Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Are you disappointed in your congressman too?

I've spent some time on a news-interview program I host expressing myself about the quality of representation my US House district, FL - 1, covering the western quarter of the Florida panhandle and marked specifically by Pensacola, gets from its incumbent, Jeff Miller (R).

Today, I got an email from a listener and I responded. I'm sharing this not because everything in it is of national importance in and of itself, but rather to express that what we get from Congress is the result of all the individual House districts having incumbents who are . . . disappointing.

You may well be disappointed in your congressman, or some other public figure that impacts your life. Take this exchange as a clarion call to yourself to pen a letter - or email, these days - to express that disappointment. If enough of us do, maybe it will awaken congressional members to understanding why they rate so far down the ladder in America's hierarchy of trust, and confidence.

In reply to your message:

-----Original message-----
From: "kathy" XXXXX@cox.net
Date: Thu, 14 Aug 2008 16:29:05 -0500
To: kenneth@kennethelamb.com
Subject: Jeff Miller

> Ken, why do you have such "hard" feelings for him?????

> > > > Cutie Pie>

Kenneth E. Lamb writes:

It is so strange that I answer your email about Jeff today. Just this afternoon, I had a man come into my store and thank me because "you are doing your job" putting Jeff - and a number of other officeholders - in the spotlight for their conduct.

Now about me and my attitude about Jeff Miller (FL Dist 1 - R).

Jeff is a brilliant, articulate, hard-working person. I don't have "hard" feelings about him; I am disappointed in him. And I express that disappointment regularly because new things keep coming up that involve him that further disappoint me in him.

Jeff cut his political teeth at the University of Florida (UF), and did so well he got tapped into Florida Blue Key - you can Google it. It is an honorary for aspiring political types. I attended UF, wrote for the Florida Alligator, and got a number of awards from the university for my work and leadership on behalf of bettering the university. I know Florida Blue Key.

One of its cardinal principles is that you shut up, keep your head down, and do what you are told by those above you.

In the FL House, Jeff excelled. By following the Blue Key model, he rose quickly. That was the right way to move up the ladder. Of course, it also explains why the Florida Legislature is such a mess. I have no qualms with how he played the legislative game; term limits meant that in 4 years he would be one of those with an additional 4 years left before hitting his term limits who would be in charge of the House. He was a whip in first term - that is, sincerely, very impressive.

But now Jeff is in the US House. I know that the adage is that to "get along you go along."

However, that adage fails to incorporate the reality that Jeff will be a member of the US House for as long as he wants to be a member. I believe the House re-election rate for incumbents is about 97%.

Jeff, for the first time in his political life, now has the freedom to do what he wants vis a vis being able to "rock the boat." As I once told his Chief of Staff, "The Bushes need Jeff more than Jeff needs the Bushes."

What that means is that he doesn't have to shut up, keep his head down, and do what he is told.

But regardless of that reality, he does it anyway.

Besides squandering his freedom, and his intellect, I am extremely disappointed in the way he's handled his Armed Forces committee assignment. For example, his public remark when the Walter Reed controversy about conditions there became a national story of disgrace was, "I didn't know anything about it."

Uh, excuse me congressman, it's your job to know about it. Are you so disconnected from your committee assignment that with veterans coming through your district office no one on your staff ever once heard any of them talk about Walter Reed?

Kathy, there is no way on the face of this planet he didn't hear about it. But he shut up, kept his head down, and did what he was told - implicitly told even if not explicitly told.

Well, I consider that to be an absolute crime against those who passed through the hospital - people who put their life on the line for this country - and Jeff moves it down the ladder of his priorities to place it below protecting the then-Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfield, and of course, his BFF, George Bush. That's disgusting, Kathy.

Or take his trips to Iraq. Here we have a situation of national visibility that our service members were under-armored, both in the equipment they used, and in their own body armor. How many stories did you read about families in the US sending Kevlar jackets, and scrap metal to Iraq to try to protect their loved ones?

So where was Jeff? I guess at The Fish House, hanging out with his homies, or lushing it up on the cocktail circuit. While people are dying - and while Jeff has the intelligence to know it - he doesn't say a word. He lets them die because he keeps his mouth shut, his head down, and does what he is told by those he considers to be over him. I really don't see how he faces himself in the mirror - any normal person would be dying of guilt for selling out those service members the way Jeff did.

How much blood is on his hands through his selling his soul to his political ladder-climbing?

If Jeff thinks I'm wrong, and that the members were properly protected - then I'd love to see Jeff spend 30 days in the field with them in Sadr City, or the Sunni Triangle. Let's see what great things he has to say when it's his life on the line.

You may recall when Sec. Rumsfield made his most arrogant, and disgusting remark, essentially along the lines of, "You go to war with the Army you've got."

That from a guy who spent his service time flying jets over NY City, serving a president who went AWOL from his reserve unit, with a VP standing only a heartbeat away from the presidency that believed he "had more important priorities" than ever serving in the military.

Kathy, it's pretty easy to not worry about combat deaths if you've never been in the thick of them.

But Jeff - all he did was quack the same old Bush support - and I find that immoral. It's not political - it's life and death. It's not GOP or Democrat - it's life or death. It's not conservative or liberal - it's life or death. And Jeff let death win - because he shut up, kept his head down, and did what he was told.

Finally, I have a real problem with someone whose family is getting corporate welfare - in his case, farm subsidies. Jeff voted against helping the elderly pay for their prescriptions, and against raising the minimum wage. Both were programs that involved earned money.

But when it comes to his family, well, he has no problem with getting "money for nothing." Welfare, Kathy, is welfare. And hypocrisy is hypocrisy.

I could go on, but my point is ultimately that I don't have any "hard feelings" for Jeff - I have extreme disappointment. I am vocalizing that disappointment in what has proven so far to be a vain attempt to get through to him: "Jeff, you can be yourself now - the only people that matter will send you to Congress forever - so why don't you live up to your potential?!"

Allow me to share one other point: I've been following the congressman in the New York Times and the Washington Post - well, actually, I've been waiting to see him quoted in a significant manner on some national issue.

So when does Jeff finally end up at the top of the story? When he was quoted coming out of Washington's Mayflower Hotel following a Fred Thompson rally. Great - he sure knows how to pick them.

And speaking of his support for Fred, did you know his local district office actively participated in arranging a campaign appearance for the former senator on a visit to Pensacola? Did you know that is highly illegal? And did you know it is so illegal everyone knows it's illegal? And did you also know that no one in a position to do so said a word about it?

Yes, Kathy, this area is corrupt.

I want to add this last item in answer to your question:

I was first introduced to Jeff by the former Escambia County attorney, David Tucker, when Jeff was getting ready to run for the FL House. He was "Jeff who?" running against an incumbent.

Rule One: Never bet against an unindicted incumbent's re-election. So putting my name with his was the height of political folly.

But I was so impressed with him that when I was invited to attend Jeff's campaign kick-off rally at the Santa Rosa Community Center in Pace, I jumped when asked to give the rally's "make the crowd come alive" speech immediately before he gave his speech.

I did it because I truly believed he would be different. I truly believed he would throw off the yoke of politics as usual and actually make a difference.

I am so very, very, disappointed . . . that I was so very, very, wrong.

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