From today's Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:
Should make good on pledge to leave Congress
By Joseph Weiler
Hayhurst(L) and Souder(R)
Mark Souder is not the man to represent the 3rd Congressional District for the next two years. I believe Tom Hayhurst is a far better choice. For those of you who know me, you understand that this is not the knee-jerk opinion of another liberal letter writer.
For more than 20 years, I served as an editor of Fort Wayne’s conservative evening newspaper, the last decade and a half as its executive editor. I had a unique opportunity to meet with community leaders and everyday citizens to learn what they were working to accomplish and what they valued.
As executive editor, I was a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. I attended interviews with candidates, discussing and debating their strengths and weaknesses. I would measure what they had to offer against the needs and desires of voters. I would do my best to steer the newspaper’s endorsement to the candidates who demonstrated integrity, talent and a commitment to traditional conservative values. To me, those values included a love for our community, dedication to a smaller and less intrusive federal government, an understanding and appreciation for states’ rights and a commitment to and solid understanding that government is the guarantor of equal opportunity, not equal success.
Until my retirement in February 2003, the newspaper endorsed Souder for election each time he ran. However, were I casting my vote on that editorial board today, it would be a solid “no” for Souder.
He knows I feel strongly that he should have honored the pledges he made to the district when he first sought election. One of those was that he would serve for no more than 12 years. Well, his 12 years are up. Why is he running again? He says that because of congressional redistricting, which by law takes place every 10 years, he now represents a “new” district. But long before Souder made his 12-year pledge, he had become well schooled in the workings of Washington and was fully aware of the redistricting ahead. Were Souder a man of honor, he would value his integrity above re-election. It appears he does not.
But there is a more troubling aspect to Souder that makes me even more certain he is the wrong man for the job. Souder is among a key group of Republicans known as neoconservatives, or “neocons.” Playing on religious themes, they have appealed primarily to a group of conservative Christians who felt disenfranchised, particularly in the post-Reagan era.
Unfortunately, in appealing to this special-interest group, congresspersons such as Souder have felt free to shun all others, not listening to their concerns, not respecting their ideas and personal values, not including them among the constituents they serve.
And by this intentional isolation from all that they disagree with, the neocons have been among the primary instigators of the bitter politics that now, after almost six years of total Republican control, has left Washington in shambles. How sad that is.
In 2006, one cannot oppose the war in Iraq without being labeled a traitor; one cannot discuss equal rights of inheritance without being labeled a sodomite; one cannot question the curbing of our basic liberties without being called pro-terrorist.
In this atmosphere, little progress can or will be made in Washington. And Mark Souder is a key player in ensuring that no progress is made. This isn’t good for Republicans. This isn’t good for Democrats. This isn’t good for independents. And it certainly isn’t good for you and me.
I became familiar with Dr. Tom Hayhurst as a public servant serving on the Fort Wayne City Council. More recently, I talked one-on-one with him on a broad range of subjects from the war on terror to taxes to same-sex marriage. I am a longtime backer of conservative policies, so Hayhurst did not always agree with me. But on numerous occasions, he took the time to try to understand my positions, found key areas on which we did agree and promised to consider some issues I believe are important – for me and for you.
Whether you are a radical conservative or a liberal atheist or, like most of us, trying to survive somewhere between the extremes, it is time to vote for someone who will respect and listen to us all so that we can once again begin to listen to and respect each other.
Joseph Weiler retired as executive editor of the News-Sentinel in February 2003. He wrote this for local newspapers.