Iraq: A test of character for candidates, even local ones.

By Mary Cross Tinkler of Gresham, Oregon who describes herself as "a blinking-heart liberal who gauges people by character and content, rather than income and assets." Previously, she contributed "Yes on 42. For the Working Poor."

At our house, where we count ourselves among the working poor, we think a lot about politics and government policy. I suppose that may surprise folks who watch polls and keep track of demographics that indicate the least affluent citizens are those least likely to vote -- or be aware of the issues. We used to be middle class. Our present financial status and lowered social standing does make us inclined to be more cynical about elections and less eager to take campaign propaganda at face value. We tend to look deeper and hunt for hidden agendas. We are more impressed by common sense than grand ideas. Lacking disposable income for other amusements, we entertain ourselves with heated political discussions, and intellectual evaluations of life in the New Millennium.

More and more it's a struggle to get an impression of the character of candidates. We keep hoping to find a reason to believe at least a few of them can relate our daily struggles. Will this be a public servant who will place any consideration on how his or her governance will affect us? Can this person in office stand up for what's right and fair and moral? Or will this be just one more politico that, once elected, proceeds to create new statutes and levy taxes that further eat away at our quality of life, and ability to pay for necessities that they take for granted? While we pay for their lush Maui vacations.

What I see this election year is a failure to campaign on many issues at all. Let's face it -- when haven't taxes, education and fiscal responsibility been the dead horse candidates beat, and then ignore or fall short on when they reach the hallowed halls? I know my issues of concern are probably not singular. My issues can all be traced back to two roots -- the cost of living, and the moral integrity of my elected officials. Both of which are in essence national concerns as well, and somewhat linked together.

So are our state and local candidates and incumbants simply ignoring the obvious? ...That most voters are less concerned about the state of Oregon's direction than America's direction? Are they cruising through the campaign thinking since their particular elected position doesn't give them any say in the matter of, say, the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, torture at American hands, or the erosion of our civil rights by Presidential decree -- that they needn't take a stance? How serendipitous that media and debate sponsors are not asking: "What is your position on the Iraq war and current affairs at the national level?"

I WANT TO KNOW! Knowing how any candidate feels about these issues tells me volumes about their basic moral character, and what I might expect from them in the future.

Which brings me to Rocky. I was absolutely floored to see Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson rally thousands of people and deliver the most plain spoken and compelling speech against the war and the Bush Administration I've heard any elected official make. I was moved to tears; immensely impressed. Here is someone who's willing to say what surely many other politicians must think, but don't say, so invested in not rocking the boat are they. My friends and I began emailing back and forth -- damn -- run this guy for president! He's got my vote! My partner went so far as to say, "That's it! I'm not voting for any candidate unless I know where they stand on the war and civil rights vs. national security". He's less pragmatic than I am, and may not be casting many votes.

If the mayor of Salt Lake City can grab the power, make a stand, and rally impressive support for ending the madness, why can't other candidates make this a grass roots issue? Shouldn't all our elected officials and candidates vocalize on matters so critical to our future?

  • Joe12Pack (unverified)

    What a crock. George W. Bush and the war in Iraq is irrelevant in most local races and you know it. More red herring, anyone?

    It's an old tactic, though. Try to align your opponent with the more unpopular people and issues of the moment, rather than offering real solutions. See it all the time.

    Incidentally, I sincerely hope that you and yours are able to rise above your financial struggles. Been there, and it aint no fun.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)


    Since when are the character and moral fiber of candidates a "crock"?

    There is a vast feeling in this Country and in my part of it that American is on the "wrong track". This author taps into that feeling, and informs us of a very specific way that we can gauge the character and moral fiber of a person - do they have the guts to speak the truth, even if its not part of what they are elected to do?

    I for one agree - if we are going to make a test out of anything we should make the war in Iraq the "moral" test of our times. It's an issue that exposes the judgement and thinking of a candidate. Will they be a lock step follower completely okay with taking direction from an authoritarian oriented, power grabbing, lie spinning, elitist group? Or, will they show independence in judgement and wariness of being in lock step?

    Good post.

  • Joe12Pack (unverified)

    Well, let's see. Say you were a registered democrat running for local office somewhere long about 8 years ago. Let's also say that you had republican opponent who wanted nothing more than to align you with a current president under impeachment and a seedy sex scandal in the White House. Would that be relevant? Is it fair? Does it paint an accurate picture of your "moral fiber"? I say no. It's guilt by association at best and one of many things wrong with partisan politics today. I would have called bullshit on it then just as I am now.

    "There is a vast feeling in this Country and in my part of it that American is on the "wrong track"."

    You got that right, buddy. Unfortunately, I'd bet you also believe that one party has all the answers and the other is evil incarnate. I could be wrong, of course. Perhaps you are an independent thinker and not in "lock step" with the Democratic Party.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    Joe12Pack -

    You need to quick knocking back the half-racks like the dry-drunk who rotted his brain in charge.

