Partnership benefits must be debated... thoughtfully

The Badger Herald reported today that the UW Board of Regents is planning to recommend that domestic partnership benefits be provided for UW-System employees. I think that it's at the very least worth consideration.

I hesitate to support anything too quickly, not because of any objection to domestic partner benefits, but because the state is facing a $1.6 billion deficit that needs to be fixed before any new spending programs are enacted. If the Regents propose a sensible program that does not place too much of strain on the budget process, I see no reason to deny these benefits.

That said, both the Regents and the legislature must behave intelligently and respectfully in the upcoming debate about this. It must not be allowed to devolve into the worthless "us vs. them" debate that surrounded so much of the debate over the Marriage Amendment. The issue here is benefits, and what offering those benefits will mean for the UW-System and the state. This is not a civil rights issue or a religious issue, the Amendment is now law and the debate surrounding it is over.

If the Regents are indeed able to show that the costs of providing these benefits are outweighed by the quality and quantity of the faculty, students, and staff that they will attract to the UW, it will be very difficult for the legislature to vote the proposal down.

Rep. Mark Gundrum has consistently argued that the Marriage Amendment will not preclude any business or government organization from offering domestic partnership benefits. If that is the case, as I believe it is, then he and the Regents should work together to craft the policy so that it is in line with our new Constitutional Amendment. It would send quite the message to the rest of the nation that so shortly after Wisconsin passed our own Marriage Amendment, we can still work together to provide healthcare benefits to all of our citizens.

If the Regents are sincere in their desire for these benefits to pass, they must offer to work with the legislature in writing the policy. Work to fix the problem or don't, but do not waste the people's time or money on petty political agendas or bickering.


Iraq Study Group falls a little short

Don't expect much from the Iraq Study Group, also known as the Baker-Hamilton Commission. Although I have the utmost respect for many of the members of the group, I question whether or not they are the best qualified to analyze the war in Iraq.

Certainly Baker and Hamilton have the foreign policy experience to address the political ramifications of the war, as does Lawrence Eagleburger - a former Secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush. The political consequences of the war are only part of the problem, however. Only one member of the ISG has any prior experience dealing with military operations: President Clinton's former Secretary of Defense William Perry. The remaining six members of the ISG, although extremely bright and intelligent individuals, have no substantive foreign policy or military experience.

According to the commission its focus has four main parts: the strategic environment in and around Iraq, the key challenges to security within Iraq, the political developments and formation of a new government in Iraq, and the economic reconstruction of Iraq. Obviously these issues are extremely complex and require input from a variety of backgrounds to provide any legitimate recommendations on how to move forward in Iraq.

The problem I see with the ISG is that there is no input from anyone with any extensive military experience. Why are there no retired generals on the commission? Why not General Tommy Franks, or General Anthony Zinni, or General Wesley Clark, or Colin Powell? Men like Zinni and Clark are certainly not supporters of the Bush administration, but they are well qualified individuals when it comes to military tactics.

I don't want to sound like I am downplaying the experience of Baker, Hamilton, Eagleburger, and Perry. On the contrary, just these four men are probably the most qualified group of foreign policy experts that exist in the United States. All of them are universally respected politically and around the world. My problem is that the other members of the ISG, like Vernon Jordan or Leon Panetta or even Ed Meese, are there only to make the group "bipartisan" and palatable to members of congress. The group's focus is extremely important and will mean a lot for the next step in Iraq, we don't need a bipartisan commission we need a commission of experts, and that includes the military.

The generals I suggested are not all Bush administration supporters. Zinni, Clark, and Powell have all been critical of the handling of Iraq. It is clear that we need a fresh perspective on Iraq, and I think that the ISG can provide some of that, but it is also clear that the members of the group show that President Bush is more concerned with how the commission will play politically than whether or not it seriously addresses the military situation as well.

I guess we have to just wait and see.


A new direction

In an attempt to be more consistent in terms of posting, I will be going to a minimum of two posts a week from now on. I will post on Mondays and Wednesdays starting on Monday the 27th. Obviously if something big happens on Campus or in the news, I will post on that as well.

I also want to go back to what LIB was when Steve and Brad first began this site and that is a college blog. I am going to focus more on Campus issues and not just state and national politics. This is not to say that I won't be talking about anything but college, just that I want to focus a little more on campus issues than I have been.

In going to a guaranteed two posts a week, I am aiming for quality over quantity so that the debate on this site is more thoughtful and deliberate than other blogs. Too often these sites devolve into nothing more than partisan sniping and I do not want that for LIB.


Honoring our Veterans every day

On Saturday, we, as a nation, honored our Veterans. All around the country people gathered for services small and large to pay tribute to the men and women who have answered duty's call to defend our nation and our ideals.

One thing that you notice at these ceremonies is the way in which the old Veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam interact with one another. They talk about what they have all been up to since the last time they saw one another and they remember those who are no longer with them, but they very rarely - if ever - talk about war. They may talk about basic training and other military service, but the subject of the wars they fought or the battles in which they participated almost never comes up.

For the first time, I realize why.

For the Veterans, the men and women who have seen war firsthand, there is nothing more for them to say. By having served in a war, no matter which one it was, they have a shared experience of having faced death and destruction with courage and honor. It is a bond that transcends age, race, ethnicity, and religion. It is a bond that is simply understood and accepted. It is the bond of camaraderie and the knowledge that in battle you fight not for God or country, but your brother who is beside you. That is the bond only these men share.

