In the race between Democrat Peter Welch and Republican Martha Rainville for Vermontâ€™s lone seat in Congress, one issue is paramount: Do Vermonters want to enable President George Bush to maintain control of both the House and Senate, or will they cast a vote to place an appropriate check on this presidentâ€™s radical and disastrous agenda? If voters want Bush to â€œstay the courseâ€? on domestic issues and foreign affairs, then a vote for Rainville will help assure that path. If voters want a change in the nationâ€™s direction and a check on the president, then a vote for Peter Welch is critical.
Control of the U.S. House is so central to this election that it outweighs all other considerations.
This newspaperâ€™s concerns with the Bush administrationâ€™s mismanagement of our national resources and damage done to our international prestige over the past five years are well known to our readers (and those long-standing concerns, we might add, have largely been validated), so we wonâ€™t belabor the mounting perils that would face the nation if Bush is allowed to reign two more years with a rubber-stamp Congress.
Equally important, however, is the poor performance of this Republican-led Congress, not to mention the scandals the Republican majority has brought upon itself. The latest incident with Rep. Bob Foley, R-Fla., is only on the nationâ€™s radar screen because of the blatant hypocrisy of the crime when he was chair of a committee to protect our countryâ€™s children, and, more importantly, because the Republican leadership â€” that pious lot that were holier-than-thou in 1998 â€” were caught covering up the incident and leaving Foley in power even though they knew of his tendency to prey on male pages. Shameful and disgraceful.
More importantly, in our opinion, has been the tone this Congress has set for the past six years. Big business has had a free hand in profiting at our government coffers, run roughshod over environmental protections, dictated labor issues, ghost-written tax and energy policies to benefit the wealthiest few, pushed free trade at the expense of American workers and possibly to the detriment of Americaâ€™s long-term industrial capability, and created a culture of profiteering with little respect to the public good. (International Paperâ€™s bottom-line decision to burn tires at its Ticonderoga plant despite knowledge that it would not meet state-of-the-art pollution control standards is just one example.) Rather, todayâ€™s politics reward corporate greed and the buying of political influence. The result has been the scandalous fall of Enron (close buddies to George Bush), WorldCom and several others; along with the stain of corporate lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pled guilty to three felony charges of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials, and has implicated several GOP congressmen.
Similarly, this Republican Congress has encouraged a culture of political expediency where the ends justify the means â€” a morally bankrupt premise. This has been a Congress that allowed and encouraged Tom DeLay to gerrymander the state of Texas to an absurd degree to ensure Republican control. Itâ€™s a Congress that passed the Patriot Act without adequate safeguards to protect Americansâ€™ individual privacy and protection from a heavy-handed government. And itâ€™s a Congress that has allowed this president to revamp this nationâ€™s constitutional rights in times of war, so that Americans now observe fewer freedoms than other Western nations and condone the torture of prisoners.
As well as scandal-ridden and misguided, this Republican Congress has been inept. Well-known Washington Post political analyst David Broder â€” a moderate by almost any historical standard â€” recently said of this Congress that it had â€œworked fewer days â€” and accomplished less â€” than any Congress in recent history, and much of its routine work on spending bills was postponed until after the election. The legacy of what it left undone â€” especially in the fiscal area â€” will damage future generations long after the memories of DeLay and Foley and their follies have vanished.â€?
Or consider this assessment of Congress, as reported by Broder, by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: â€œThe 109th Congress took our already large projected budget deficits and passed legislation that will make them larger. The legislation increased deficits from 2005 through 2011 by $452 billion. Moreover, the budget deterioration over the past six fiscal years â€” 2000 to 2006 â€” is the largest deterioration for any six-year period in the past half-century.â€?
Why, Vermonters must ask themselves, would Americans want to permit Bush and his Republican-dominated Congress to continue control of the nation when they have failed so miserably on so many fronts?
While breaking the Republicansâ€™ control of Congress is the most critical issue in this race, a vote for Peter Welch is also a vote for experience, knowledge and know-how. To be an effective representative, one first has to know the issues thoroughly and to know how the legislative process works. Welch has a wealth of experience on legislative issues and process, and he knows where he stands on the issues.
Heâ€™s against Bushâ€™s tax cuts for the wealthy, was opposed to the war in Iraq from the start and maintains that the open-ended presence of American troops there has become a â€œprovocative elementâ€? in the violence. A timeline, therefore, should be developed to get American troops out of the Iraqi conflict as soon as possible, while shoring up rapid response forces for neighboring allies. Heâ€™s against privatizing Social Security, would reform Medicare Part D for simplicity and fiscal responsibility, and end the oil-industry give-away and put that money â€” around $7 billion in the past five years â€” into renewable energy development. Heâ€™d push for National Guard parity by giving the Guardâ€™s chief the rank of four-star general and elevate the Guard to membership on the Joint Chiefs of Staff so the Guard isnâ€™t shortchanged in budget, staffing and strategy decisions. Heâ€™d renew the nationâ€™s commitment to environmental stewardship and heâ€™d work to support family farms in Vermont and across the nation, noting that the decision to strip $1.5 billion out of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill denied $100 million in grants to Vermont farmers and is another example of how the president and this Republican-led Congress â€œfails to know how government can work on behalf of its citizens to take our country in the right direction. We must have an energy policy that lowers and stabilizes energy costs and we must have an agricultural policy that supports family farms.â€?
On each issue, and there are dozens more, Welchâ€™s views are articulate, informed and offer a thoughtful approach to addressing the problem.
While Rainvilleâ€™s career in the military is impressive and her political intentions sincere, she is a newcomer to politics and that inexperience has been demonstrated several times in the campaign. While a few bobbles might be expected, the plagiarizing of political talking points on the issues speaks volumes about her lack of knowledge. Her recent criticism of our involvement in the Iraq War is also a classic flip-flop â€” having been a loyal supporter of Bushâ€™s decision to invade Iraq without a peep of protest for the past few years â€” and makes one question her integrity on this issue. On those issues that she has been clear about, she solidly supports Bushâ€™s tax cuts for the wealthy and opposed creation of more wilderness in the Green Mountain National Forest â€” both of which are stands the vast majority of Vermonters oppose.
On too many other issues, she talks in platitudes and â€” unknowingly or not â€” maintains she would be an independent force in Congress even though not a single savvy person in the state believes that would be so.
Most importantly, a vote for Democrat Peter Welch offers Vermonters the best hope for change on the national scene, and the opportunity to restore many of the values that have been eroded by Bush and this Republican-led Congress.
Angelo S. Lynn