    Let's also say that you had republican opponent who wanted nothing more than to align you with a current president under impeachment and a seedy sex scandal in the White House.

    Sorry you moron, the polling showed the majority of the country was against what the Republicans did. Except in certain districts that are so red that the Democrats don't put up a candidate anyway, and Connecticut where it turns out the Republicans are such slimeballs they don't even put up their own candidates, it probably would have cost the Republican votes if he or she was stupid enough to try a Democrat opponent to what turned out to be a popular president.

    In this case, the Republicans at every level are running away as fast as they can for their own party so a smart Democrat would make sure any Republican has to admit they are a Republican any chance they can.

    Which raises another point: What kind of weasly game is Sara Gelser playing in her campaign in District 16? I think we can all be honest and agree in this era when "Blue States" and "Red States" have become cultural symbols, that it is fair to scrutinize the colors a candidate choses for their campaign materials. I had a occasion to see a slew of newly planted, Republican-red Gelser yard signs this weekend. Thinking at first that she was just kind of stupid, I took a closer look and I found that nowhere on the signs I saw does it say she is the Democratic candidate for District 16. So I looked at her website, and found that not only are her website colors red, but nowhere could I find on her website, including in her bio, any mention she is the Democratic nominee.

    Frankly, unless she or her campaign staff can offer an reasonable explanation for this kind of slimy behavior, as a proud Democrat I have no respect for Democrats who show this kind of apparent cowardice. Any of you who speak for her want to try to defend this? TIme for the worms and weasels to either get out of the party, or take a back seat to those who will lead with principle and pride, and we need to start that at the state and local level.

  • Joe12Pack (unverified)

    Oh good, here come the incoherent, vitriolic rants. I especially like the way you resorted to name calling right from the get go. Nice talking to you too, pal.

    Of course I never mentioned the overall effectiveness of that tactic being used by republicans back then, as that never was the point (which was very simple to grasp, by the way).

  • KISS (unverified)

    When it comes to fiber and honesty not many on either side of the isle have it. Seems now all have joined to have legislature meet every more biennium legislation. Now isn't this a neat way to get a well paying professional job,soon with full time employment. From what I hear Minnis and Courtney are buddy-buddy on this arrangement. Fiber and honesty,heh. Diogenes will have to burn a lot of candles in our legislature.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    Joe12pack -

    I never mentioned the overall effectiveness of that tactic being used by republicans back then, as that never was the point

    Of course you didn't, because if you had it would have made the point you seem to claim you were arguing (you don't actually say what that was in your snitty little comment, perhaps so you can't get caught out again) irrelevant at best.

    And as far as your comment:

    It's guilt by association at best and one of many things wrong with partisan politics today. I would have called bullshit on it then just as I am now.

    Let's be clear first that you were responding to a very well reasoned comment by Steve Bucknum discussing how we should assess the quality of the representation a candidate running for office offers us by the values the candidate articulates. His comment is more than that though: In fact he is putting into words how most people actually do judge candidates. People vote for candidates they believe, based on whatever information they have, will best fight for their values. Your comment pretty much shows that either you really don't have a very mature understanding of this truth about our political system and our representative democracy (despite your everyman "Joe12Pack" alias), or you're just being intellectually dishonest. Only you know which is the case.

    And grow up and quit whining like the Fox "news" staff when people stand up to your obnoxious tone and juvenile sarcasm Unfortunately, I'd bet you also believe that one party has all the answers and the other is evil incarnate..

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Joe12Pack -

    Do you seriously think you can use a screen name involving a common term for a lot of beer (or is it another term having to do with weight lifting?), and then think that others won't make comments about it?

    But on point and not into the stupid name calling stuff -

    I think that your statement about one party or the other, "having all the answers" is part of the problem. I carefully did not mention a "party" when commenting. I do think that any Party that engages in the kind of control from an authoritarian point of view that results in its elected members voting consistently in the 90 - 100% agreement range is a problem. Currently, that problem connects to the Republicans, and frankly I don't think there was ever a time when the Democrats had that kind of control/intimidation over their elected members.

    I believe that going after "answers" without a good process is a larger problem in the long run. We need dialogue in government. In Congress that means we need hearings. We need to explore what is happening. We can't solve problems until they are understood.

    I don't believe in faith based or messianic leadership where the solutions are given to the followers with a take it or leave it, for me or against me, polarity. Most of the people out here in Central Oregon are pragmatic. They want government to work, solve problems, and get the job done. They are not interested in posturing one way or another for a few votes here or there. They therefore want candidates with integrity, who will tell the truth.

    So, back to the point of Mary Cross Tinkler, discussion of the Iraq war is a GOOD place to start to find out if candidates are for real, or political hacks who will only follow a Party line.

  • Joe12Pack (unverified)

    Feel free to bag on my handle all you want. I don't recall taking exception to that.

    My point was simple. Attempting to tar & feather a candidate strictly based on his/her party affiliation is bullshit, especially in local politics.

