Wednesday, July 30, 2008
An Enigma for a Congressman
I'm going to be honest: I don't know what to think of Paul Broun (pictured here with Coach Richt).
Like many on July 15, I was surprised by his easy defeat of Republican primary challenger Barry Fleming, despite the dirt Barry and his crew dug up on him. Surely he had a mandate, as he had run a strong, grassroots campaign. Voters clearly rejected the business-as-usual negative campaigning model employed by Fleming's team (it is curious to note that Dr. Broun's own campaign website still references Fleming's attacks).
But what should have been a triumphant month has played out like a train wreck. First, stories emerge that he has used nearly half of his office's entire budget on "franking" costs to mail flyers out to his district to "educate" voters. Based on the results of the election, it now looks like needless spend. More importantly, to many, it looks like a thinly veiled use of taxpayer dollars to campaign.
Then the AJC says in a front page story what many politically savvy observers in the district have been whispering for the past year -- that without broad agreement among all congressmen, a personal "no earmark policy" is silly, and could be disastrous for our district, especially given the University's need for federal funds for specific research activities. And even worse, Broun and his co-horts are apparently asking our Senators to carry the water for them and ask for things anyway. If you haven't read this story, be sure to read it for an education on the practicalities of working inside the Beltway.
I still wasn't ready to pile on and write about all this, but today it came to light that apparently Rep. Broun's chief of staff has resigned. Now perhaps, given all of the above, this will be a good thing, but the turmoil is worrisome. Paul Broun seems to be an enigma. Or perhaps even a riddle wrapped in an enigma and shrouded in mystery.
But I for one am struggling to have an enigma for a congressman. Part of me likes having a strong conservative with a maverick streak representing our district. He seems to be responsive to constituents and has stayed engaged locally. He also seems to be a nice man personally when I have met him (I have not had any extended interaction with him personally or politically). But another part of me worries about his effectiveness as an advocate for the needs and causes of voters and institutions in the district. While principles are great in politics, there are times when rhetoric must be put aside and the art of compromise must be employed.
Can someone solve the riddle for me?