We owe the men who fought in our nation's wars a debt of gratitude that none of us can ever fully repay, but still we must try.

We honor our Veterans with speeches and songs on Veterans' Day and Memorial Day, but we must not stop there. Honoring our Veterans, both past and present, is something we must do in our everyday lives, not only once or twice a year.

We honor our Veterans by cherishing our Freedoms and our way of life. The First Amendment Freedoms that we hold so dear were secured not with the stroke of a pen or a judge's gavel, but with the blood and sweat of our Veterans. When evil forces threatened the Freedom and safety of people in far off lands, our Veterans were the ones to answer the call and defend not only the United States, but the Freedom and safety of all people throughout the world.

Let us never forget them or what they have done for us.


Don't miss the point...

There have been a lot of people who have suggested that it is Green's fault for Doyle being re-elected. These people say that Scott Walker would have actually won if he hadn't dropped out back in the Spring. Although some interesting arguments are made, this type of second-guessing is pointless.

Mark Green was our nominee for Governor in the Republican Party and he lost, we all did.

The problem with this is that sour grapes about the candidate does not address the problems that we experienced in the course of the election. Charlie Sykes makes an excellent point that no Democrat incumbent Governor or Senator lost anywhere in the country. No matter how good the challenger or how corrupt the incumbent we were unable to unseat anyone.

If we focus on the "if only we had run someone else" argument we miss what happened. Exit polling from around the nation shows that upwards of 60% of the undecided and independent voters broke for the Democrats on Election Day. As I have said before, the Republicans are now seen as the Party of big government. That is the biggest problem we have going forward now.

Four years from now Scott Walker may very well be the Republican nominee for Governor. Just as I supported Green, I will gladly support Walker. However, simply because your candidate dropped out does not mean that you jump ship and quit. Republicans do not throw each other under the bus simply because they lost an election or disagree with the party line. Democrats do that (see Lieberman, Joe), but we do not.

We have serious problems with our Party right now and how the public views us. That is where our focus must be for the next few years. We need to rebuild our image by rebuilding the Republican Party into the Party of reform, less government and increased freedom. We need a change in direction, not just a change in the candidate.

It was a phenomenally bad year for the Republican Party, but that doesn't mean it needs to happen again. We will win again if, and only if, we look at why we lost and not who lost.


The Election was bad, now let's move on...

This was a bad year to be a Republican, and quite honestly we brought in on ourselves. The most telling statistic that has come out in the wake of the Election is that most voters now identify Republicans as the party of big government and increased spending.

For the past three or four years the Republicans in Congress have been spending out of control. We have abandoned the principles that took us to the majority in 1994 and have become too comfortable in power. I do not believe, however, that this is a major political realignment.

The election of 1994 was a realignment because the Republican party had run an a platform of reform and specific proposals on the direction of the country. This year the Democrats ran on a platform more accurately described as "we're not them." Now they have won back control of both Houses and have the chance to show the nation what their "vision" is.

If the Democrats do more than attack the President and the War, they have a chance to hold onto Congress for a long while, but they must be leaders not just critics.

For the Republicans it is time to return to the basics of what our party has always been. We must return to fiscal responsibility and less, more efficient government.

The results of the election were bad, but it is not the end of the world for the Republican party. Sometimes in politics it is important to get knocked down. The important thing is how the party responds to the loss.


Kerry's remarks a disgrace

"You know, education, if you make the most of it and study hard and do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can really do well. If not you're going to end up stuck in Iraq."

That is what Senator Kerry said. He calls it a "botched joke" about the President. I call it disgraceful. When I first heard what he said, I could not believe my ears. What he said basically amounts to saying that the only people who would join the military are dumb or stupid. I honestly do not care if the Senator's comments were a lame attempt at a joke or not, what he actually said, came across as a slap in the face to men and women in uniform.

Let's not forget that Senator Kerry is the one that held the press conference and made this a bigger issue. Had he said that it was a botched joke and had he apologized to the troops for any offense he caused them, then he could have gone on whatever rant he would like against President Bush. Instead, Senator Kerry was defiant, asserting that he owes no one an apology.

Senator Kerry, instead of taking responsibility for his remarks - something that he constantly calls on President Bush to do - is blaming the President and Republicans for taking his words out of context. If that is the case, why then are candidates the Senator was supposed to campaign with, telling him to stay away? Why is Harold Ford calling for Kerry to apologize for his remarks as well? The head of the American Legion has asked for an apology. If his comments are out of context and the result of the "Republican hate-machine," why then would these others be calling on him to apologize?

Senator John McCain is also calling for an apology. The most respected man in the Senate is saying that Senator Kerry was out of line and should apologize.

In case anyone was actually curious about members of the military and their education, Department of Defense records show that 98% of enlisted personnel are high school graduates and 96% of the officer corps are college graduates. Those statistics are much higher than the American population at large. Dumb? Uneducated? I think not.

This is not about the President, the Republican Party, or even the Democratic Party, this is about Senator Kerry insinuating that the only people who would join the military to fight in Iraq are dumb and have no other choice.

Senator Kerry, you need to apologize. Now.