By Jennifer Brunner, Ohio's Secretary of State and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, crossposted on OhioDailyBlog
Think about what Congress could be like if our members of Congress remembered that each is a person first and then and only after that, a partisan. It’s really not asking too much of them.
Many of us choose party affiliations because we agree with a general way of thinking and a general approach to how to solve society’s problems. As we examine our views and why we hold them, we may move to the “right” or “left” within our party, but we usually stick with our party as long as we have enough common ground that keeps us working together in a way we agree will accomplish our goals. Bipartisanship happens when opposing parties see each other as adversaries and not as outright enemies—when the competition is based on ideas and doesn’t get personal.
Bipartisanship comes from finding common ground, often higher ground, that both parties can agree on—even if at first just in concept. Problem areas can be parsed into smaller pieces to look for common ground. And in instances when there is not agreement, subjects of remaining contention are set aside while focus is on consensus on issues where it can be reached. Eventually, the last few sticking points may look different with other issues resolved, until there is at last compromise. That’s how cooperative adults do it—and succeed.
Imagine how sickened I was to hear that former Congressman Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate, is headlining an “important and only major fundraiser of 2010” for COAST (Coalition Opposed to Spending and Taxes) on March 1st in Cincinnati. Imagine how sickened I was to see that COAST’s comment on Twitter included this language about the late Congressman John Murtha on the day he died this week: “John Murtha dead at 77. Good riddance bad egg.” Continued in the extended entry
Former Congressman Rob Portman served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 years with the late Congressman John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania). How can he possibly even consider headlining COAST’s fund raising event now? Can the worth of any endorsement justify supporting a group spewing such hateful and disrespectful vitriol?
And what about COAST’s endorsement criteria? “If COAST cannot stomach either candidate, it will abstain, and encourage you to do the same. If it prefers one candidate over the other, it will so indicate – and tell you the burnishes and blemishes in their character and record. Occasionally, a charlatan will still slip through our COAST radar, but usually the in-depth research from our COAST Board, and our native instincts help us separate the true patriots from the pretenders.” Is this Rob Portman’s mentality?
John Murtha was the first Vietnam War combat veteran elected to Congress. On the battlefield he won two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. A 37-year veteran who retired as a Colonel of the U.S. Marine Corps, he was a respected voice in the U.S. Congress on issues of national security. He was awarded a Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in 2006 for “speaking truth to power” when he spoke out against the Iraq war and helped to shift public sentiment about the war and generate meaningful national debate about the progress, policies and objectives of the U.S. presence in Iraq.
Even U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said of Jack Murtha that his “thoughts and prayers are with his friends and loved ones.” Rob Portman should renounce his support of COAST’s March 1st event and sever his ties with the group. There can be no excuse, no minimizing and no equivocation of this kind of disrespect that has taken our country in the wrong direction. If Rob Portman fails to do this, then Ohio has a very good indication of the kind of courage he will show as a U.S. Senator.
Partisans can hold strong views, and maybe Rob Portman agrees with COAST’s views. One would hope not. It’s incumbent on him to show Ohioans where he stands on respect and bipartisanship—important tools that will get things done for Ohio and the American people. It’s the first step he can take to show Ohioans how he would conduct himself in the U.S. Senate. We need to know.
It takes courage to stand up to those on your own side of the partisan divide—people from whom you might otherwise seek support—and tell them that what they are saying or doing is wrong. Jack Murtha had that kind of courage when he spoke out in Congress against the Iraq War. That kind of courage can result in real change, and we need more of it in the U.S. Senate.