    If I'm voting for a mayor, city council member or dog catcher, issues in Washington D.C. and U.S. foreign policy rank pretty low on my list of criteria, as it should. I want the best person available to tackle the task at hand. Is that so difficult to understand?

    I'm not sure why some feel the need to go on the attack over this, but I won't take it personally. Talking politics does tend to make some folks a mite testy.

  • bo (unverified)

    If I'm voting for a mayor, city council member or dog catcher, issues in Washington D.C. and U.S. foreign policy rank pretty low on my list of criteria

    Except they all swore an oath to "Protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic." (well maybe not the dog catcher). To me that is issue number one at this point in time. The Supreme Court has ruled the administration violated the Constitution (Hamden),and they have also violated the FISA act. I want to know how my local candidate feels his or her obligation to that oath requires them to act on it. The war/occupation is sucking the life blood out of the country, effecting everyone. 8 BILLION dollars a month is a lot of money. With the new appropriation for the war/occupation, we will have spent a half TRILLION dollars and OBL is still snug in his cave. I think the money could have been spent/saved more wisely by that dog catcher.

  • Sponge (unverified)

    "While we pay for their lush Maui vacations."

    I don't think we did that. You risk your credibility in calling for a test of character when you throw these kinds of rocks.

  • MCT (unverified)

    Well these comments are starting to run a bit sideways. BTW paying for lush Maui vacations is somewhat a metaphor. If they are in Maui on a special interest groups' tab, while still on taxpayers' payroll, I consider that we ARE going to pay for that trip. Perhaps in some legislation that is not in our best interest.

    And Joe, how's this for offering a real solution? When politicians at all levels speak out against a war that is killing Oregonians, and an administration that is stripping away the civil rights of Oregonians - they will get votes. (Why haven't they figured this out yet?) More important: it will make dissent popular, even fashionable, and garner votes for candidates at levels of government where it will count in international policy decision making.

    I came of age during the Viet Nam war. It took too many years for the general populace to speak out. Until that happened any anti-war noise was deemed un-American. As now. The biggest difference between then and now is that then we were not allowing laws to be passed that override the US Constitution and Geneva Convention.

    If we all don't make our will known through democratic process soon....any dissent at all will label us as an "unlawful enemy combatant". Even if you are just a dogcatcher. And you will have lost your right to due process.

    Can we stand back and take a look at the big picture? We need leaders who will rally and inspire us to exercise our voices as true patriots. Are we all too jaded to believe in and aim for democratic ideals?

    On a more pragmatic level....I wonder if pollsters played Rocky Anderson's speech to a test group, and tallied their pro & con results, would the candidates then be advised by their spin doctors to speak out against the war, to get the vote?

    I'd like to know how many other voters would be impressed by elected officials and candidates who take an anti-war position, out loud. Would you? To me, anything less than speaking out reeks of disconnected apathy.

    Mary Cross Tinkler

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    bo raises an interesting point talking about the cost of the war.

    Over at the Rural Organizing Project, they put together some County by County figures as to what the war in Iraq has cost us. In my little County, Crook Co., our "share" of the war cost is $12.5 million so far. That is a lot of teachers, pot holes, park maintenance, senior services, foster home nights, police on the street, etc. that we don't have because that money went to Iraq.

    So, when the dog catcher can't afford to drive across town to get that loose dog, and the war in Iraq is to blame - there is linkage.

  • Joe12Pack (unverified)

    Yeah, I'd say this thread is drifting sideways at an alarming rate. I stand by my central point. When it comes to local politics, I don't care to hear some convoluted, partisan argument based on issues that are irrelevant to the particular race. In fact, such tactics often backfire and repel more voters than they attract.

    I am not affiliated with any party, nor am I here to defend W. or the policies of our current administration. Just saying that when a politician is making a case for being elected to a particular office, they should stick to issues that are germane to that case.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    You know Joe (Joe12Pack) you argument is one that improves with age, repetition, and a little clarity.

    I agree that when running for a local race, the key issues are those that tie to the race. If you're running for the County Commission, you'd better be ready to talk about County Roads.

    I think you miss the key point of Mary Cross Tinkler's post here. As a citizen, she can create whatever test she thinks will work to inquire as to how any candidate thinks. -- The process of thinking, not the content. -- She could ask said candidate to explain the sound of one hand clapping, but she will gain more insight by asking said candidate about the war in Iraq. In that question which does not relate directly to the office said candidate is running for, she finds that the character, moral fiber, and thinking process of the candidate will be revealed.

    And I agree. The process of answering that question will reveal to me a lot, a huge amount actually, of how that candidate thinks. I don't even care that much about the content of the answer. But I will listen to hear whether a party line is taken up, whether the candidate answers with a formula, or whether the candidate thinks for themselves and perhaps answers the question with items like compassion, clarity, poise, insight, the intelligence and wisdom that comes from listening and critical thinking, and whether all of that adds up to depth of character or shallowness.

    <h2>The more I think about it, the more I like questioning all candidates on issues that we as citizens should all be thinking about, whether or not it directly involves the office the candidate is running for.</h2>
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