Posts Tagged ‘third rail’

Tim Pawlenty announces for President, grabs third rail of Iowa politics, earns mythical Edmund Burke Award.

May 23, 2011

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) announced that he’d tell voters the “hard truths” as he campaigns for the Republican Presidential nomination. Ho-hum. We’ve heard that one before.

But listen up. Pawlenty opened his campaign today in Iowa by telling Iowans that he opposes federal subsidies for corn-based ethanol. In Iowa for gosh sakes! Next thing you know he’ll tell Floridians that he favors raising the retirement age for Social Security. Oh, but his campaign says that’s exactly what he’ll do next.

The great shame of democratic (and Democratic…and Republican) politics is politicians telling voters what they think the voters want to hear instead of what the politician really thinks. Pawlenty says he’ll be a different kind of candidate, and his first day is a sign that he means it.

Edmund Burke told his constituents 237 years ago that a representative owes them “his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving [them], if he sacrifices it to [their] opinion.” Following Burke’s example is one of the two highest ethical duties* of an elected official.

Pawlenty gets the mythical Edmund Burke Award for his ethanol position. Here’s hoping that politicians of both parties rush to follow his example.


*The other is the duty to heed Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who wrote, ‘The temper of and integrity with which the political fight is waged is more important for the health of our society than the outcome of any issue or campaign.”


Suddenly, a blizzard of truth from Republicans. Sam Goldwyn Awards* for all three.

February 17, 2011


Everybody in politics knows that federal spending is unsustainable: ending earmarks, eliminating waste, cutting non-defense discretionary spending won’t make more difference than baling out a sinking ship with a teacup. Drastic action is called for. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security have to be cut back or they’ll bankrupt the nation.

But our political leaders run from the problem. In the debate last year over health care reform, Republicans accused proponents of wanting to ration health care, and the Democrats, instead of saying, “Yes, it’s rationed now and we’ll have to ration it a lot more,” denied and denied. “Not us!”

Now come three prominent Republicans to speak truth to power—to the voting public.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) grabbed the third rail of American politics when he told an American Enterprise Institute audience, “You’re going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Oh, I just said it. And I’m still standing here. I did not vaporize into the carpeting, and I said it.”

Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) was even bolder—and more comprehensive—in a thoughtful speech to CPAC ( the Conservative Political Action Conference) in Washington. He told the right wing audience that his own party hasn’t tackled the problem, dealing instead with trifles: “Talking much more about [earmarks], or ‘waste, fraud, and abuse,’ trivializes what needs to be done and misleads our fellow citizens to believe that easy answers are available.” Instead Daniels proposed cutting defense, and radically changing Social Security and Medicare (more…)