Thursday, March 23, 2006

Blumenauer and Walden, Bridging the Gap

We've become such a rude fucking country. I say that with more than a hint of irony of course, but it also proves the point--swearing on a blog is commonplace if not de rigeur, and what could be more of a cultural pressure point than blogging/MySpacing/podcasting, etc--the personalization and commodification of information? If our myriad expressions of personal livelihood are as fraught with naughty talk as they clearly are, and these exploding expressions exemplify where we are as a society right now, then QED, right? This has become a rude fucking country.

My first realizations about the gradual move into the abyss began with Morton Downey Jr., who was kind of like Phil Donahue with a vendetta. He'd skulk the aisles with a cigarette and a microphone, and berate audience members and callers--just slay them with insults. He was Limbaugh without the fan club, and somehow this became entertainment.

So I had already been gone from Oregon for a decade when I realized that things like political partisanship were beginning to become more polarized. But I always remembered the reputation of Oregon politicians defying party label and making a hallmark out of working together in Congress for Oregon-benefitting legislation. They always came together for the good of the state.

When I returned to the state, as I'd feared even Oregon had fractured itself into halves, and the sides were rarely in a mood to talk. What's more, the odd scenario occurred where Democrats dominated the state caucus 4-1, but the one was favored because he was of the majority party. That certainly didn't help. But that consensual instinct for what's right for Oregon seems lost.

Maybe not totally, however. Succumbing to the wonky wiles of an Earl Blumenauer press update, I was reminded that there are still some things to agree on--like Mount Hood. Along with Crater Lake the most iconic symbol of the state, the Hood area has a psychic power for many Oregonians, including Blumenauer and Greg Walden. The pair (who were in Walden's Hood River backyard) did a 41-mile hiked circuit around the mountain in four days, and you don't do that kind of thing for every bill.

Beyond Hood's aesthetic power is its massive economic impact. Not only as a tourist destination drawing 4 million people a year, but as the water supply for the entire Willamette Valey and all of the food products that come from there, not to mention the electric power from the snowmelts in spring that powers Portland. So it's a bit of a no-brainer, easy to come to agreement on. But it's no joke when a member of the majority party proposes to submit a bill to his bosses to put 77,000 acres off the table around Hood. That's not the way Gale Norton leaned on these kinds of things, that's not the way Kempthorne looks to view things, and it's definitely not the way George Bush likes to view things. So it's both a favor and a risk for Walden, and I think that's a good thing done for the benefit of Oregon.

But wait, there's more: Blumenauer and Walden get even chummier on a subject that is much more political in nature: ethics reform. Specifically, the task of policing ethics in Congress. Cosponsoring a bill to establish an independent Ethics Commission to review charges against Members is again not good party loyalty by Walden. This is a vindictive party right now, run by a guy who wants to make Tom DeLay look like Richard Simmons as Majority Leader. So any movement away from the Mussolinites is good news for Oregon and the country at large.

One other thing Blumenauer's doing that Walden is not, is putting a timetable on the war: two years. That's double Murtha's general timetable, and is more vague on the stationing of a "safety force" and the creation of a Middle East Council to help guide Iraq, but essentially it's the same plan. However, in Blumenauer's vision it's focused on returning Guard troops to their rightful place in Oregon and all states--thus the name "First Step to Redeployment Act," which I gotta say Earl, clangs on the tongue like a tarnished spoon. Nonetheless, it's the right idea and it should be heard. And there's no reason why all seven Members of Congress can't get behind a bill bringing our ONG troops back home. They've been gone long enough, and gave the most when they were given the least. Have your people call DC and tell them to get on this bill with Earl.

Walden is still worth beating in OR-2, but he does have his moments. Blumenauer remains one of the very best Congresspeople out of all 535. He was born to legislate.
And when they can, they do work well together. Brings back memories, doesn't it?