Archive for January, 2011

Reagan and Kennedy: Models of bipartisanship

President Barack Obama's 2011 State of the Union message. White House photo.

We are a great nation, and “we do big things,” President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

While his speech didn’t match the eloquence of John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan, his message was the same as theirs: America doesn’t settle for less.

It’s a message that doesn’t sit well with those who talk of austerity.

Throughout his Washington career, Obama has held up Reagan and Kennedy as role models. He couldn’t choose two better ones for this time in our history.

Both of these predecessors were expected to govern with fiscal restraint, yet they led during eras of great challenges and were aware that if they didn’t meet them with vigor, our country would lose its competitive edge.

Reagan and Kennedy also knew the importance of bipartisan cooperation and were quite good at it, although they sometimes concealed it behind rhetoric intended to appeal to their base.

Ronald Reagan inspired America not to settle for small dreams.

In Reagan’s first inaugural address, for example, he directly confronted the “malaise” of Jimmy Carter’s “era of limits.” Thirty years ago this month, Reagan declared that it was time “for  us to realize that we are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams.”

Twenty years earlier, in his inaugural, Kennedy famously said that we would “pay any price, bear any burden … to assure the survival and the success of liberty” — but also that we would “explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.”

That’s a tall order, but these were men who reached for the moon and didn’t disappoint.

When he was considering a run for the White House in 2006 and 2007, Barack Obama, a new senator from Illinois, said he might do it if he could be a “transformational” president like Reagan, who, he said, lifted our expectations in a way that Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton did not.

We will "pay any price" for liberty, John Kennedy said.

Similarly, he often cited JFK as a source of inspiration and sought to clothe himself in the mystique of Camelot through his friendships with the Kennedy family and former aides like speechwriter Ted Sorensen.
Reagan and Kennedy had many legislative accomplishments, although, because he was killed after only 1,000 days in office,  Kennedy’s most important domestic initiatives — Medicare, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, tax cuts to stimulate the economy, an effort to alleviate poverty and federal aid to education — were finally enacted under his successor, Lyndon Johnson.

Like Reagan, Kennedy knew he couldn’t accomplish these things without support from members of the other party, as well as his own.

Kennedy’s bipartisanship was more overt than Reagan’s. Because he won the 1960 election by a razor-thin margin, the Democratic president reached out to Republicans by appointing them to his cabinet and other important posts in his administration. His secretary of defense, national security adviser and treasury secretary were all Republicans, and he kept President Dwight Eisenhower’s FBI and CIA directors. And in his inaugural speech, Kennedy said his victory was “not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom.”
Because the Democratic Party in Congress was dominated by segregationist Southerners, Kennedy and Johnson could not have achieved the successes they did in racial equality without reaching out to Republicans.

Kennedy cultivated friendships with Republicans like John Sherman Cooper and Barry Goldwater, while the conservative Reagan courted the Kennedy family and said that after hours, he could be friends with Democrats like liberal Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill.

President Reagan was a conservative hero, and Sen. Edward Kennedy was a liberal icon, but the two men were friends and had a deep respect and affection for each other despite their adversarial stances on issues.

But it should be remembered that Reagan worked with O’Neill and other Democrats to save Social Security, expand the earned income tax credit to help the working poor, and craft a remarkably progressive tax reform bill in 1986.

Obama, who, like Clinton, thought he didn’t need Republicans at the beginning of his presidency, could learn something from the examples of Kennedy and Reagan.

Judging by the speech he gave this week, and his recent actions, it seems he has.

In calling for reductions in discretionary spending, revamping of the federal government to make it more efficient, and consideration of a bipartisan deficit commission’s recommendations on entitlement programs, Obama echoed the fiscal conservatism of Reagan and JFK. However, he also urged Congress to invest in research and development, higher education, information technology, high-speed rail and clean energy to rapidly expand the economy and make sure the United States is first in the world in these engines of growth.
It was the right message, and worthy of Kennedy and Reagan; one that emphasized fiscal responsibility, ambition and civility.

