15 November 2010
The great hue and cry emanating from Bell County beginning the evening of November 2nd was liberals realizing that one of their favorite sons was going down in flames. This was followed by an editorial “eulogy” in the KDH on November 6th.
Few would dispute that Chet Edwards has been an advocate for Soldiers and Families in Congress since 1990; Army-wide, not just at Fort Hood. Principled opponents also do not impugn his character or motivation; we simply differ on ideology and policy.
Politicians are a lot of things but most are intelligent and none are irreplaceable. Chet Edwards is a champion of the military but even Clem Kadiddlehopper would have been savvy enough to make Fort Hood a priority of his legislative agenda. This includes impact aid for KISD; land for the Killeen-Fort Hood joint use airport and Texas A&M Central Texas campus; Veterans Affairs; military construction including the new Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center; and the House Army Caucus.
Unfortunately, seniority is a key factor in congressional elections since many voters view the primary mission to be “bring home the bacon”. This was not quite what our Founders intended. Regardless, party affiliation is an advantage when you’re in the majority but not so much when you’re not. Democrats ruled the House from 1990-1994, wandered for a decade, and then returned to power from 2004-2010.
Chet Edwards graduated from Texas A&M in 1974 and has been a career politician since except for a short period in the early 1980s. He joined Congress in 1990 and obviously made an impression with Democrat Party leaders given Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement for him to be Vice President and then making the President’s short list in 2008. That’s abnormal unless you’re politically schizophrenic; acting conservative in Texas and being liberal in Washington DC.
Linking Chet Edwards to Nancy Pelosi was an effective campaign tactic since she epitomizes the truly radical, tone-deaf liberal who is anathema to most in Fly-Over Country. But it's an over-simplification to just say Chet was caught in an anti-incumbent tsunami. He differed occasionally with Democrats and Speaker Pelosi on matters of substance but at his core he is a social and political liberal who voted along party lines 96.3% of the time from 2004 to 2010. A rollup is provided below, as is Congressman Carter’s record for numerical comparison.
Voted along party lines. (Source: Congressional Record)
• 108th Congress, Jan 03 to Jan 05, 1221 total votes. Carter – 96.1% (of 1162 votes). Edwards – 86.4% (of 1167 votes).
• 109th Congress, Jan 05 to Jan 07, 1214 total votes. Carter – 96.2% (of 1176 votes). Edwards – 83.7% (of 1186 votes).
• 110th Congress, Jan 07 to Jan 09, 1876 total votes. Edwards – 96.0% (of 1797 votes). Carter – 92.7% (of 1776 votes).
• 111th Congress, Jan 09 to Jan 11, 1555 total votes. Edwards – 96.1% (of 1499 votes). Carter – 92.1% (of 1467 votes).
Some of Chet Edwards’ notable votes with the Democrat Party are listed below.
• Opposed extending the Bush tax cuts. (HR 4297)
• Opposed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. (S 3)
• Opposed a $40 billion reduction in welfare, child support and student loan programs. (HR 653)
• Opposed The Surge in Iraq in 2007. (HR 63)
• Opposed establishment of a free-trade zone with South America. (HR 3045)
• Supported a $60 billion increase in funding to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. (HR 976)
• Supported repealing tax cut incentives to oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico. (HR 6)
• Supported amending the Social Security Act and enabling a government take-over of negotiations with drug makers. (HR 4)
• Supported raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour. (HR2)
• Supported implementation of contentious portions of the 9-11 Commission findings. (HR1)
• Supported the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act and federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. (HR 810)
Chet Edwards also occasionally broke ranks with the Democrat Party and supported Republican positions. (Note that I did not say Conservative.) Some examples are listed below.
• Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. (S 1927)
• Funding of Operation Iraqi Freedom without a troop withdrawal timeline. (HR 861 and HR 2206). He then changed course and supported linking war appropriations to an April 2008 deadline to withdraw troops from Iraq. (HR 2956 and HR 1591)
• Military Commissions Act. (S 3930)
• Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act. (HR 5825)
• Secure Fence Act. (HR 6061)
• Estate Tax and Extension of Tax Relief Act. (HR 5970)
• Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act. (HR 4437).
• Energy Policy Act that offered tax breaks and incentives to spur oil and gas company innovation. (HR 6)
• Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009. (HR 4173)
• Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obama Care). (HR 3590)
We don’t know which of these “breaks” were real and which were Memorex; calculated as part of Democrat Party leader strategy. The greater the majority, the more games can be played with votes to “protect” at-risk caucus members.
Many voters in central Texas are discerning and do not have sound-bite memories. Understanding how Congress operates and the totality of Chet Edwards' record likely helps explain why he was thumped 62% to 37% in this election.
One minor additional detail. For someone who touts being “one” with the military, it was odd that Chet's staff used an absurd picture in his campaign ads. You know, the one with Chet standing in front of a demilitarized Army main battle tank – likely a memorial somewhere - and talking with two people who are obviously not Soldiers. You'd think they could have found (or filmed) footage of him with real Soldiers, Marines or Airmen somewhere at a military installation.
Several of Chet Edwards’ campaign ads accused Bill Flores of not supporting veterans because he proposed privatizing their health care. Chet even enlisted the help of a former Fort Hood commander to hammer home the point. Truth is, it needs to be reformed – the normal definition, not Obama’s -- and we should raise TRICARE premiums. This comes from someone who benefits from the latter.
Like Social Security, reforming and privatizing veterans care is overdue. Veterans should be able to see the doctor of their choice, within reason, and injecting them into the private sector is likely to produce the same overall results enjoyed by most Americans; the best, most efficient and effective medical care in the world. The claim that private health care providers can't handle their needs or would reject disabled veterans is conjecture, sophistry, or both.
As a retiree, my wife and I have TRICARE Prime coverage and separate Primary Care Managers at a clinic on Fort Hood. The cost is $460 per year. That's quite a deal for us but not the American taxpayer.
I'd even go a step further; eliminate the Department of Veterans Administration, transfer functions to DoD that need to be retained, and reallocate its budget ($125 billion in 2011). See my comments in the 18 April post above.
But I digress.
Bill Flores says he is a social and fiscal conservative. He graduated from Texas A&M in 1976 and spent three decades in the oil and gas industry, rising to the position of CEO for Phoenix Exploration Company before venturing into politics for the first time. Unlike his vanquished opponent, Bill Flores successfully led people, managed things, and coordinated financial matters in the private sector. Now we’ll see if he can help effect the required change in Washington.
Congressmen Carter and Flores will no doubt co-labor effectively for all of central Texas, including Soldiers, Families and military retirees. Better still, there will be another conservative voice in the next Republican controlled Congress.
Some local community leaders will likely host a “farewell tour” for Chet Edwards before year’s end. Come January 2011 however, they need to finally embrace reality and act appropriately.
Still Serving, Army Strong!