Friday, April 18, 2008

Sen. Durbin in New Albany: good news, bad news for Rep. Hill

A great op for me to meet some avid citizens and passionate voters. (There was one baby to kiss but I didn't get there.) I'm not a big fan of Obama, but he's the closest to my position on the war. So, it was a good op to tell a bunch of people that they'll have one "anti-war" option in November.

The other cool thing was getting to meet Cary Stemle. I've had a number of essays and "letters to the editor" published in LEO over the years. Cary and I have also exchanged dozens of emails. But even though we're both in Louisville (and he's an IUS grad), we had never met! The wonders of modern communications, huh? It was a pleasure to (finally) meet him. We talked for awhile before he excused himself to do some pre-meeting blogging.

As for the event itself, an Obama volunteer named Megan started things off, Baron made a few comments, and introduced the main speaker: Sen. Dick Durbin (IL)-- 2nd in the Senate and an Obama supporter. Durbin talked in generalities and then spoke about Obama and then some stuff on economics-- before spending a nice chunk of time in Q&A.

Durbin was very smooth/impressive as a speaker, with some charming stories and amusing jokes. He had a great quote from Mo Udall (paraphrased): "If you have politics in your blood, only embalming fluid can replace it." He noted that he had been one of about two dozen Senators who had opposed the War in Iraq-- after much tossing/turning and weighing of the claims and evidences. And he made a nice point about our continuing efforts there: that it seems like a bad idea to get bogged down in one Middle Eastern country with most of our available military resources as we try to deal with terrorism and a variety of threats worldwide.

The interaction of Durbin's comments with Hill's positions was more complicated. Durbin properly painted Bush and his Congress as not fiscally conservative. By contrast, he claimed that the Democrats (including Baron Hill) are supposedly restoring "sanity" to the budget process. Nice try, but that's just a different kind of insanity! It is good to see them all trying to sell the same kool-aid to the voters.

On Iraq, Durbin was kind enough not to mention Hill by name. But Durbin's (self-described) principled opposition to the War necessarily made Hill look bad by comparison-- in his decision to support the War initially while looking at the same evidences. Durbin pointed to the courage of those who voted against the War. Again, Hill necessarily looked cowardly in comparison. Then, Durbin lauded Sen. Obama and his wisdom-- and so Hill looks even worse, lacking the same wisdom that a political novice like Obama had. (Durbin made a great, general point that experience is over-rated in that it often means a more compelling case for leading us into all sorts of error.)

I asked Sen. Durbin a question about Social Security and the negative rate of return for African-Americans (given their shorter average lifespans)-- and whether Obama had any plans to address this injustice. Durbin went on at great length about the supposed insolvency of SS-- to the extent that I thought he was (painfully) avoiding the question. But then he brought it back by acknowledging my point and saying that Obama was dealing the root issue of lower lifespans through, for example, improved health care. Pretty clever, but still an unsatisfying tangent.


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