

For example, what state or region wants to forgo the military protection brought about by the ingenuity and economies of scales and mobility of our United States? Or the economic freedoms- fast disappearing though they may be?

Isn't it a better bet that states, with various diverging interests, would convene a convention to weaken the federal government and reclaim more power, perhaps even writing in the right to form multi-state blocs to share certain functions?

For example, I have wondered for years why state 'secretaries of state' need to exist. Some US regions, like the northeast, are geographically so small that many state-level functions could easily be shared. Does each state really need to have a different drivers' license and registration bureau? How many federally-oriented state-level functions could be so much more economically performed by a regional entity? It doesn't mean the states cease to exist, but it does mean more thoughtfully identifying and allocating governmental functions among federal, state, and regional levels.

I believe that, ultimately, our nation is sufficiently flexible that we will rewrite our Constitution and redesign our government to take advantage of regional specialities and the drawbacks of national scale, before we splinter into truly dis-united regional blocs of former states of the United States of America.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Who Does Your Representative Really Represent?

Have you ever considered who your elected federal Congressional District Representative actually represents? Or, perhaps more specifically, whose interests?

Isn't it either the House Speaker's or Minority Leader's?

Yes, you and several thousand other voters elect a Congressional Representative. And, under the Constitution, with a short, two-year term, s/he's supposed to be super-sensitive to your desires and wishes, right?

But that isn't what happens in our modern world of permanent federal legislative careers, is it?

Once stepping foot in the the District of Columbia, our elected Representatives are quickly introduced to the realities of their new job and career path. If they don't play ball with their party's 'leadership' in the House, get ready for: a lousy office, small administrative budget, no help authoring or passing legislation, awful committee assignments and, if they are really bad girls or boys, having the national and state party machinery actively recruit and run a competing candidate in the next primary. Or sit passively by and let the newly-elected Rep lose the next general election.

Right now, Frisco Nan and John Boehner hold more sway over your elected Representative than you and your fellow district voters do.

Your elected Representative's own careerist goals quickly displace her/his sensitivity to voter agendas. With both party's Representatives playing this game, voters always lose.

That's why term limits, reduction or elimination of Congressional pensions and benefits, and a check on salaries are needed to make Congress cease to be a career.

It should be a revolving door for passionately interested citizens with effective ideas on solving topical problems. Not a lushly-padded stepping stone to a federal career in which nobody ever has to listen to voters again.