Archive for November, 2010

Thanksgiving prayer

The Episcopal Church of St. John's (America's National Cathedral), Washington, D.C.One of the things that attracted me to the Anglican Christian tradition a decade ago was its beautiful liturgies and the way they spoke to my heart.

The following Thanksgiving collect is from the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer, 1979. The image of the church’s National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. is  from a tourism website.

A Prayer  for Thanksgiving

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

— Book of Common Prayer

Why was Kennedy killed? Mac Kilduff's story

Malcolm Kilduff, bottom left corner, held the Bible for Lyndon Johnson as the vice president was being sworn in as president aboard Air Force One on Nov. 22, 1963.

Note: I wrote this at home last night, on the 47th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination (Nov. 22, 2010) and posted it this morning.

Nov. 22, 1963. It’s one of those dates every student of American history knows, the day President John F. Kennedy was killed by a sniper as his motorcade made its way through Dallas.

In the 47 years since the young president was gunned down in front of his wife and a throng of onlookers, there has been no end to conspiracy theories. Most Americans refuse to believe that the gunman, a disgruntled former Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald, acted alone, despite the Warren Commission’s conclusion.

In fact, a 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that there probably was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy.

Malcolm Kilduff, however, was never convinced the murder was anything other than the act of a single, angry misfit.

He also never thought Kennedy was the target.

I met “Mac” Kilduff in the early 1980s, when I was the news editor of the Citizen Voice & Times in Irvine. At the time, he was the editor of his wife Rosemary’s hometown weekly, The Beattyville Enterprise, just across the county line, and was a friend of my publisher, Guy Hatfield. That’s how I got to know him.

I was in awe of Kennedy, so I was thrilled to know Kilduff, who was his deputy press secretary, and loved hearing his stories about his time in Washington.

But the story Kilduff was most closely associated with was the tragic one of his boss’s death.

Kilduff was with the president that day in Dallas, and announced to the world that Kennedy was dead.

John F. Kennedy was a president who inspired millions of Americans.

I wrote about Mac a few times as a newspaper reporter, but the longest interview I did with him was for ACE Magazine, in 1992, following the release of Oliver Stone’s hit film, “JFK.”

In Stone’s fantasy, Kennedy’s assassination was the work of a vast right-wing conspiracy involving the nation’s intelligence services, the military, anti-Castro Cubans, the Mafia, doctors and even the Dallas Police and the Secret Service.

As I sat with him at the Purple Cow cafe in Beattyville, he patiently discredited the details of the conspiracy theory of Jim Garrison, the eccentric New Orleans prosecutor on whose book Stone’s film is based.

But Kilduff had his own theory about Kennedy’s assassination, which I’ve never heard anyone else espouse. And it is that the killing of the president was — if you can believe it — an accident.

Kilduff told me he was riding in the third car of the motorcade that day when he heard the shots and turned around to face the Texas School Book Depository, from which the sound came. It didn’t come from a “grassy knoll” ahead of the cars.

He noted that in Abraham Zapruder’s film of the shootings, the spume of blood rising up and forward made it clear Kennedy was hit from behind, not from the front, as many conspiracy enthusiasts claim.

Malcolm Kilduff believed that Texas Gov. John Connally, not Kennedy, was Oswald's intended target.

Texas Gov. John Connally was also hit by one of the three shots fired by Oswald from the school book building, and Kilduff thinks it was the governor, not the president, that Oswald was gunning for.

Oswald had traveled to the U.S.S.R., where he offered to give the Russians military secrets and later married Marina Prushkova, the niece of a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet MVD. It was said that he renounced his U.S. citizenship, but in fact, he never formally did so under the terms of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952, Kilduff said.

“He went over there and deserted the Marine Corps,” he explained. “That’s why I have always felt that Kennedy was not his target.”

According to Kilduff, Oswald was court-martialed for desertion and dishonorably discharged. The order was signed by Connally, who, at that time, was the secretary of the Navy, which includes the Marine Corps.

Connally had the authority to give Oswald a new trial, but refused, and Oswald wrote him threatening letters.

That day in Dallas, Kilduff said, as the motorcade descended the hill on Elm Street, it picked up its pace. Oswald had bench-tested his weapon, a cheap Italian rifle, and knew that its shots drifted downward and to the left.

