Sunday, May 30, 2010

June Monthly Political Column: Lessons Learned; Experience is Always a Good Thing

The time after each election gives those of us is politics an opportunity to sit back and review the events and upgrades in technology and strategy that have just taken place so we can watch for them in future campaigns. One that sticks out to me this time happened to a close friend of mine; the charge of being a Professional Politician.

First, let’s review what the historical role of professional politicians are. Shortly after the primary election, I was listening to a local radio station and found a callers statement funny. He claimed that proof that we do not need professional politicians is that the Founding Fathers were just a gathering of common citizens. Well then, let’s review a few.

Thomas Jefferson; Virginia State Legislature (1769-1774), Continental Congress (1775-1776), Virginia State Legislature (1776-1779 & 1781), Governor of Virginia (1779-1781), Minister to France (1785-1789), Secretary of State (1789-1793), Vice President (1797-1801), President (1801-1809).

Samuel Adams; Writes protest of Stamp Act (1765), Massachusetts Legislature (1765-1774), Founder of the Sons of Liberty & leads political opposition to Tea Act (1773), Continental Congress (1774-1776), United States Congressman (1776-1781), Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor (1789-1793), Massachusetts Governor (1794-1797).

Richard Henry Lee; Justice of the Peace for Westmoreland County (1757), Virginia House of Burgesses (1758–1775), Continental Congress (1774–1779, 1784–1785 & 1787), Virginia State House of Burgesses (1777, 1780, 1785), United States Senator (1789–1792).

Edward Rutledge; Continental Congress (1774-1776), South Carolina Assembly (1776-1796), South Carolina Senate (1796-1798), South Carolina Governor (1798).

Philip Livingston; New York City Alderman (1754-1763), Albany Congress Member (1754), New York Assembly (1759-1768), New York Assembly Speaker (1769), Continental Congress (1775-1777), New York Senate (1777-1778).

These five were just the first I picked to research and I thought at this point I have made my point on why I found that calling the Founding Fathers amateurs is funny. The fact is this collection of genus did not just meet at a bar and design this great nation, they had years of experience in running political offices and fine tuning the political craft that they were so great at. They were professional leaders, professional politician.

When I hear the term professional politician used in current conversation, the individuals are usually talking about longtime, entrenched politicians that rely on that political position for their financial prosperity; names like Daley, Madigan and Durbin, just to name a few. The people doing the talking are usually pushing for term limits as the only solution, often forgetting about the option of just voting them out of office. They also usually forget to mention great professional politicians of the past like Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, George Herbert Walker Bush, Ronald Reagan, Everett Dirksen, most of the founding fathers, and many more.

As I have stated in previous columns, we need to diversify politics. We need to hear the voices of more farmers, hard working factor workers, middle class citizens and others and less from lawyers, the wealthy and the professional politicians. But we do need to hear the voices of the lawyers, the wealthy and as much as we hate it, we need the professional politicians. Politics was meant by the Founding Fathers to be a cross section of America. While that cross section is not 85% lawyers, we do need to have some lawyers in congress.

Another consideration, would you really want to go to an amateur doctor if you are sick? Do you really want to rely on an amateur home builder for your dream home? Of course not, we want the professional expert. Politics is an art form and some individuals are better leaders than others. Abraham Lincoln said of his own political desires when running for the Illinois State Legislature “Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.” For Lincoln, Honor and esteem was the highest reward, and honor and esteem came through service to the public; Professional Political Service.

Richard Striner, Professor of History at Washington College, points out in his book Father Abraham: Lincoln's Relentless Struggle to End Slavery, “politics is the art of the possible, and Lincoln was a consummate politician, a shrewd manipulator who cloaked his visionary ethics in the more pragmatic garb of the coalition-builder. He was at bottom a Machiavellian prince for a democratic age. When secession began, Lincoln used the battle cry of saving the Union to build a power base, one that would eventually break the slave-holding states forever.”

What is the lesson to be learned here? This is not the first time we have seen wrongful political fads used in political campaigns. Think back to the Red-Baiting and McCarthyism of the 1940’s and 50’s. As with that example, the fad will move on once the public realizes the falsity and manipulation that is being attached to such labels.

We need as voters to be watchful and hesitant to jump on these fads and research all of the candidates, especially in the primaries. I have often found that the individuals that use this tactic of attacking the character of the other individual usually do so when they have no real political issue to attack them with. If these individuals have no other reason to run for the political position, no goals and/or objectives, do you really want them in the office? Issues need to be the focus of our decision and not claims, accusations, and personal attacks.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Local GOP sites

A big "attaboy" is in order to Lowell Schroeder, Chairman of the Tazewell County GOP for his efforts in getting a new, slick Tazewell County GOP site up and running. Lowell also does the site maintenance and keeps it up-to-date with Republican news and events. This service is priceless to GOP candidates, so be sure and thank Lowell for his expertise and hard work.

The Peoria County Republican site can be found here.

Thank you to the Administrators of these sites for keeping our local Republicans informed of relevant news and events!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

History’s Noteworthy Twist of Fate

We have all grown up with the comforting knowledge that the United States Navy that we have known is the most elite, best equipped naval force the world has ever known. But today I want to take a look back at the very humbling beginnings of the Navy. By the time we end this story, you will be able to see for maybe first time one of the largest Twist of Fate episodes in the History of the United States.

