Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Between truth and lies is free speech

In politics, one person’s truth is another person’s lie. The real truth is usually found in the middle but people are free to make their claims.

Senator Mike Kowall, Republican from White Lake Township, is organizing legislative hearings on the bridge project. The project is a proposal that the State of Michigan build a second bridge across the Detroit River to Canada. It is needed, the supporters say, because an increase in capacity to move goods and services across the international boundary will provide an economic boost to the region and the state. Those that are opposed to the idea say that if it is needed, then business should pay for the bridge and accept all the risks.

There is a lot of politicking from both sides of the aisle on the issue. One of the most high profile are the ads that are running on television in the Detroit market giving all the reasons why the state should not build the bridge. They are paid for by Matty Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge. Others don’t have the money to buy media, so they are working under the spotlight.

Kowall, publicly states he is a skeptic on the project. But, he said the hearings that his committee will host will be fair and impartial. Even though it is very unusual for legislative hearings to request subpoena power, Kowall says he will request it if “he thinks someone is blowing smoke.”

If the committee thinks there is a crime being committed, let’s inform the authorities and get it sorted out. But, this is not a criminal investigation, it is open debate on a legislative issue. To use the threat of a subpoena to discuss open debate is a threat to the freedom of speech. If every time a committee chair thought that someone should be summoned to a hearing because they expressed an opinion that didn’t fit with their view of the world, we would have a constraint of free speech. People would hold their opinions about the issues for fear of repercussions. You can hear it in the voices of people interviewed by western press officials on the streets of places like China. They give a nice answer but you know they are stressed about it.

In a political debate about an issue, it is wise to consider the advertising world. Many claims are made about how wonderful a product is. If the claims are false, then they are investigated by the agency that regulates their action. If not, they are left alone. If calling for hearings on every claim that was made became common place, image what would happen if a U. S. Senate was upset because his deodorant didn’t work.

Let’s get on with the process without all the threats.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Palin's fear is a poor trait to support

The request by news organizations that was made for Sarah Palin’s emails were a rational inquiry into a person that would like to lead the nation.

One of the many complaints that Palin and her supporters have is that news organizations have not asked for the emails and other documents from other politicians. A quick search on line finds that news organizations have said that they have or are requesting the emails of other officials that are running for offices. If it is true that Palin is being focused on more than others it is because she makes good copy. It will sell papers and get people to log on to news sites to find out the juicy gossip, even if there isn’t much there.

Looking beyond the mere content, the emails provide a glimpse of a profile that is reminiscent of another political leader during the 60’s, President Nixon.

President Nixon was without question paranoid about his political foes and even some of his own people. He, like Palin, thought the “liberal” press was out to get him in ways that they weren’t after others. Nixon’s political base, again like Palin, was partially built on renouncing the liberal press and how they were after him. Also, like Palin, Nixon appealed to patriotic Americans, calling them the silent majority, for support.

Out of the eyes of the press Nixon did many things that demonstrated how far this fear went. As an example, Nixon taped conversations without telling anyone that they were being recorded. Nixon was certain that if you disagreed with him, you were being disloyal to America. He can be heard on the tapes blasting those people.

The most famous example of Nixon’s irrational response driven by fear was Watergate. Nixon may have not planned the break in but he fostered an atmosphere that gave people the idea it would be acceptable. Nixon’s involvement in the cover up provides a clue to someone that is more afraid of the press and the public’s reaction than getting out in front of the truth. It can be argued that if he had just come clean, Nixon may have finished his term.

Palin is not Nixon. But, like Nixon, it does appear she is a politician that fears an open examination of her credentials to lead the free world. If she makes a mistake about a subject, when the press makes an issue about it, instead of coming clean she claims the press is out to get her.

Like Nixon, Palin also divides the nation into two groups. There are patriots and those that are out to destroy America. Her hope is that with the patriots, and those that are fearful of not being called a patriot she will find enough votes win an election. This, rather than developing rational policy that respects all citizen of the community as a basis to govern.

Fear is not a way to live or lead. We need leaders with rational and cool heads. Fear will force the leader to cross the line between a measured response and an irrational assault.

Let’s select leaders based on sensible policy that addresses problems not fearful responses that save the leaders career.