The reaction, however, from the left and right, was negative. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected the president’s pledge to veto any spending bill that included earmarks, and basically told Obama to mind his own business. Reid’s Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, said Obama put too much emphasis on spending and not enough on cuts.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” McConnell had held out an olive branch, saying that if the president were to pursue a more centrist course in the second half of his first term, “he’ll find a lot of help among Republicans in Congress.”

That’s encouraging.

Obama made it clear Tuesday night that he got the message, and he has been shifting to the center. But the president isn’t the only one who should “pivot” (McConnell’s favorite new word).

For many of the new radicals in the GOP, “compromise” is a dirty word. For those interesting in getting things done, though, compromise is essential to governing in a two-party system.

It is worth noting that while some tea partisans were elected last November, more of them lost, even in conservative states like Arizona and Alaska. The tea party is a phenomenon of the recent recession and the offspring of the screaming heads of the right wing media. It won’t last. Let’s not give it more credit than it deserves. They are not true Reagan Republicans. Likewise, the radical MoveOn.org crowd doesn’t represent mainstream Democrats and shouldn’t dominate the party of Kennedy.

I believe most Americans are moderates and they’re tired, as I am, of partisan rancor and gridlock. Recent efforts toward a more civil debate of the issues and cooperation on taxes and jobless benefits offer a promise of a new approach.

President Obama listened to the voice of the vital center and has moved toward the middle, where the people are.

To Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and others, it is time for the president and the American people to say: It’s your move.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun. Contact him at rpatrick@winchestersun.com.

Candidate for governor promises 'meritocracy'

Kentucky State Senate President David Williams, who is in a three-way race for the Republican nomination for governor, met with constituents in Winchester following a speech in January. Photo by Randy Patrick/The Winchester Sun.

This article was first published by The Winchester Sun Jan. 14.

By Randy Patrick
The Winchester Sun

Kentucky’s last Republican governor got into trouble because of a state hiring scandal, but if he’s elected, state Senate President David Williams said Thursday, em-ployees will be hired on merit.

Williams, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, spoke to a crowd of supporters last night at Golden Corral in Winchester.

In response to a question from Mary Davis about dealing with Democrats and entrenched interests in the state capital, Williams did not accuse former Gov. Ernie Fletcher of wrongdoing, but hinted that things would be different if he were  governor.

The first thing he and his running mate, Commissioner of Agriculture Richie Farmer, would do when they’re sworn into office, he said, is meet with state workers.

“I’ll tell them that I believe the vast majority of state employees are there for the right reasons, and that we’re going to run a meritocracy,” he said.

Employees would be hired or dealt with on the basis of “merit, not connections,” he said.

Williams also pointed out that, as a longtime lawmaker in Frankfort, he is more familiar with the culture there than Fletcher was, and contrary to his image in the press as being difficult or stubborn, he has a good working relationship with Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo and other Democrats in the legislature.

“We’re in pretty tough times, and I think people want a leader who can be tough when he has to be tough,” Williams said. “… I get along with people in Frankfort pretty well, but there’s a difference in working with people and compromising your principles. I think we will be able to change the government.”

What’s important, he said, is selling the message to the people.

“If the people get behind what you do and believe in what you do, they’ll start calling their legislators and demand that changes be made,” he said.

The Republican-controlled state Senate has recently passed many bills Williams pushed, including a bill to get tough on illegal immigration, a proposal to make state retirement (except for teachers) a “defined contributions plan” like a 401k rather than a “defined benefits plan.”

Teachers’ retirement is different, he said, because they don’t participate in Social Security.

David Williams said that as governor, he would create a tax commission to come up with a comprehensive plan legislators could vote on as one bill.

Williams also wants to create a tax commission to look at ways to overall the state’s “antiquated” tax system and have a single omnibus tax bill with an up-or-down vote.

In particular, he wants a more business-friendly tax climate.

He held up Tennessee as a model for Kentucky on taxes. While that state’s sales taxes are nearly double those of Kentucky (including local sales taxes), Tennessee doesn’t tax income other than “dividends and interest,” he noted.