“In my opinion,” Kilduff said, “he was out to get Connally, and had the motorcade not sped up, he would have gotten Connally on the first shot. As it was, he adjusted and got him on the second shot.”

Fortunately, Connally’s injury was not fatal.

Contrary to the Warren report, Kilduff said, Oswald was an expert marksman and had won three medals for sharpshooting. “He knew what he was doing.”

The day Kennedy was shot, it was Kilduff who held the press conference to tell the world that the president had died, and it was he who held the Bible as the new president, Lyndon B. Johnson, was sworn in on board Air Force One.

He continued to work in Johnson’s White House for awhile, and held a number of news jobs before he and Rosemary settled in Beattyville, where he was editor of the weekly for six years, until his retirement. He died in a nursing home in 2003 at the age of 75, five years after the passing of his beloved wife.

Although he doubted that JFK would have become a larger-than-life figure had it not been for his murder, Kilduff always admired the president as someone who was intelligent, brave, handsome, humorous and winsome.

To the end of his days, he was angered by all the rumors and scandal stories about Kennedy, and in particular, those surrounding his death.

“It’s self-perpetuating,” he told me. “It keeps going on and on, and it won’t stop in our lifetime. I wish they’d just let him lie in peace.”

New schools need new names

Clark County athletes' uniforms don't have the words George Rogers Clark on them, and the Cardinal macot has nothing to do with Gen. George Rogers Clark. Why not just call the new high school what people throughout the state call it: Clark County High School?

When I was watching a TV report about the recent groundbreaking for Clark County’s new high school, one of the news anchors said the new high school will be called George Rogers Clark, just . But school officials say that hasn’t been decided.

I don’t have anything against Gen. George Rogers Clark, but I think Gov. James Clark, who lived in Winchester and was instrumental in creating Kentucky’s public school system, has a greater claim to the honor.

Some time ago, I suggested that the new high school be named for the governor. Now I think it would be better to name the new middle school for him.

One reason is that the current name of Clark Middle School is confusing. It isn’t Clark County Middle, or George Rogers Clark,  just Clark. So why not  name the combined middle school for the father of Kentucky’s public schools?

Gov. James Clark, a lifelong resident of Clark County, was a leader in creating Kentucky's public school system. It would be fitting to change the name of Clark Middle School to James Clark Middle School, then carry the name over to the new combined middle school, where the high school is now.

Also, most people around the state think our high school is called Clark County High. So why not call it that and keep the Cardinal as its mascot? If not, then GRC should be the Patriots, Generals, Pioneers, Longknives or some other name that fits the school name.

Finally, since Clark County is going to also build some at least one new elementary school and convert the two old middle schools to elementary school campuses, we should think about new names for those schools.

When I was in Jessamine County, the school board decided it would no longer name schools after people. One reason was that it is hard to measure someone’s greatness from a historical perspective  while they’re living, or soon after they’re dead. But what Jessamine ended up with was boring directional names for its schools: East Middle, West Middle, East High, West High, etc.

What Jessamine should have done, and what Clark County should do, is not name any school after anyone until that person has been gone for a century. That way, it gives us some historical perspective.

I’m sure that in their time, Hannah McClure, Fannie Bush and O.F. Shearer were beloved teachers, principals or school board members. But, honestly, I’m from Clark County, have lived her several times throughout my life, and I don’t have a clue who any of them were. I’d wager good money that not one Clark County resident in 100 knows either.

There are some famous people associated with Clark County, including Gov. James Clark, two other governors from before the 20th century, Gen. George Rogers Clark, Col. John Holder, Blackfish and others. Let’s name the new schools after historic personalities, or place names where the schools are located, as was done with Pilot View, Strode Station, Trapp and other schools. Or, if we want to get really creative and teach children the importance of learning to spell, how about Eskippakithiki Elementary School?

GRC journalism students shine

Clark County school officials joined former George Rogers Clark student Sarah Burkhardt, center, at the KYSPRA Oasis Awards to receive the organization's award for the school district's newsletter, The Connection, for the last school year. Pictured with Burkhardt are, from left, school board chairwoman Judy Hicks, former board member Alma Gentry, board member Debbie Fatkin, Assistant Superintendent Pat Rosenthal, Superintendent Elaine Farris and GRC journalism instructor Shanda Crosby.

