Monday, May 25, 2009

A Day of Remembrance

A Day of Remembrance

We are simultaneously mournful and lucky that men and women in the service chose defending our liberties and values in conflicts from the French and Indian War to Iraq and Afghanistan, whether we agree with the conflicts or not. Some died in the conflicts; others died years later. My grandmother, a genial member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, always described Memorial Day as Decoration Day. The idea was to decorate graves of veterans and war dead.

We should honor the service of those who wear America’s uniform now or who have worn it in the past. My father and my favorite University of Wisconsin Economics professor served abroad during the Korean War but a former UW football player was at the Chosin Reservoir and was lucky to make it back. I am fortunate to know people who served during World War II who are still doing OK. One flew with the Flying Tigers before Pearl Harbor and flew from American carriers after. One was a Medic with the Seabees in the Pacific. One drove landing craft at the bloody battles to dislodge Japanese troops from Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands.

In 2002, I met a man who was making copies of his 1942 high school yearbook. There were 34 boys in his high school senior class. They all enlisted. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy. The other 33 enlisted in the U.S. Army and were all killed in Italy.

Most know that I have a child in the U.S. Navy on an attack submarine at Pearl Harbor. He is far safer than my friends who currently serve in Iraq and Afghanistan but there is always an element of danger when people don the uniform. Ask the people entombed on the USS Arizona if they felt safe until the unexpected attack on December 7, 1941.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sacking Speaker Pelosi Now American Tradition

Was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) briefed on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, such as water boarding, or not? When? Current Central Intelligence Agency Leon Panetta and former Director Porter Goss have a different version of events. Pelosi read a parsed written statement repeatedly at her weird press conference, blaming the CIA.

The CIA says they discussed interrogation techniques in general and the methods used on Abu Zubaida in particular with Pelosi in September, 2002 and again in February, 2003. It is now hard to remember how aggressive the CIA was and how compliant Congress was in the wake of 9/11.

Zubaida was probably only a member of al-Qaeda in his mind and that of his interrogators. He was unlike Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a high value capture at the center of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the 1998 bombings at the U.S. Embassies in Africa, the 9/11 attack and the murder of Daniel Pearl. Like his friend Ossama bin Laden, Mohammed fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. Mohammed was captured in Karachi by Pakistanis in 2003.

Smelling Pelosi blood in the water, the press feeding frenzy has started. If Speaker Pelosi stepped down in favor of #2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer (D-MD), it would be in the new American tradition of sacking a sitting Speaker of the House.

It was not always thus. Previous Speakers of the House served for 10 years or more until Jim Wright (D-TX) succeeded Tip O’Neill (D-MA). Wright resigned his job in 1989 under an ethics investigation for avoiding limits on gifts related to his book deal. His successor, Tom Foley (D-WA), lost his seat in the Republican House landslide election of 1994, catapulting Newt Gingrich (R-GA) to Speaker.

By 1998, Newt had lost his mojo and resigned as Speaker. Bob Livingston (R-LA) was unanimously elected to succeed Newt. Then porn publisher Larry Flynt broke the story of Livingston’s affair so he never served as Speaker of the House and House Republicans chose Denny Hastert (R-IL) as Speaker. Hastert was Speaker for eight years until Democrats regained the House Majority in their landslide of 2006. Pelosi turned back Hoyer for Speaker of the House.

Can Pelosi hold onto Speaker or is she too damaged by changing her story too often? She was convenient for President Barack Obama because she was so liberal, he looked like a moderate. Now she is caught in a war of words with a former House Democrat, Leon Panetta. This is an unneeded and unwanted distraction from the job of Speaker, focuses attention on the past and not the future, such as putting more troops into Afghanistan and conducting more military tribunals. He also does not want the compliant press becoming newly aggressive toward him.

House Democrats would be right to sack her.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Kemp and Michaelsen

News that Jack Kemp has passed away is personal to me. Kemp was a big part of my personal and professional life.

Many are familiar with his story. Success as a quarterback for the Buffalo Bills translated into becoming Congressman from Buffalo. He acquired a national reputation as a champion of tax cuts, enterprise zones and more freedom for all, including welfare recipients and people living in public housing projects. He called himself a “bleeding heart conservative” and was glad to carry a message of hope and change to black and Latino neighborhoods. He ran for President to succeed Reagan in 1988, became Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare for the winner, President George H. W. Bush. Kemp was the candidate for Vice President when Bob Dole ran for President in 1996.

I wrote a paper on supply-side economics in a class at the University of Wisconsin in 1980, mentioning Kemp.

Kemp never called names. He was always positive, always glad to work with Democrats to solve problems. When I worked at Hillsdale College from 1982 to 1984, we used one of his quotes from a speech he delivered there in many campus publications.

When I was a candidate for U.S. Congress from Wisconsin in1984, I attended a National Republican Congressional Committee training seminar in Washington. Kemp was one of the speakers. His friend and star Chad Everett was with him.

I moved to Lansing in 1985 to be a policy advisor to the Michigan Senate Republicans. In the Michigan 1988 primary, I voted for Kemp for President. I was also elected a precinct delegate in Eaton County. The George Bush campaign counted me as a Bush delegate, but I was pledged to Kemp. The Eaton County Chairman was my friend Saul Anuzis, then chief of staff to the Kemplike Sen. Dick Posthumus.

I met the woman who would become my wife through a Jack Kemp fan club in 1993. Many of us thought Jack Kemp should be the Republican nominee for President in 1996 and that Elizabeth Dole, not Bob Dole, should be the candidate for VP. That would have been about attracting swing voters, not just mobilizing the base.

Although it is perfect hindsight, this would have been a pivotal moment for America. We might not be lamenting how far the Republicans have fallen. Had Kemp been President, hope and change would have been Republican ideas.