“Some people would say they have some taxes that are higher than us, but they don’t tax productivity as much as we do, so people are more interested in coming there to create jobs,” he said.

Williams said that as governor, his chief economic adviser will be Art Laffer, the economist who influenced Ronald Reagan’s administration’s “supply-side economics” program. He said Laffer has a house in his hometown of Burkesville, and that he got to know him years ago when he had him come to Kentucky to give a speech.

Some of those who attended the meeting last night were expecting Farmer, Williams’ candidate for lieutenant governor and a former star basketball player for the University of Kentucky, to be there. Williams joked that if people had known Farmer wasn’t going to make it, the crowd would not have been nearly as large.

Among those who were singled out for recognition at the meeting were several local Republican officials, including Sheriff Berl Perdue and County Commissioner Rick Smith, and the 73rd House District’s newly elected state representative, Donna Mayfield of Winchester.

Contact Randy Patrick at rpatrick@winchestersun.com.

Hope Center: Evidence of things seen

“Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” — St. Francis

By Randy Patrick

He was a small, unkempt man, another homeless drunk looking for a handout. I asked him how he was, and he held my eyes, making sure I had his attention, before he answered, with sincerity: “I’m blessed. I really am.”

I was speechless.

In the seven years that I’ve volunteered at the Hope Center, nothing has astonished me as much as those few words did. It helped put things in perspective: If this destitute man, who had to go to a shelter for a hot meal and a mattress, could be thankful, how could I not be?

Working at the Hope Center has been a good way to get to know other members of Apostles Anglican Church, but it also has been a way to encounter the last, the least and the lost — and through them, the Savior.
Dorothy Day said, “The mystery of the poor is this — that they are Jesus, and what you do for them you do to Him.”

Christ said the same thing: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.”

Many of the men we serve will thank us when they receive the food. A few even make a point of coming back after they’ve eaten to thank us again. But it is we who should thank them for what they teach us: that small kindnesses make a difference.

The clients we work with in the kitchen, serving meals to about 200 men on a typical Friday night, are in the center’s rehab program, battling demons. So are many of those men who come through the receiving line for fish, bread and bowl of beans or pasta.

A few will spend the night in the dining room. Others will go back out into the frigid darkness to feed their addiction and end up with frostbite.

It’s easy to say that helping an addict is “enabling” him or fostering dependency. But try saying it to him when he’s standing in front of you, cold, wet and hungry.

That man could be my cousin. It could have been me if I had stayed on the same path I was on 30 years ago.

Not all of these men are derelicts. Some are educated and once had jobs and families. They’ve hit bottom and are trying to get up again. For some, faith has made a difference.

Earlier this month, I was working beside a man in the rehab program who told me he thanked God he had hope of recovery. He had too much to live for to give up now, he  said.

Sojourners founder Jim Wallis said, “Hope is believing in spite of the evidence and watching the evidence change.”

I think some of the men at the Hope Center could testify to that.

Sargent Shriver: warrior for peace

Sargent Shriver was escorted by his son Anthony during the funeral of his brother-in-law, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, in 2009. Shriver died last week. AP photo.

A great American warrior was laid to rest Saturday — a “warrior for peace and against poverty.”

That was how former President Bill Clinton once described Sargent Shriver, who died last week at the age of 95.

He was the other kind of warrior, too, having served in the Navy during the Second World War. But it was for his creation of the Peace Corps and his leadership of the War on Poverty that Shriver will best be remembered.

He understood, as President John F. Kennedy did: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

Kennedy chose Shriver, his brother-in-law, to be the founder and leader of the Peace Corps, because knew that having Americans volunteer overseas, helping people in developing countries improve their lives and communities, was important to our image abroad and our national security. Forty years later, after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, one of President George W. Bush’s first responses was to expand the Peace Corps.

Sargent Shriver for Life magazine

Shriver also strengthened national security as the author of the “no first strike policy,” and as ambassador to France in the 1960s, when his personal friendship with President Charles De Gaulle helped thaw relations with the French during the Cold War and make them our strong ally against Communism.