We’ve know for some time that George Rogers Clark High School has an outstanding journalism program. Now there’s more evidence this is true.

This month the Kentucky School Public Relations Association honored the Clark County School District’s new newsletter, The Connection, with an OASIS (Outstanding Achievement in School Information Services) award.

Unlike most other schools, whose PR staffs do their district publications, Clark County’s is produced by the high school’s journalism students. And last year’s publication was good enough to compete against the professional staff-produced newsletters — and win.

Well done!

Shuler was the leader House Democrats needed

Rep. Heath Shuler, left, of North Carolina, would have been a collaborative Democratic leader, unlike the combative Speaker Nancy Pelosi, right, who was re-elected Thursday as Democratic leader. Politico.com.

Have the House Democrats learned nothing from what President Barack Obama called their “shellacking” on Nov. 2?

Apparently not, considering their re-election of Nancy Pelosi as their leader by a lopsided margin of 150-43 over Heath Shuler of North Carolina on Thursday.

If the election was an anti-incumbent revolt, Pelosi was the face of incumbency the people revolted against: a combative, uncompromising partisan from a family of political activists; a San Francisco liberal who doesn’t understand or doesn’t care that this is a center-right country; a 69-year-old ideologue with an acerbic personality at a time when people are looking for fresh faces, new ideas, open minds and open hands.

And Shuler was the ideal candidate to persuade the American people — and Republican House colleagues who might be open to bipartisan cooperation — that the party had learned its lesson, and was ready to move to the center and reach across the aisle.

A former NFL quarterback, small businessman and quail hunter from the mountains of western North Carolina, Shuler is a born-again Christian who is unashamed of his faith. He is a pro-life, environmentally conscious, fiscally responsible, centrist Blue Dog Democrat —  the kind of Democrat who can win in a red state.

When he was elected for the first time in the fall of 2006, I cited him as an example of the moderates whose wins that year had made it possible for the Democrats to reclaim the majority after years in the wilderness.
“Heath Shuler,” I wrote, “Is the kind of Democrat who gives partisan hacks like Karl Rove and Bill O’Reilly heartburn.” He wasn’t someone they could stereotype as weak on defense, or too far left, or out of touch with American values.

Other Democrats elected that year who also fit that description were Jim Webb of Virginia, a Marine and former secretary of the Navy for President Ronald Reagan, who switched parties and unseated a Republican senator; Jon Tester, a farmer with a flat-top who was elected to the Senate from Montana; and Ted Strickland, a Methodist preacher who was elected governor of Ohio.

It’s one of the ironies of politics that animosity against liberals causes moderates in conservative states to lose in mid-term elections.

On Nov. 2, the Democrats lost 23 of the 53 moderate-to-conservative Blue Dog Democrats in the House, including Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota, Baron Hill of Indiana, Gene Taylor of Mississippi and Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania.

Among those who barely survived was Ben Chandler of Kentucky, who supported Shuler for Democratic minority leader this week, calling the Asheville congressman a “commonsense moderate” from a district much like Chandler’s own.

“He understands the need to rein in federal spending in a tough economy,” Chandler said. “He also appreciates the immediate need to focus on  fixing our economy, growing small businesses, boosting our manufacturing base and putting people back to work.”

Two years ago, I thought that if the Democrats would choose such “commonsense” moderates for leadership positions, they would be able to work with Republicans to solve the country’s problems and might keep their majority party status for a long time. I wanted the Democratic presidential nominee to be a centrist like Mark Warner, the senator and former governor of Virginia, or Evan Bayh of Indiana, who recently got fed up with the partisan gridlock in Washington and left the Senate.

President Barack Obama, who is a liberal, but more moderate than many give him credit for, has long been a champion of bipartisan cooperation.

In his 2006 book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama, then a freshman senator from Illinois, was critical of his own party, calling it “the party of reaction,” and warning that Democrats should not give in to the temptation to try to “match the Republican right in stridency and hardball tactics …”

“I believe any attempts by the Democrats to pursue a more sharply partisan and ideological strategy misapprehends the moment we’re in,” he wrote. “For it’s precisely the pursuit of ideological purity, the rigid orthodoxy and the sheer predictability of our current political debate that keeps us from finding new ways to meet the challenges we face as a country. … It is such doctrinaire thinking and stark partisanship that have turned Americans off of politics.”

