Brand new year 

Political resolutions we’d love to see

If you peek just over the edge of Sunday you’ll see 2007 staring back. New year, new political balance in the state and nation, and new opportunities to work toward a better future. Not to be too tongue-in-cheek, here are some political New Year’s resolutions we’d love to see.

Starting at the top with President George W. Bush, the first day of 2007 would be a great time to step out of his bubble of self-delusion and start dealing with R-E-A-L-I-T-Y. We are not winning in Iraq or Afghanistan and we are not going to win. Virtually everyone else in the nation and world understands this except the Decider in Chief. If the elections didn’t convince him that the nation heartily refutes the stupid and costly conflicts initiated by this self-styled “War President,” it’s hard to think what it might take to jar him to his senses except for a good old New Year’s resolution—or maybe a trip to rehab to wean him off whatever they’re putting in his water.

The next rung down on the Big Ladder would be W’s faithful sidekick—well, faithful when he’s not hiding out in some undisclosed location, that is—Vice President Dick Cheney. A couple of things in Cheney’s personal world might cause him to reflect upon his political convictions with some resolutions that would help us all.

After shooting his bird-hunting companion in the face last year, it might be a good time to resolve to put down the guns—and I don’t mean just the 20-gauge. If anyone is farther removed from reality than Bush, it’s Cheney. Meandering wars that only enrich profiteers such as Halliburton, which Cheney once led, have got to stop. You’ve got a big smudge on the bad side of your karmic ledger, but there’s still time to call off the international shooting contest and pull the no-bid contracts before the old ticker gives out, Dick.

And then there’s the child that Cheney’s lesbian daughter is expecting. The Bush-Cheney radical right agenda of the last six years has been absolutely vicious toward same sex couples. But with the personal focus suddenly beaming bright, perhaps Dick could make some sincere overtures to assure his grandchild a future featuring more equitable treatment of our fellow human beings. After all, Republicans were supposed to be the party of keeping government off our backs—not the party that believes government has the right to tell you whom you can or cannot love. There’s still two years to go, Dick, so strengthen your resolve and get moving in the right direction.

Closer to home, 2007 would be a great year for newly elected U.S. Sen. Jon Tester to resolve to keep his deep roots in Montana and his head out of the polluted D.C. stratosphere. This resolution will be a tough one to keep. Faced with the overwhelming industrial agriculture lobby, a grateful state and nation would love to see our local organic farmer raise his voice of experience and tell Congress there’s another way—that we don’t have to drench our foods in chemicals, poison our lands and waters, or create genetic monstrosities to survive. It’s a huge task, but one for which Tester is uniquely qualified, and one that—if he stands and fights for clean food—will make him a national hero.

Speaking of heroes, 2007 would be a good time for Gov. Brian Schweitzer to put away the Superman cape and get down to taking care of Montanans as his top priority. The grandiose schemes cooked up by the Gov to solve the nation’s liquid fuel supply have been a tremendous exercise in imagination, research, and virtually endless promotion. But they do little to address the real problems facing Montana right now.

With record low unemployment, it seems ludicrous to see our leaders dump so much time into economic development. Anyone who has tried to hire someone to even so much as pound nails lately knows you either can’t get them or, if you do, they cost an arm and leg. So will out-of-state workers fill all the new industrial-strength refinery, coal mining and energy jobs Schweitzer wants to create? And what would be so great about more in-migrants to produce export energy? All the evidence so far suggests just the opposite—the more people we cram into Montana, the tougher it gets to maintain the quality of life for existing residents. Massive population influxes lead inevitably to greater demand for infrastructure, increased water use, energy use and pollution, and a subsequent rise in property taxes without any corresponding increase in quality of services received.

Wouldn’t it be great for Gov. Schweitzer to resolve to simply govern Montana—and make protecting the quality of life for existing residents his highest priority? With some leadership, we could be heating our schools with natural gas from our own school trust lands—at cost of production instead of paying whatever the national market will bear. We could be insulating and updating homes and appliances across the state through a direct investment or cost-share program, saving energy costs for Montanans while reducing our energy requirements through conservation, the cleanest and cheapest source of “new” energy. It’s a different energy agenda from the one currently being promoted, but with resolve, it’s totally achievable.

Meanwhile, it wouldn’t hurt the Republicans to resolve to tone it down a bit on the political hatred and threats. Incoming Republican legislative leaders say the 2007 Legislature will be “a war,” but we’re all tired of war these days…especially among Montanans. Recent polls suggest that some Republican ideas—like permanently lowering property taxes—have broad support in the populace. Beating a few swords into plowshares might not hurt in helping to nurture those ideas to fruition.

Resolutions, as we all know, are a dime a dozen. The true test in 2007 will be to see which politicians actually have the resolve to see them through.

When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at opinion@missoulanews.com.

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