The debate concerning the creation of a United States Navy started immediately following the organization of the federal government with the acceptance of the Constitution. The debate was centered on what this new force would be used for. Was it to protect the ports of the United States, in the role of defense? Would it be used to put armed force on foreign shores? Should we build lots of small ships or a few of the largest vessels of the time, 74 gun Battleships. The debate in Congress, and also in President George Washington’s cabinet, was divided into two groups; one side of Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist and the other side of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the Democrat-Republicans (not the current Republican Party).

The Democrat-Republican’s being lead by Thomas Jefferson in Washington’s Cabinet and James Madison in the Congress argued for a defensive, volunteer unit similar to the Minutemen of the Revolutionary War. This Civilian Navy would have small vessels about the size of a small coastal fishing boat with one or maybe two sails and oars and would be armed with one 32 pound mortar. These little boats could be used for harbor defense but would not be seaworthy enough for trips away from the coast. They could be dismantled and stored in buildings around the communities the volunteers lived in during peace time and when called upon, they could be re-assembled and ready to defend their ports. This vision of volunteers defending their communities matched perfectly with Jefferson’s idea of a rural America.

The Federalist being lead by Alexander Hamilton argued for large ships, not as big as the 74 gun Battleships of the English Navy but larger and faster than the majority of their Naval Ships, the English Frigates. They turned to Philadelphian shipbuilder Joshua Humphreys for assistance. He listened to their ideas and suggested 44 gun frigates that would be built with heavier, stronger lumber and built with a new larger design that would make them superior to any other frigate.

The key to Humphreys design was he called on using Southern Live Oak, Quercus virens, for the key pieces of the frame, including the futtocks, knight heads, hawse pieces, bow timbers, stanchions, knees, transoms and breasthooks. The downside was that Southern Live Oak is only found in Southeastern United States and only in a twenty-mile-wide coastal zone stretching from Southern Virginia to East Texas. They would also only be able to use the oldest specimens, maybe one in fifty, in order to get the length of finished wood they would need.

The greatness of the Southern Live Oak is the strength of the wood. A mature tree will only grow 40 to 70 feet high but it branches can spread to a radius of 75 feet and shade over a half an acre. Its main branches, each weighing a few tons a piece, grow at a right angle to the amazingly strong trunk. This dense, strong wood would later make history for one of these frigates as well as earn it the name “Old Ironsides”.

The debate came to a head on March 10th, 1794, with the vote in the House of Representatives on the Act to Provide Naval Armament. The vote of 50–39 was along party lines with the Federalist winning and Congressman James Madison and his Democrat-Republicans coming up six votes shy of blocking its passage. Passage in the Senate quickly followed and President Washington signed it into law on March 27th.

The Act to Provide Naval Armament called for the construction of four 44 gun frigates and two 36 gun frigates. It gave the President the authority to appoint six captains who would supervise the construction of their individual ships. These six frigates would be built in six different ports. While all would build the same ship designed by Joshua Humphreys, Washington wanted to spread the financial benefits to the six most populous and wealthy ports. The four 44 gun Frigates would be built in Philadelphia (the USS United States), Boston (the USS Constitution), New York (the USS President), and Norfolk (the USS Chesapeake). The two 36 gun Frigates would be built in Baltimore (the USS Constellation) and Portsmouth (the USS Congress).

While construction of several of these six frigates would be halted several times after the Democrat-Republicans later took control of the Presidency and Congress, all six would eventually be completed and would become the beginning of the great History of the United States Navy. They would prove their worth first against the Barbary States Pirates, then later against the French and British Navies. In an interesting twist of fate, the two strongest leaders against construction of these six Frigates, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, would later be elected President and during both of their terms they would benefit from these same six Frigates.

Thomas Jefferson upon being elected President called for the navy to be dismantled and the six Frigates be put in Dry Dock storage in Washington, DC.. He also called for the construction of his volunteer small ships he had originally proposed. The results of this new small boat force were disastrous. While in theory 74 of these small boats could be built for less cost than a 74 gun Battleship and would match it for firepower, in action it was hard to coordinate these attacks as these ships where hard to control in any conditions other than calm water. Also, just a close call miss-shot would cause serious damage to these small ships. Jefferson would never see the Dry Docking of the six Frigates as he would soon send them into action against Tripoli. The Frigates performance in this War with Tripoli would be a highlight of Jefferson’s Presidency and would take the United States Navy out of the “small little navy” status and into a leading world naval force.

James Madison would be elected President after Jefferson and while he shifted money back to the Frigates and canceled Jefferson’s small ship force, he still thought the army was of more importance than the navy. History would record the failure of his army during the War of 1812 with Britton while the navy he disliked and had lead the opposition to their construction while he was in the Congress would save the War for the United States and save his Presidency. The six Frigates would defeat more of the British ships than where lost and would seriously cost the British commercially as well as damaging their naval invincible image enough to bring the British to the table to talk peace.

Six Strong Frigates had brought peace for America, had left a positive mark on the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and would inspire future President Theodore Roosevelt who during his administration would grow the United States Navy into the strongest naval force the world has ever seen. Roosevelt would later become famous for a quote: “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick”. The United States Navy was his big stick.