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Friday, November 03, 2006

Endorsements--Between the LInes

I think the endorsements are all in now, and taken together they create an interesting picture.

The newspapers which endorsed me have gone to the heart of the problem in the 17th District and to the reasons I believe with many of you that we need new representation:

First, that we need someone who cares enough to VISIT this District. From Day 1
I have made this a grassroots campaign: a campaign "of the people." Almost daily for better than three years, I have come to you around the 17th: to meet you, visit with you, see what's on your mind, get a firsthand perspective on where you live (although growing up and spending the majority of my adult life in the 17th, I have been many of these places many times), assemble a Rolodex on the players in government and civic activities and sit down and talk with them, and develop a list of the needs that must be met if we are to catch up with a booming national economy.

In contrast, my opponent was selected in a closed, signed-ballot process. He challenged me to debates but we had to go to his campaign to get any. We wanted seven: they wanted two. We settled with three, and THOSE had to be held on university campuses. Afterwards, he canceled at least five candidate forums that were being held by such groups as the League of Women Voters, Chambers of Commerce, etc. His reason: "I agreed to three debates and that's it."

As a District Director, my opponent apparently managed the district offices of the congressman--hired, fired, inventory and the like. No other district director I have talked to in neighboring Congressional offices--no public official--no elected leader--no member of the public outside of Rock Island County--even vaguely remembered meeting Phil Hare.

This is not to say that Congressman Evans' office was not doing good constituent service in its district offices: it was. Nor that it was not doing work out around the District. It was. Pat Dawson, Joyce Bean, Jennie, Jerry Lack: these are names you hear mentioned often and usually with respect. Where was Phil? And where is he now? He talks a very good game, but talk, as we know, is cheap. More to the point, where's the ACTION?

Second point made in my endorsements--and it's related: my opponent was SElected, NOT Elected. That bothers many thinking people in the 17th, including members of my opponent's party. We have fought hard and many men and women have died to safeguard
our democracy--our American system of free and fair elections. Just how far can the party machine go in trampling these rights before we rise up in protest?

And third--I understand the District. I understand the issues. I will WORK to catch us up on our needs: jobs and economic development (WITH an economic development director: I cannot believe the petty war of words about whether we are hiring one or not--Congressional budgeting allows for an economic development director, but I do not think allows enough money for one fulltime--not without cutting constituent services or some other vital area); our sagging, languishing infrastructure; our farmers; our small businesses; our veterans.

Here's a case in point of talk vs. action: Phil pledges to continue to care for out veterans. We see him on TV talking to veterans. That's all good. Yet, why is Illinois almost dead last in veterans' services? Why do we have a Veterans Home in Quincy with empty beds and not enough staff? Why do veterans' facilities tell me they hope I am elected? Where's the ACTION?

This campaign has got me in a new habit: I shake the hand of every veteran I know about, thanking him or her for their service. This is the least we can do and I recommend it heartily! I have sat down to meet with and listen to Viet Nam Vets. I have attended Information Fairs for veterans, to learn what's going on and what still needs to be addressed. I have met with veterans affairs specialists from other congressional offices around us. I have visited veterans' facilities.

As I tell our vets, I had a father and three uncles on active duty in World War Two--I lost a very close friend to a land mine in Viet Nam--t I respect and appreciate what every veteran has done for us and I would put them first in line for honoring our nation's commitments to them. (One veteran, when I told him this, looked deep into my eyes, pressed my hand and said: "No, first the children. THEN the veterans." And I thought that embodied the spirit of the American veteran as well as anything I had ever heard, read or seen.)

To honor and take care of our veterans, we must be strong on defense--something we have never seen from our outgoing congressman. He was known as one of the most "anti-defense congressmen" in the NATION. I have sat in an editorial board at the Chicago Tribune and heard my opponent say he would have voted exactly as the congressman on all legislation (with one minor exception not involving veterans.)
If we cannot defend our fighting men and women in the field and on the front today--how do we even expect to HAVE veterans to assist? And by the way, that newspaper did not endorse in this race. My hat is off to them for incisive questioning.

In the newspapers that endorsed my opponent, keep one more thing in mind: there has never been any love lost by print journalists for broadcast journalists. For some reason, there is a long-standing and very real resentment of the supposed "glamour"--that we, by nature of the medium, are recognized in people's living rooms, while they labor in relative obscurity (some of our well-known beat reporters and columnists excepted) to defend a Free Press.

For years now, in speeches and in private, I have pointed out that television is the headlines: a newspaper provides more of those all-important details. I lament as much as anyone the fact that most Americans get their news from TV; and I am delighted that the Internet may be changing that. But, it seems to be impossible for some of these newspapers to conceive that someone who made a living reporting headlines (although in MANY cases--series, documentaries, live specials with studio audiences and the like-- a good deal more) can also think in detail.

As a famous (BROADCAST ;-) journalist, Linda Ellerbee said: "And so it goes." Let's not recite that and be done with it, though, because as Ira Blumenthal says: "More of the same gets you more of the same." Let's consider whether hard work and ACTION isn't at least as valuable as experience not used.

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