Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Discouraging Chat with Rep. Slaughter

During a vet recognition luncheon yesterday, I briefly spoke with Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), an invited speaker.

Following the usual pleasantries and before the festivities were underway, I asked Louise what she thought about Sen. Schumer's characterization of conservative talk radio as "pornography", and whether or not that was symptomatic of Democrats' wanting to re-impose the Fairness Doctrine which, to me, was tantamount to breaching free speech. Her carefree demeanor morphed into a decidedly defensive posture and she quickly countered that the doctrine had been around since 1939 and that it was nothing to worry about. (Her logic was interesting. Slavery was the law of the land for a very long time too before that abysmally odious practice was outlawed.) She proceeded to quickly deny that Sen. Schumer said what he had reportedly said and went on to pronounce that the airwaves belong to the people and that equal time for both points of view was needed. Calmly maintaining eye contact and without wavering, I politely pointed out that the free market belonged to "us" all as does "our" choice as to which station "we" can tune in. I asked if she had any problem with "our" exercising "free choice" in this regard and informed her that I periodically listen to Air America, but that owing to the station's sophomoric and mean-spirited dialogue I could never stomach more than 10 minutes at a time and invariably switched to other stations for balance and information. She appeared a tad taken aback by my unwillingness to allow her "congressional awe" to deter me. She countered by saying that the Fairness Doctrine has nothing to do with free speech. "Of course it does," I gently countered.

I then asked her if she planned to push the Fairness Doctrine. She dodged and tried to drift away from me. I asked her to please reflect carefully if that is her position and intention; that her decision should be based upon "country first" and not "party first", noting that that's what we veterans are all about.

Though obviously discomfited by my polite determination, we briefly touched on other subjects, like Obama and how genuinely fearful I am of his presidency. Trying to reassure me on that score, she said that I should just listen to what he says. "If you listen to what he says you have nothing to worry about," she confidently asserted. Momentarily speechless by her exasperatingly vacuous pronouncement, I quickly and calmly assured her that "unlike too many Americans, I HAVE very carefully listened to him and have very carefully examined his record, and that that's precisely why I AM worried."

Realizing she wasn't making any headway on that score, she then asked if I didn't like Medicare and Social Security. I responded that I did, noting that both needed reform and that without proper reform they are both additional train wrecks in the making. As anticipated, she asked if I would have been happy "had the Republicans gotten their way by privatizing Social Security." I courteously parried by noting that the GOP was advocating that only a small percentage of one's social security deduction was to have been privatized, and then only if the taxpayer chose to do so, and that, for me, it's a free choice issue and that I would be surprised if others would have a problem with a person's exercising his or her free choice.

She finally managed to gracefully and deftly drift away. We courteously bid each other farewell, and she took her seat at the head table and I mine with my vet colleagues in the audience.

Unfortunately, this brief exchange served only to reinforce my concerns about the left. For Rep. Slaughter and so many others like her in D.C. I am convinced that narrow ideological interests and party pre-eminence will ALWAYS trump common sense and country. This exchange further convinced me that whenever we have an opportunity to speak with our reps, we should go out of our way to do so. And we should never feel intimidated by their lofty station in life. We should bear in mind that they are but folks not unlike most others we know in our daily lives. They don't have the corner on wisdom, intelligence or reality. But, for these exchanges to be reasonably constructive, no matter how brief they may be, one should always be courteous and certain of one's positions.

Frankly, I wish our exchange yesterday had been heard by everyone in the room. Indeed, everyone in the county. It was revealing and, yes, so very, very unsettling.