- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Earning and receiving

Much reaction — from those leaning both to the political right and left — to our recent column asking the question: What is it today that conservatives wish to conserve?

Once upon a time, we pointed out, “conservatives” wished to “conserve” slavery and later segregation, certainly neither an aim of a modern-day conservative. One common definition states that a conservative respects tradition and authority, while resisting wholesale or sudden changes.

Furthermore, a conservative in America today believes in the limited authority of government, greater power to the states instead of the federal government, lower taxes and less government spending.

Our readers tend to agree. Gil McAuliff, of Manassas Park, Va., writes: “I have always said it this way. A liberal is a person who says what can government do for you. A conservative says what can you do for yourself.”

Janet R. Jenkins, of Albia, Iowa, recalls: “A few years back, P.J. O’Rourke wrote an essay, ‘How to Explain Conservatism to Your Squishy Liberal Friends …’ His point was ‘conserving’ the rights and responsibilities of the individual instead of submitting to ‘group think.’ Charity, for instance, was the right or responsibility of individuals, rather than the ‘forced charity’ by governments with tax money.”

Finally, writes Joe McColgan Sr., of Philadelphia: “Having grown up in projects and poverty, my reason for declaring myself a conservative is: Liberals want to give you things; conservatives want you to earn things. Giving is most debilitating to the receiver and empowering to the giver.”

You’re excused

For numerous reasons beyond their control, members of Congress fail to show up on the House floor to cast all-important roll-call votes. These “no-shows,” as congressional rules require, then have to explain their absences in writing to the House speaker.

One of the most common excuses given is that an airline flight back to Washington was delayed. And talk about getting stuck in the air, this columnist once wrote about a lawmaker who, while en route to cast his vote, got stuck in a Capitol Hill elevator.

Often members of Congress are present to vote, but forget how they stand (or how their political party stands) on an issue. Take the previous Congress, when Rep. Sue Myrick, North Carolina Republican, stood up and explained, in no uncertain terms, why she had previously cast the wrong vote.

“Mr. Speaker, due to exhaustion, I mistakenly voted on roll-call vote 445. I should have voted ‘nay,’” she said, only to depart Washington hours later for a much-needed summer recess.

Just a few days ago, Republican Rep. John Linder of Georgia sat down to pen this always valid excuse: “Mr. Speaker, I was unable to cast roll-call votes … because I was unavoidably detained on official business with President George W. Bush.”

Finally, who can fault Rep. Henry E. Brown Jr., South Carolina Republican, who wrote to the speaker on July 27: “The reason for my absence was that I had to have an emergency appendectomy at the Bethesda Naval Hospital.”

Postcards to prison

Just what New York Times reporter Judith Miller doesn’t need to be reading — piles of postcards delivered to her jail cell urging her to give in to the authorities.

Accuracy in Media (AIM), a watchdog group, is having its members mail the postcards to the scribe, who is serving time in Alexandria’s detention center for refusing to testify in the Valerie Plame case.

“You could freely and honestly testify about your knowledge in the CIA leak case,” read the postcards. “You have an obligation to do so. Reporters are not above the law.”

As postcards flood Ms. Miller’s cell, so does hate mail to AIM Editor Cliff Kincaid. One angry person suggested therapy for Mr. Kincaid, but recanted with: “Save humanity the expense and jump from the tallest building you can find.”

Still, Mr. Kincaid vows to continue his group’s fight to defeat a proposed press shield law pertaining to disclosing a reporter’s sources. That’s according to our source, whom we shall never reveal.

Escape to Harlem

Instead of Martha’s Vineyard, Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York is encouraging fellow congressmen to spend part of their summer recess in Harlem.

“You will not regret your time there,” says the Democrat, a lifelong resident of New York City’s black cultural center. “From the music and arts of the Harlem community to the politics and strategies of Harlem’s activists and leaders, this is a community that is rich in diversity, entertainment, culture, and love.”

And surely there are members of this divisive 109th Congress who could stand a spoonful or two of the latter.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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