It was Shriver who headed the talent search for the “best and brightest” to lead Kennedy’s administration during a critical time in our nation’s history. And it was he who, in the 1960 campaign, urged Kennedy to make the call that freed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from jail and showed the world whose side the government would be on in the struggle for freedom at home.

When President Lyndon Johnson came to Kentucky in 1964 to  declare a War on Poverty, it was Shriver he recruited to head the Pentagon of that anti-poverty effort, the Office of Economic Opportunity. In that role, Shriver inspired, created or led Head Start, VISTA, the Job Corps, Community Action, Upward Bound, Foster Grandparents and other programs that gave the poor a hand up, not a handout. The War on Poverty wasn’t about welfare, but empowering the poor to change their own lives.

President Ronald Reagan famously said that in the 1960s, we fought a war against poverty “and poverty won.” But that’s not true. Until funding was drastically reduced, the Great Society programs started by Shriver were shown to have significantly reduced poverty, even when economic growth was factored in as the main cause.

In private life, Shriver continued to champion the disadvantaged, creating and leading, with his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics program for those with special needs.
A former altar boy to a cardinal and a friend of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, Shriver was driven by his Catholic faith to a life of servant leadership.

Colman McCarthy, a former Trappist monk and journalist who was one of Shriver’s poverty warriors, wrote at the beginning of this century that Shriver could “look back on four decades of public service and a record of successful innovation unmatched by any contemporary leader in or out of government.”

One of the many Sargent Shriver inspired to a life of public service was his son Bobby, who, with rock star Bono, started the DATA/ONE and Red campaigns to fight AIDS and poverty in Africa.

Bill Moyers, another protege, said he could think of no one who had “touched more lives for the better” than Shriver had.

“He is the Christian who comes closet, in my experience, to the imitation of Christ in a life of service,” Moyers said.

Shriver “lived his life,” said Moyers, “as a great gamble that what we do to serve, help and care for our fellow human beings is what ultimately counts.”

Today Shriver still inspires countless Americans, including members of his family, to service. His son Timothy now leads Special Olympics, and his son Bobby, along with Irish rock singer Bono and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, founded and funded the DATA/ONE campaign to fight extreme poverty and AIDS in Africa.

Sargent Shriver’s impact on individuals, our country and the world will be felt long after his life is over. And for that, we owe him a debt of gratitude.

JFK's message needed today

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Fifty years after President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, the most memorable line from his inaugural address (see text) still resonates — perhaps because it calls us to a higher ideal, one too often forgotten in these selfish times. Earlier this week, I saw the results of a poll that showed more Americans are interested in what their country can do for them than what they can do for their country.

On Jan. 20, President Barack Obama, the JFK’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy and others spoke at a celebration marking the 50th anniversary of that famous speech and the president whose words stirred a nation in 1961. (Click here to listen to Kennedy’s inaugural address.)

President Barack Obama at the 50th anniversary of JFK's inauguration.

The sacrifice Kennedy called for has to be seen in the context of the Cold War. The president famously said that we would “pay any price, bear any burden … to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

What is less well remembered is that Kennedy said man has the power to abolish poverty, and that the United States would support those around the globe who desire to “break the bonds of mass misery” and help them help themselves. Today, the United States spends less than a fraction of 1 percent of its budget on foreign humanitarian aid, and many Americans resent the federal government spending even that small amount.

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich,” he said.

Another part of the speech that is usually forgotten, but that we would do well to remember in these times of partisan rancor, vitriolic rhetoric and disdain for compromise, was that Kennedy sought to unite our country, saying that his election was “not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom” and reminding us that “civility is not a sign of weakness.”

And for those liberals who believe that separation of church and state equates with separation of faith and political beliefs, they should remember that Kennedy invoked God more than once in his inaugural address and ended it by saying that in leading, we should ask for God’s blessing and help, but never forget that “here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.”

Click here to listen to Kennedy’s speech.

