Five Weeks To Election: Countdown Begins

I have decided to continue blogging throughout the entire campaign.  As a result, I may get a bit more partisan.   To kick off the home stretch of the campaign, we should first cover the debate.  I had the great opportunity to discuss my views on the debate and the recent bailout proposal on Bruce Dumont’s nationally syndicated political radio program Beyond the Beltway.  Bruce’s show is probably the most civilized, balanced format you’ll find on TV or Radio.  His guests each week consist of one clearly partisan guest from each party and two more moderate guests, each with his or her own leanings, one to the left and one to the right.  Bruce has an incredible way of parsing through the issues and positing clear and thought provoking questions.  To hear my participation and of course a definitve debate on the First Debate go to www.beyondthebeltway.com to hear last night’s show. 

After any appearance in the media, or even when we debate our friends and families at the dinner table, we always think about what we said, what we didn’t say, what we could have said better or “Aha, that is the zinger I should have said!”.  Having had a couple of these thoughts myself, I thought I would comment on a few:

One point we discussed in detail was something made apparent by the debate, which was that the War on Terror and our foreign policy is multifacted, and dealt with on many different fronts.  Each front requires its own nuances and strategy.  We have two very different types of leaders emerging, one who prefers diplomacy and a consult first response and one who wants to govern from resolve and strength.  Although these styles are not mutually exclusive, it is clear that one is more willing to act with strength,  is less dependent on advisors for his information and is less deferential to international concensus than the other.  In this dangerous world, who has the knowledge, expertise, judgement and frankly, agility to manage these multiple demands?  I think on Friday night, it was clear only John McCain has all of that and we know this for sure because we know him and how he thinks.  Although I had the opportunity to say this, I feel it needs repeating.

We also had the opportunity to discuss Sarah Palin.  Our debate was cut short due to time so that we never got a good one going.  I have a feeling we could easily fill two hours discussing her.  One thing I want to say is that although she may not have the foreign policy experience or philosophy that McCain has, or even Joe Biden, she has clearly demonstrated the skill set and judgement required to participate in foreign affairs.  As a governor, and this could be said about any good effective governor, they have to negotiate daily with partisan legislators, special interests, big businesses, other politicians (and the media!) on a daily basis.  You either have the skills and judgment to do this or not.  Because she has demonstrated she is more than adept at this, I see no reason she cannot apply her savior faire to the international arena.  Being a good Vice President does not mean having negotiated or met with foreign leaders although we might ask this of the men running for the top of the ticket.  She has demonstrated measurable results and when choosing the leaders of this country, results count.  I also have no doubt that she has the personal skills, and charm!, to diffuse any offenses she might face.  The art of negotiating requires the art of diplomacy and Sarah Palin has demonstrated, if nothing else, that she can  convince and inspire those around her.  As a final note, I find it unbeleivable that someone could think she threatens working women everywhere.  She is the perfect example of a working mother who works and succeeds in her paying job and still managed to be pro-family.  She is a pro-family working mother and has embraced a culture of life, demonstrating that you can work and have a family, that one does not exclude the other.  What feminists are talking about when they say Palin threatens this is (and I hesitated to call this out last night) is that she is pro-life, antiabortion and that somehow threatens the rights of women generally.  Actually this is patently untrue.  Her choices and pro-life values threaten the very concept of choice that feminists have been screaming about for decades.  Shouldn’t we be celebrating the choices that the Palins, as a family have made?

Finally, on a more negative note, there was one thing that troubled me in the debate.  At one point, Barack Obama claimed that his left wing voting record was not liberalism “but me opposing George Bush.”  This spoke volumes to me.  First, it showed a patent disrespect for the not just the office of President, but the man who serves in it.  It also showed an incredible lack of principle.  I would like to think his voting record represents how he feels about something and what he substantively believes in not an opportunity to be a petulant contrarian.  And finally, it shows that he really doesn’t care about being bi-partisan or seeking to make change constructively.  We should be very concerned by this since this is a man who, if elected, will have strong majorities in both the House and Senate.  his willingness to listen to all sides will be reduced and unchallenged and he will not have the checks and balances that a strong democratic government requires.

Convention Day 3: Service

Each day, there is an assigned theme and that is the focus of the groups and speeches for that day.  The first day was Service, and due to the truncated event as a result of Gustav, all efforts were focused on the relief efforts for the Gulf states.  Day 2 was about Reform and everyone focused on how McCain is different and will make changes in DC.  And yesterday was Prosperity, and while the speeches focused on reducing taxes, improving the economy and reforming government and spending, the real work done by the delegates was SERVICE.  I along with many, many, many other delegates spent much of the day packing care boxes for the folks down in the Gulf region.  I wanted to share with you some photos, very brief snapshots of those efforts:

Assembly line relief efforts

Assembly line relief efforts

Boxes filled with food ready to go to the Gulf

Boxes filled with food ready to go to the GulfA fellow Illinois delegate putting together care packages

It was amazing to see you how so many people could do so much in such a short amount of time.  I haven’t heard the final numbers, but there were Target and Fed EX trucks lined up waiting to be filled with boxes.  I also had the opportunity to hear Senator Brownbeck and Michael Steele speak at a conference discussing the role of religion and faith in a politician’s life.  Michael Steele moved the audience (including some to tears) in telling the story of his own adoption and his gratitude to his natural mother for choosing his life. 