“What’s needed,” he continued, “is a broad majority of Americans — Democrats, Republicans, and independents of goodwill — who are re-engaged in the project of national renewal, and who see their own self-interest as inextricably linked to the interests of others.”

These are wise words from a president who was elected to bring “hope” and “change” to our country, but they have not been heeded by the angry partisans of the right or left. If only the House Democrats had listened.
Ohio Republican John Boehner, who will become the next speaker of the House, has said the GOP shouldn’t gloat over its victory, but should roll up its sleeves and get to work. Shuler might have been the kind of Democratic leader Boehner and Harry Reid, the moderate Democratic majority leader of the Senate, could have worked with to reach compromises on some of the most challenging issues facing the country. Now that opportunity is lost.

Clark County schools breaking new ground

George Rogers Clark High School students were among those invited to the groundbreaking for the new high school on Monday. This year's GRC sophomores will be the first graduates of the new school. Photo by James Mann/The Winchester Sun.

WINCHESTER — For students and teachers who have had to put up with overcrowded hallways, short lunch breaks, inadequate restrooms and outdated classroom facilities, Monday was a day for cheering.

Teenagers were among the throng that braved the frigid weather to celebrate the groundbreaking for Clark County’s new high school. The sophomores of George Rogers Clark High will be its first graduates in 2013.

Kaylee Raymer spoke for many of her classmates when she said she was excited about the school now under construction.

“It’s really nice that we’re getting a new school and new technology, and it will be a great learning environment for all the students,” she said.

(Watch the video at http://www.centralkynews.com/winchestersun/)

It was another GRC student who, some time ago, convinced me that Clark County needed a new high school. I had attended meetings, heard and read arguments in favor of the school facilities plan, and came away unconvinced that it was the best solution to the problem of inadequate buildings.

I’m still not convinced that building the high school first, delaying action on greater needs at the elementary level, and closing rural schools that are social anchors for their communities is the right approach. But this GRC senior made me see that the need for a new high school was more urgent than I had thought.

In the meantime, some things have changed for the better.

The biggest change is that the state is giving us $19 million in bonding funds to build a new elementary school to replace Fannie Bush, Pilot View and Central — and greatly expediting its construction. This is a huge gain for Clark County, because our worst facilities will be replaced soon after the new high school is completed.

I still think we need to have a debate about closing Trapp, Providence and Hannah McClure elementary schools, and herding all the middle school students into the old GRC building. But that’s another discussion for another day.

Today, I join others in celebrating the start of construction of a new high school and the start of planning for a new elementary school.

Is compromise still possible in Washington?

Peter F. Rothermel’s painting “The United States Senate, A.D. 1850” shows the great Kentucky senator, Henry Clay addressing his colleagues on the Compromise of 1850, one of those rare moments in history when statesmen were able to transcend the rancor of their times and come together for the good of the nation.

Compromise appears less likely following the Nov. 2 election, but it is what the nation needs

“Let him who elevates himself above humanity … say, if he pleases, “I will never compromise,” but let no one who is not above the frailties of our common nature disdain compromise.” —  Henry Clay

Less than two weeks before the 2010 general election, the Republican leader of the United States Senate sat with me in my office, along with two of his aides and one of my reporters, and talked about, of all things, the Compromise of 1850.

Both of us had recently read Robert V. Remini’s book, “At the Edge of the Precipice: Henry Clay and the Compromise That Saved the Union,” and he had recently seen one of my columns in which I had mentioned it.
What both of us found fascinating about the story was learning that Clay — whose seat McConnell now holds in the Senate — had made a strategic error by combining several provisions in the first legislative package ever to be labeled an “omnibus” bill.

In his efforts to forge a compromise to avoid a civil war, Clay had made the legislation too cumbersome and objectionable to many senators.

