Setting a standard for Congressional leadership

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There are fewer than 50 days until petitions get filed, and candidates and soon-to-be candidates are everywhere. Also in motion are the politicians who now hold one office but prefer a different one. At least six members of the 22-member GOP caucus in the state senate are seeking to escape that body, either running statewide or for Congress.

One member of Congress, Mark Kirk, is looking to move from the U.S. House to the U.S. Senate. Clearly the step from representing one congressional district to representing the entire state would seem to be a promotion in responsibility. Does Kirk deserve it?

Some might argue that Mark Kirk has actually been promoting his liberal agenda in his home state. My only response would be that it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Kirk, if elected, would find happiness by switching parties much like Arlen Specter did in Pennsylvania earlier this year.

Readers already know my view of Mark Kirk’s voting record and my position that in fact he’s simply in the wrong party. But plenty of “conservative” voting members of the U.S. House from Illinois don’t deserve a bigger job either. Who in their right mind would elevate Peter Roskam, for example, who is actively working for Mark Kirk’s campaign?

We’ve said it before and will again – Roskam is a potential talent, but his judgment currently is sorely lacking, and so far his leadership is absent. Frankly, all the members of the shrinking Illinois Republican delegation to the U.S. House lack an understanding about how they should be impacting public opinion back at home.

Also, none of them seem to have a clue that they could be showing political party leadership in their own state. Did you hear one word from any of our U.S. Reps about the execrable tenure of state party chairman Andy McKenna? I sure didn’t.

If you’re among the dwindling number of Illinoisans that are represented by a Republican in the U.S. Congress, answer this question: how much have you learned from your representative since they’ve been in office?

My guess is – the answer is very little if anything. And that’s a shame, because there are few bigger bully pulpits in this country than a congressional seat. There is a lot of good work being accomplished by independent free market and traditional values organizations, but they can’t get it done alone. Our elected leaders still have the best chance of impacting a wider audience when it comes to the proper direction of public policies.

Yet these men and women are silent, outside of the occasional newsletter or press quote. Sometimes it seems they’re trying to be invisible. If they received word that this is being called “the information age,” they determined they wanted no part of it.

Anyone who would like to read more about the role of political leadership can click through our archives – a place to start might be on this page. If you go back far enough, you’ll notice that seven years ago I was trying to urge our last Republican U.S. Senator, Peter Fitzgerald, to better use his office.

A year ago this week our financial markets tanked – and we all observed Republican members of Congress respond in their typical flat-footed manner. Caught off guard, not sure what to say or which position to take, they acted much like they did when the nation needed their leadership when things in Iraq got very difficult.

Any politician seeking a promotion needs to answer – what have they accomplished – or not accomplished – in their current office. Sometimes the accomplishment isn’t having successfully passed legislation, but rather having held up a standard through their outspokenness in support of reform and their tenacious commitment to the principles of the Republican Party Platform.

Mark Kirk has struck out on both counts, and Republican primary voters would be wise to unite around one candidate and force Kirk into retirement.

©2009 John Francis Biver

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