Sunday, September 10, 2006

What kind of leader does Utah need?

I’ve talked quite a bit on my position on the issues. However, maybe a more important consideration for our citizens in choosing a representative is the leadership style of the candidate. Maybe I can demonstrate this best by talking about a few current members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, whose leadership style I admire and will try to emulate.

One of my favorite members of the House is Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona. By all accounts, Rep. Flake is a respected, likable guy. But it’s his integrity and commitment to principle over party that is most impressive. Rep. Flake is considered one of the most libertarian and principled members of the House. As a small number of Republicans who often join Ron Paul in voting “no” on bills supported by most of his party, he has earned the “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) label from partisan Republicans – but is strongly supported by true conservatives for his stand on the issues.

Rep. Flake voted against No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and the Homeland Security Act, all against the wishes of party leaders. He originally supported the Patriot Act and the Iraq War, but has become an opponent of both, including voting against further appropriations. He has been a leader in calling for improvement in House ethics in the wake of the Tom DeLay scandals, and courageously co-authored a letter with Rep. Charlie Bass of New Hampshire calling for DeLay to step down – while Congressman Bishop was voting to relax House ethics rules to allow him to stay. He has also been a leader in fighting his party’s huge addiction to pork. The Club for Growth publishes the “Flake Anti-Pork Scorecard” which shows the voting record of all 435 house members on anti-pork amendments he sponsors during each Congress. Several Blue Dog Democrats scored a perfect 19 on this scorecard; Jim Matheson got a 14, Rob Bishop an 8, and Chris Cannon a 6. My favorite quote from Jeff Flake is, “Republicans don’t even pretend to be fiscally conservative anymore”.

Flake’s style guarantees he will never be considered for leadership positions in the House, but he is proof positive that a principled maverick can have a huge amount of influence. He is one of the most respected and quoted members of the Republican caucus. There are obviously many issues where he and I disagree, but when I campaign on reaching across the aisle to find innovative solutions to problems, Jeff Flake is one of the people I have in mind. One of my ambitions is to get a perfect score on the Flake Anti-Pork Scorecard while I’m in Congress.

The nature of the Democratic Party ensures more independent thinkers among its House caucus. The Blue Dog Coalition is by definition made up of mavericks. This respect for diversity of opinion is one of the reasons I became a Democrat. One particularly remarkable Congressman is conservative Democrat Ike Skelton of Missouri. You may not recognize Skelton’s name, but he figures prominently in the run-up to the Iraq War. History shows that Skelton was one of the few members of Congress that was asking the Department of Defense hard questions during this period. Skelton, with his long experience on the House Armed Services Committee, pretty much predicted everything bad that has happened since. It’s too bad Rumsfeld didn’t listen to him.

One Senator I admire is Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. I like Sen. Graham’s gracious, Southern gentleman style. One of the memories I have of him is his exchange with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales last year during Senate hearings into the Administration’s wiretapping practices. Sen. Graham stated from the beginning that the practice violated the FISA laws, and during this testimony, he suggested Gonzales work with Congress in modifying the law to serve the interests of national security but still maintain the Constitutional-mandated role of the courts in overseeing this type of activity. Sen. Graham pleaded with Gonzales, throwing out all sorts of suggestions for changes and improvements, but Gonzales’ answers basically consisted of “Nope, nope, nope”. In his soft-spoken style, Lindsey Graham dishes out criticism or praise equally to everyone, regardless of political affiliation.

The common vein here is a tendency to put principles over party, to think for oneself, to respect and work with anyone with a good idea, and to courageously stand for what you think is right regardless of the consequences. That’s the only way I know how to act. As a non-politician, I have no training in partisan party shenanigans or shading the truth; I wouldn’t even know how to go about it.

When I told my father I was running for Congress, his reaction was somewhat surprising. He gave me that stern look that I know so well, and said, “Steve, I’m proud of you. You are a good man with unquestioned integrity. I’m afraid that dabbling in politics will turn you into someone I won’t respect. If you’re going to do this, you’d better not let that happen.”

Don’t worry, Dad. I won’t.


At 5:44 PM, Blogger bette said...

Can Jeff Flake stand up against the leaders of his Church? Can he make the Mormon Church stop plural marrigages of an isolated group of people that let men marry young girls with little education. Once they have babies they are trapped. They might not even be aware that they are colecting welfare and would continue to do so if they left an unhappy situation.
When young boys are forced to leave this isolated group with little education... what is their fate?..


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