Its parts included provisions related to abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia (but not slavery itself), admission of California and New Mexico without dictating whether they would be slave or free (because he knew their legislatures would choose to be free), settlement of the Texas border and assumption of that state’s debt, creating a strict fugitive slave law and declaring that Congress had no right to prohibit slavery in slaveholding states.

It was Stephen Douglas, a supporter of the compromise, who got Clay to see his mistake.

“By combining the measures into one bill, the committee united the opponents of each measure instead of securing the friends of each,” Douglas explained.

It was only when Douglas and Clay broke the omnibus bill apart and fought for its resolutions one by one that they succeeded.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has sent mixed signals about his willingness to work with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. Politico.com.

McConnell and I had both been thinking that a contemporary analogy to Clay’s failed original bill was the Democrats’ recent health care reform legislation.

Taken individually, some of its provisions, such as prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating against children with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26, might have gotten bipartisan support. Others, such as requiring individuals to purchase private insurance or pay a fine, and reducing funding for Medicare, might not have gotten through either chamber. On the whole, we agreed, the new law is a debacle.

Because polls showed that the Republicans would reclaim the House of Representatives and increase their numbers in the Senate, I asked McConnell whether he would be inclined to compromise with President Barack Obama and the Democrats on health care and other issues in the next term.

His answer was similar to what he had been quoted as saying in an Associated Press story we published on the front page of the Sun that day, Oct. 21.

If he moves toward the political center as President Bill Clinton did after his party’s huge losses in 1994, McConnell said, and shows a willingness to work with Republicans, he would be happy to talk with him.

On health care, however, McConnell said he and the president start from two quite different premises: The president believes the system is fundamentally broken, whereas the senator believes it needs only minor changes to make medical care more affordable.

I would say that having nearly 50 million uninsured people in a country of 300 million and health care costs that have more than doubled since Clinton tried to reform the system 16 years ago means the system is dysfunctional.
Nevertheless, I came away from that meeting cautiously encouraged that McConnell meant what he said about his willingness to compromise.

It seemed in keeping with his statements a couple of years ago that if he were to become the majority leader, who would like to be like Mike Mansfield, a great patriot who was known for his respect for opponents and tendency to reach across the aisle to reach bipartisan solutions.

I was dismayed, however, when McConnell was quoted a few days later  saying that his top priority in the next Congress will be to make sure Barack Obama is a one-term president.

So much for working together.

McConnell’s first priority — and the first priority of the president and every member of Congress — should be to do what is best for our country. That includes ending the economic crisis, getting America working again, protecting people from the threats of terrorism and global warming, getting our fiscal house in order, and yes, ensuring that Americans have access to affordable health care.

President Obama came into office hoping to transcend partisanship, and has repeatedly reached out to Republicans. He did so again at a press conference the day after the election.

“I have been willing to compromise in the past and I am willing to compromise going forward,” the president said.

But throughout his first two years in office, Republicans have refused to give an inch — and they are even less inclined to do so now.

That may be a fatal mistake.

Those who think the Nov. 2 election was a mandate for the Republican Party’s trite and tired policies that got us into this economic mess in the first place should be sobered by a post-election AP poll which showed that about the same percentage of Americans (a majority) have a negative view of the Republicans as of Democrats. And while they favor the GOP’s position on tax cuts, an overwhelming majority — nearly 60 percent — oppose its proposal to repeal health care reform. Many, the poll showed, think the new law doesn’t do enough. I’m one of them.

What we are seeing in 2010 is not the beginning of a conservative revolution, any more than the Democratic landslides of 2006 and 2008 were a mandate for the second coming of the New Deal.

People are angry because they’ve lost their jobs, or they’re exhausted and stressed out because their coworkers have lost theirs, and so they are overworked and underpaid. Or they’re frustrated because they have lost much of their life’s savings in their homes and 401ks, and now politicians are telling them they may have to work until they are 70 before they can get their Social Security — if there is anything left in the trust fund by then.

Americans have every right to be angry. Yet they just might, out of love for their country, be willing to make sacrifices, to do their part to get the country back on track — if only their leaders would show that they’re also willing to do their part — to come together, to end the constant bickering and make the hard decisions and compromises necessary to governing.

If only they would lead.