Most don't want repeal of health law

If you listen to the most strident voices in the media and Congress, you might think almost everyone wants to repeal the new health care reform law because it costs too much and will cost jobs.

As I’m writing this on Wednesday, the House is expected to vote to repeal the legislation that, until today, was referred to in the GOP proposal as the “Job-Killing” health law.

However, a recent analysis of the results of undoing the legislation found it would cost more than to keep it.

Republicans have said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will cost 1.6 million jobs, based on an August report by the independent Congressional Budget Office.

However, FactCheck.org studied the CBO report and found that most of the job losses would come from people choosing to retire early, thanks to the reduced cost of health insurance under the new law.

People leaving the job market because it has become possible for them to retire is different from killing jobs.

As for the cost of health reform, this month the CBO concluded that based on an its preliminary findings, ending the law would cost the Treasury about $230 billion over the next 10 years. That’s because, while repeal would eliminate the costs of the new law, it would also eliminate its benefits, including savings in Medicare, and it would cut tax revenue associated with the reform.

I must admit I’m skeptical of these conclusions. I don’t see how requiring businesses to pay for health insurance or pay a hefty fine would not cause layoffs, but I’m not an economist.

While I don’t like requiring businesses or individuals to purchase insurance, and I despise the idea of government subsidies for the insurance industry, I would rather see the law changed than repealed. So would a huge majority of Americans.

An AP-GfK Poll conducted Jan. 5-10 shows that only one in four people want to completely repeal the health law, while less than one in five want to leave it as it is. Forty-three percent want to change it so that it actually does more. I would be in that group.

Most of the law’s provisions haven’t even taken effect yet. It would be rash to abolish it before seeing how it works.

Note: For a Kaiser Foundation video explaining the 2010 health care reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, visit http://healthreform.kff.org/The-Animation.aspx

Contact Randy Patrick at rpatrick@winchestersun.com.

MLK

While looking for U2′s song “MLK” on YouTube, I found this short History Channel video about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with U2′s other song about King, “Pride (In the Name of Love”) as a soundtrack. I thought it was a fitting tribute for this day, to a man who led our nation to freedom. Click here to watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYrsgQNAfvU

Words that are worthy of us

In his speech last week following the tragedy in Tucson, President Barack Obama told those gathered for the memorial service in honor of those who died and those who were wounded in the shooting Jan. 8  that sometimes bad things happen, and that we shouldn’t be too quick to judge or try to explain. However, he said, it is appropriate to have a national conversation on issues such as gun control, mental illness and the increasing toxicity of civil discourse in this country to prevent future tragedies.

Here are some excerpts from his speech:

As Scripture tells us: There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. …

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations — to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.
But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized — at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do — it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.
Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.
For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.
So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.
But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

Give voters more time to change party affiliation

Already late for the party

Winchester Sun Editorial for Friday, Jan. 14

If you were waiting to see who the Democratic and Republican candidates would be before you decided how to register for Kentucky’s May primary election, you’ve waited too long.

The deadline for changing your party affiliation was Dec. 31 of last year.

Chances are you didn’t know that, because the state doesn’t give it much publicity, and most party officials probably would rather you didn’t know. That allows them more control of their membership.

Some control is reasonable. “Raiding,” which consists of voters of one party crossing over to vote for the weakest candidate in another party’s primary — to give their own party’s nominee an advantage in the later general election — is a problem in open primary states. So is allowing independents (unaffiliated voters) to tilt a party’s primary in states where only those who are registered as “non-partisan” can wait until election day to decide which party’s primary to vote in.

Parties are organizations that expect their members to adhere to a general political philosophy or set of tenets. It is unfair and unreasonable for their nominees to be chosen by members of another party, or no party at all, who don’t share the party’s values.

Given, however, that party loyalty is not as strong as it was even a generation ago, there should be some reasonable accommodation of those who want to base their votes on “the person, not the party,” or whose political beliefs change because of rapidly changing circumstances.

