Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"Ya don't play-a da game . . .

. . . ya don't make-a da rules."

That was the reaction the Des Moines Register's beloved humor columnist Donald Kaul once offered to those religious leaders who practice celebacy but want to regulate the sexual behavior of everyone else. (Kaul's still writing; see Minuteman Media.)

It seems to me applicable to the current flap over Nussle's supposed flip-flop regarding abortion. See, State29, "The Nussle Abortion Thing," September 5, 2006.

(As a grace note, having read Nussle's Project Vote Smart issues survey, I pointed out to a local legislator during Chet Culver's speech at the Iowa City Labor Day Picnic (September 4) that Culver was mistaken in his statement that day that Nussle opposed a woman's right to choose. Nussle responded to the survey that he supported the right to abortion in the first trimester.)

I've expressed in this blog my disappointment with Democrats (and Republicans) who refuse to disclose their positions on the issues to Project Vote Smart and others. See, "Taking a Stand" in Nicholas Johnson, "It's Getting Harder to Be a Democrat," September 1, 2006.

Elections are an opportunity for "continuing education" on the public policy choices confronting our country. See, Nicholas Johnson, "Election as a Civics Class," Des Moines Register, November 6, 2004. Project Vote Smart exists to encourage that education and public dialogue. See, Project Vote Smart.

President Clinton said something to the effect that "we have more problems than we deserve, and more solutions than we've ever tried." However important you may think the issues of "God, guns and gays," or the "war on terrorism" (and Iraq), may be, there is a lot more we need to talk about.

There's no room to list everything, but universal health care (and basic public health measures), reversing the ever-increasing multi-trillion-dollar debt and adverse balance of trade, energy policy (including global warming), and attempting to rebuild positive international relations come immediately to mind as examples.

When candidates deliberately try to avoid the "teachable moments" provided by the campaign season, when they demonstrate their willingness to put their own election or re-election above the interests of the nation (or state), they are doing all of us a grave injustice -- if not, indeed, demonstrating their lack of qualifications to hold office.

At a minimum, when they refuse to participate in Project Vote Smart they should at least have the decency not to attempt to use to their partisan advantage the positions of their opponents who have participated.

"Ya don't play-a da game, ya don't make-a da rules."


Anonymous said...


I have not scrolled through your archives to see if you have addressed the abortion topic. I’m curious about your view on abortion and the Dem party’s approach to it. Could you direct me to a post you’ve done in the past or address the topic in a future post?

Personally, I feel the Democrats have become hostage to the 100% pro-choice litmus test we so often apply to our candidates. It seems as if our candidates are running for a spot on the Planned Parenthood board. As long as people keep having kids and the ultrasound technology keeps getting better, D’s rigid abortion stance is a sure long-term loser.

Anonymous said...

Just one comment: There is no such thing as an "adverse balance of trade." My household has a so-called "adverse balance of trade." I import almost everything and export almost nothing (except occasional "exports" to Goodwill). Most of my assets are financed with foreign investment (most of my assets being my home, and foreign investment being a mortgage). I am better off for this arrangement. America is too. Do we really want more manufacturing jobs or less foreign investment? I prefer that we have excellent professional services and a high credit rating than a so-called "favorable balance of trade."

Other than that, great piece.

Anonymous said...

Did I miss the part where you mention the fact that Culver refused to complete the Vote-Smart survey? If Chet wants to prove to Iowans that he could start by putting his "ideas" into the public for voters to evaluate.


Key national leaders of both major parties including:
John McCain, Republican Senator
Geraldine Ferraro, Former Democratic Congresswoman
Michael Dukakis, Former Democratic Governor
Bill Frenzel, Former Republican Congressman
Richard Kimball, Project Vote Smart President

Over 100 news organizations throughout the nation also urged their candidates to supply their issue positions through the National Political Awareness Test.

Of course, Culver has been working even harder than most politicians to limit discussion and debate in this campaign. At appearances before the state association of school boards and other groups he arrives with pre-written responses to questions and declines to engage in conversation not already prepared for him.

One has to wonder whether this is because he is unwilling to talk more for fear of gaffing or if he is simply incapable of engaging in a deeper level of thought on the issues. (You also have to wonder which would be worse...)

Nick said...

RF: (1) I spent something like six months or a year in an online discussion that deliberately brought together a group of individuals from one end of the abortion spectrum to the other. It was an experiment to see if we could reach any agreements. (It was a project of WBSI and the International Leadership Forum, which see.)

(2) As a congressional candidate I had to fashion a "position on abortion" in 1974.

(3) I'm not going to try to summarize my current views in a "comment" for issues so explosive and emotionally driven as to almost preclude rational discourse. But I certainly do not claim to have "the answer" anyway, so you are not missing that much.

(4) At present, I can't recall anything I've written in the past that is either on my Web site or in a blog entry or in print.

(5) And, yes, I think the Democrats would do well to refashion their position.

-- Nick

Nick said...

I've responded to James Eaves-Johnson's comment here ("there is no such thing as an 'adverse balance of trade'") in a new blog entry titled "Balance and the Balance of Trade," September 9, which see.

Nick said...


Yes, apparently you did "miss the part where you mention the fact that Culver refused to complete the Vote-Smart survey."

In Nicholas Johnson, "It's Getting Harder to Be a Democrat, September 1, 2006 (which see), I wrote (among "other things):

"The Gazette reports that 'Both major political parties are advising candidates not to take the test. Party officials say the candidates will lose control of their campaign messages and they will be exposed to opposition research.' That's one awful commentary about our major political parties -- both of them. What's worse, for a Democrat, is who did, and who did not, take 'the test.'

"The Republican candidate for Iowa governor, Congressman Jim Nussle, did. The Democratic candidate, Secretary of State Chet Culver, did not. Moreover, apparently he has always refused to take it even as Secretary of State."

-- Nick