Here I am with Sen. Brownbeck (excuse the glare)

Here I am with Sen. Brownbeck (excuse the glare)

I had some time to kill before the big night.  It was Sarah Palin’s big night and she spoke along with Steele, Romney, and Guiliani.  Where do I begin?  The excitement and the secuirty were at an all-time high and Guiliani kicked it off by attacking the attacks on Palin’s family.  Sarah truly was, even by the New York Times account, “electric”.  It was so exciting to be on the floor for her speech even though I could only best see her on the jumbotrons around the arena.  Nevertheless, she hit a home run again (so far she is batting a thousand) as she took on questions of her experience and Obama’s directly.  She was charming and to the point and even hinted at her own ability to handle foreign policy based on her proximity to Russia.  I think we will see her depth more and more as the weeks come.  No doubt she has sealed her support in the Republican party and has demonstrated she can cross partisan lines. 
So far, for me this convention has been indescribable.  The warmth and sincerity of each person I meet and their committment, not only to getting McCain elected, but to the work they do back home is incredible.  Everyone is down to earth and approachable, even the seemingly remotest of celebrities.  I want to conclude by adding a picture with Karl Rove taken the other night who on the floor with us was friendly, unassuming, generous with his ear, thoughts and time and hilarious!  I wish more than anything America could see the Republican party I see.  We are here to do work and we love this country but we love our families and communities even more by the work we do everyday in home.  Away from the cameras and the lights and the glitz, each person – celebrity, pundit, politician, delgate, volunteer or journalist – really cares about how our lives will be shaped by these efforts and events. 

I wish you could see what a warm and sincere man he is.
I wish you could see what a warm and sincere man he is.

I am truly humbled and honored to be here this week. 

Convention Countdown: 3 Days to Go and a VP!

What an exciting day.  Obama and the Democrats have had their big night and by all accounts it was as expected:  a lot of smoke and mirrors (literally), a well delivered speech laying out pie in the sky promises, and the “crowning” (not my words but an ABC reporter’s) of their nominee.  But the celebration seems to be shortlived as McCain is set to announce his VP, in yet another historic move. 

As I am writing this, Fox News is reporting that they have confirmed that the VP will be Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska.  I am thrilled to have both a woman and pro-lifer on the ticket.  Just this morning someone asked me who I thought it might be and I said that based on the conference calls I have particpated on and the tidbits I get from within the campaign, I thought it would be a surprise.  When I said it may very well be a woman and Palin, people thought I was crazy.  Wednesday evening, during one of our weekly delegate conference calls, we heard about the platform committee’s work and got a clear understanding of what will be the cornerstone issues.  After the call, in discussing it with fellow delegates, the tea leaf reading was that the VP may very well not be Romney or Pawlenty.  All of the work of the last couple of days has been about reading tea leaves but now we can move forward on defining the Party and  getting our message out to voters.

So what is in the Platform?  Well one of the most prominent issues is the Supreme Court and appointments to the federal bench generally.  This is probably the one area in which the President alone has the greatest effect on our lives.  It is clear that Senator McCain is pro-life and the courts are the most important battlegrounds for that issue.    To emphasize those values, Palin as VP would underscore McCain’s committment to upholding the value of every human life.  But I am politicizing and what is more important is to relay that it seems like the Platform Committee work is well underway.  Look for a big discussion on the courts and a heavy handed look at Joe Biden’s failure as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee to get qualified, intelligent judges appointed and his politicizing of appointments.  Remember he led the attack on Robert Bork the most qualified man never to be appointed.  I have also been actively helping out the Catholic Working Group from the campaign which is McCain’s organized effort not only to reach out to Catholic voters, but to address and consider those issues that Catholics and other religious folks are most concerned about.  It has been a great opportunity to meet Josh Lynch, the director and to see the great events they are sponsoring.  In addition to a Mass, there will also be talks including a very timely one by Archbishop Chaput who has written a book “Render Unto Ceaser”, which addresses the faith/political life dichotomy.  You may remember Chaput who recently criticized Sen. Biden who is being touted by the Democrats as the Catholic candidate.  Based on the responses to McCain’s strong convictions expressed at the Saddleback debate and with Biden, a Catholic, as VP nominee, this group will be working hard during the campaign.  Look for more information on these efforts in the weeks to come.

In speaking with fellow delegates, it is clear that we are an excited and energized group.  I am amazed at how many first time delegates, like me, there are.  I think this speaks volumes about the process and the direction of the state party.  Having fresh new faces active in a party brings a lot.  I am also amazed at how many veterans are continuing to serve their country by becoming delegates.  It not only shows the confidence that our military personnel have in McCain as the next commander-in-chief, but how important our national security and defense is as an issue.  Terrorism is not going away and to think that we can keep at bay through negotiation and law enforcement is not sufficient. 

If the pundits are right and that the Democratic convention, but for a few highlighted speeches, was slow, lackluster and not an exposition of the ideas of the party, I think we will see the opposite from Minneapolis/St. Paul.  The “vibe” I get (and yes, I can generate my own enthusiasm) is that people are excited to get out there and showcase the new and bright talent of the Republican Party, to show that it is not a party mired in old stereotypes and worn out ideas but has a fresh, optimistic and innovative look towards the future.  Yeah, I am a little corny, but am psyched to be part of that.