It used to be that most people were Republicans or Democrats because that’s what their families were, and they remained members of the same party all their lives. But that hasn’t been true for a long time, and those who make the rules must accept the new reality.

Kentucky is the only state that requires citizens to settle on a party affiliation so long before a primary. Iowa and New Jersey require voters to register their party status in December, but both of those states have early nomination contests, in January and February, respectively.

Kentuckians must decide on their party almost five months before they actually go to the polls. That’s absurd.
In most states, people can register to vote 25 to 30 days before the primary and choose their party status at that time.
Kentucky voters can also register about a month before the primary if they are doing so for the first time, or because they’ve changed their address, or for any other reason except changing their party affiliation.

The most egregious factor in Kentucky’s primary system is that candidates don’t have to register to run until late January — nearly a month after the voters have chosen which party’s primary they’ll vote in. Consequently, voters often don’t know who their party’s candidates will be when they choose a party.

That should be unacceptable to everyone who believes in the basic republican principles of open government, informed decision-making and free choice.

In this session of the state legislature, we would encourage lawmakers to propose a bill making the final date for changing one’s party the same as that for changing one’s address or registering for the first time — about a month before the primary.

There is no good reason that it should be different.

Restore civility in our discourse

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords, D-Ariz., a moderate Blue Dog Democrat and former Republican, e-mailed her friend Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson Friday night about wanting to do what she could to tone down the extreme rhetoric in this country and "promote centrism and moderation."

Since the tragedy in Tucson on Saturday, there has been endless talk about violent rhetoric in the media and how it may be contributing to actual violence by people who come unhinged.

I don’t know whether mass murderer Jared Loughner’s anti-government hostility was of the left, like Unabomber Ted Kaczynski’s, or of the right, like Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh’s. I don’t know that it matters.
But I do know that anger and hatred are vices, and that the political atmosphere in this country has become toxic.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords knew it too. Last March, she spoke out, expressing concern about the “incredibly heated” language of protesters.

“In the years that some of my colleagues have served, 20, 30 years, they’ve never seen it like this,” she remarked.

Giffords, a moderate Democrat, mentioned that her district along the Mexican border had been “targeted” by Sarah Palin using the image of a rifle scope’s cross hairs. People must “realize,” she said, “there’s consequences to that action.”

Christina Taylor Green, 9, went to hear Giffords speak to constituents on Saturday. She was one of six who died.

The congresswoman was one of 20 people shot by Loughton. Six died, including a federal judge, a congressional aide and a 9-year-old girl, Christina Taylor Green, who had gone to Giffords’ meeting with constituents to see how democracy works. Instead, the last thing Christina saw was how dysfunctional democracy in America has become.

Abraham Lincoln said “there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet.” But within the past year, some candidates and activists have suggested bullets as an alternative. Now we know of one person who acted on that notion.

On Jan. 1, I posted on my Facebook page a New Year’s resolution: that I want to be a voice of moderation and bipartisanship. I want to do my part to turn down the volume.

I’ve been dismayed by the viciousness of political discussion in Kentucky and the America and the inaccuracies that are accepted as truth by gullible people.

The purpose of journalistic commentary is to inform and persuade, not incite.

Therefore, I intend to foster respectful dialogue and reasonable compromise between parties, and to take a centrist position on most issues.

Granted, there are things I’m passionate about, such as standing up for the poor, caring for God’s creation and being good stewards of taxpayers’ money. But I  don’t think there’s anything to be gained by using words to insult or hurt.
There are more than enough commentators out there doing that already.

Giffords to Trey Grayson: “… to promote centrism and moderation”

I wrote this column while watching the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and finished it just before the broadcast ended. Then I listened to the last story.

The night before she was gravely wounded, Couric said, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords sent her friend Trey Grayson, Kentucky’s Republican secretary of state, an e-mail congratulating him on his new position at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. In the message, she said when he got settled into the new job, she wanted to talk with him “about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation” and to “figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down.”

I pray that she recovers so that she can fulfill that hope. It is what our country desperately needs in this difficult time.

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