What we need today are more leaders like Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas — and fewer politicians.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun. This was first published as a column in the Sun today. http://kyvoice.com/winchestersun/newerworld/

Why every vote matters

U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Ky., has won a fourth term in Congress — but just barely. The recanvass results showed him with 648 votes more than his challenger, Andy Barr.

In my blog post of Nov. 6, “Cliffhanger in the 6th,” I noted that the congressional race in the 6th District was officially undecided because the Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler’s Republican challenger, Andy Barr, had asked for a recanvass of the balloting.

It was the right thing to do, given Chandler’s razor-thin margin of victory. Barr owed it to the voters to make sure. But six days later, the results of the recanvass showed that the original numbers were close to being accurate. The recanvass gave Chandler just one more vote, making the final tally 119,812 to 119,164, the Kentucky.com reported Nov. 12.

At a news conference in Lexington, Barr conceded, saying he could find “no compelling evidence that would justify a petition for a recount.”

Chandler owes his win in large part to Fayette and Franklin county voters, who gave him his biggest local wins on election night. But when Clark County, which went for Barr, and Montgomery and Powell counties were reporting their numbers, it was still too close to call.

This underscores two points: one, that strong voter turnout matters and that every vote counts; and two, that voters shouldn’t put too much faith in exit polling and cast their ballots regardless of what’s being reported in the media.

Republican voices of reason

President Dwight D. Eisenhower

This morning I came across these quotations by Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, and I believe they speak to the division within the Republican Party today between traditional conservatives and the radical libertarians of the far right who are busy taking over the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.

President Dwight Eisenhower, Republican, November 8, 1954:
“Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

[This "tiny splinter group" of half a century ago has become the dominant force within American conservatism and the Republican Party today. Progressive Republicans like Eisenhower and Lincoln have become the minority.]

President Abraham Lincoln, Republican, November 21, 1864:
“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country . . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

[This speech sounds similar to that of another president from Illinois, Barack Obama, who said that a nation cannot long prosper if it only looks after the interests of the prosperous.]

Political labels are passé

For some time now, I’ve been convinced that political labels like “liberal” and “conservative” don’t accurately reflect the opinions of most Americans. They certainly don’t reflect mine.

Case in point: This morning, while waiting for copy to read, I checked my Facebook account and noticed a survey that would tell whether I was a liberal or a conservative. I usually ignore all applications on Facebook, but I was curious, so I took the debate.

The survey asked six questions, including whether I thought domestic spending should be cut to reduce the debt (it should), whether it should be harder or easier for a woman to get an abortion (harder),  whether I was for or against same-sex marriage (against), and a couple of others. I answered all six and checked the results. It showed that I was an ultraconservative.

I had the option of ending the survey there or continuing to the second part. I chose to go on. Among the next six questions it asked were whether I was for or against privatizing Social Security (against), and whether I believe the government has a responsibility to make sure everyone has health care (I do). It also asked whether I think the Patriot Act goes too far in suppressing individual liberties in order to fight terrorism (I don’t).

On each question, the survey also gave the option of sliding a little button along a scale to show how strongly I felt about each issue. On the questions of abortion and access to health insurance, for example, I pushed the button way to the right. Gay marriage, on the other hand, isn’t an issue that bothers me that much. I don’t want my church sanctioning it, but since marriage is a religious sacrament, I don’t know what business government or the courts have being involved in it anyway.

When I finished the survey, it showed I had gone from being a far-right conservative to being “65 percent liberal.”

I would, however, dispute that.

In the three decades I’ve been voting, I have been registered as a Socialist (the remnant of Eugene Debs’ old social democrat party), a Democrat, an independent, and most recently, a Republican.

Over the years, I’ve drifted steadily to the right on most matters, including fiscal responsibility, support for the military, traditional morality and gun owners’ rights. But I also believe there is a social responsibility to care for the poor and be good stewards of the environment. As a Keynesian, I think the government has an important role to play in creating a strong, healthy economy — including public spending to stimulate the economy. I think the only “fair tax” is an income levy that requires those who earn more to pay a higher percentage of their wealth for the greater benefits they receive from public spending.

So am I a liberal or a conservative? I believe I’m neither. I sometimes call myself a progressive or a moderate, but I think these labels are too confining and largely irrelevant — even, or  especially, in an era when our country is so sharply divided between polar extremes.

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