Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Journal-World's nonsensical spin on GOP rift

The Lawrence Journal-World's December 5 editorial had so many nonsensical comments in it that I have added extended commentary in red.

Republican rift
It’s unfortunate Republicans in the Kansas House passed over
Rep. Kenny Wilk for the speaker’s job.

"Monday’s leadership elections in the Kansas House seem to point to a continuation of the rift between conservative and moderate Republicans in the Legislature."

The editorial does not explain how electing a moderate Speaker would have pointed away from a continuation of the rift between conservative and moderate Republicans in the Legislature. For years now, the Journal-World has reported on the rift between conservatives and moderates. The Journal-World has reported on that rift regardless of whether conservatives were in charge or moderates were in charge. In August 1999, Journal-World reporter Chris Koger wrote that a meeting of Douglas County Republicans "apparently only increased tensions between conservatives and moderates."

At the time of that meeting, Mark Parkinson, who was in attendance, was the moderate chairman of the Kansas GOP. Parkinson switched parties this year and ran as Gov. Sebelius' running mate. The House speaker at the time was Republican Robin Jennison, another moderate.

"On the first ballot, Neufeld received 29 votes to Wilk’s 25 and O’Neal’s 24. After O’Neal was eliminated, most of his votes went to Neufeld, resulting in a 47-31 victory on the second ballot.
The choice of a solid conservative, Neufeld, over a solid moderate, Wilk, is a strong indication that conservatives still will be a dominant force in the Kansas House."

Republicans lost just five seats in the House in November. Does the Journal-World really believe that a handful of losses would make the conservatives less than a dominant force?

"It seems Wilk would have been in a much better position than Neufeld to work with moderate Republicans and Democrats in the House. That will be even more important this session given that Democrats gained five House seats in the recent elections."

The role of Speaker of the House should not be to "work with moderate Republicans and Democrats in the House." The goal should be to work to pass good legislation and to stop bad legislation. The Democrats did gain five seats, but, as noted in an earlier post, they still remain far weaker than they were just 14 years ago, when they actually had a majority in the Kansas House.

"Unfortunately, it seems the state has heard from Neufeld mostly when he was opposing some initiative or action."

And the country heard mostly from Abraham Lincoln when he was opposing slavery. Legislators should oppose poor legislation.

"He was among those who bottled up budget measures last year with a proposal to define cloning and ban state funding for it. He dug his heels in against the Kansas Supreme Court during the school finance debate. And he’s certainly no friend of higher education in the state, attacking university budgets and saying as recently as this fall that most Kansas workers don’t have a need for a college education."

The editorial failed to tell us why most workers in Kansas should have a college education. According to the Census Bureau, 28 percent of Kansas have a bachelor's degree or higher. Can the editorial writer explain why at least an additional 23 percent NEED a college education?

In any case, it appears the editorial writer misquoted Neufeld. In the September 17, 2006 issue of the Journal-World, reporter Scott Rothschild writes, "And, [Neufeld] said, changes in the workplace have in many instances placed less emphasis on a college education."

"'The economy does not have a demand that everyone have a fine arts degree. Employers care if someone has the specialized training to do the job,' Neufeld said."

There is a difference between "most" and "everyone." Saying that the "economy does not have a demand that everyone have a fine arts degree" is not tantamount to being an enemy of higher education. It's a statement of fact.

"Given that more moderate Republican leadership will remain in control of the Kansas Senate — President Steve Morris and Majority Leader Derek Schmidt — the election of Neufeld seems to ensure continued discord between the two chambers."

Apparently, it never occurred to the editorial writer that the Republicans in the Kansas Senate could choose a conservative majority leader in order to end the discord between the two chambers. After all, there are far more conservative Republicans in the House than there are moderate Republicans in the Senate. Why does the Journal-World believe the majority should capitulate to the minority?

"It also is likely to mean that moderate House Republicans will continue to look to House Democrats, rather than members of their own party, for support on key policy issues."

So if a moderate Speaker had been chosen, moderate House Republicans would have had no need to look to House Democrats for support on key policy issues? Where would they then look? There are not enough moderate Republicans in the House to pass anything on their own.

"It seems likely that if both Democrats and Republicans had voted on a House speaker, Wilk would have won. But that’s not how it works."

No, that's not how it works. Never has worked that way. So why share this hypothetical nonsense with your readers?

"Republicans hold the majority in the House and conservatives apparently still hold the majority in the Republican House delegation."

Well, of course they do. Although I should point out that Wilk’s and O’Neal’s votes totaled 49 to Neufeld's 29. On the second ballot, Neufeld picked up 18 of O'Neal's votes while Wilk picked up just six. If conservatives do not hold a majority in the Republican House delegation, then a large number of moderate Republicans thought Neufeld was the better choice to led them.

"There has been considerable talk since the November elections about the positive aspects of 'divided' government, referring to the Republican president and the newly Democratic Congress. If such divisions really do force more discussion and compromise and lead to better policy, then Kansas should be in for a banner year."

Speaking of the Democratic Congress in Washington, perhaps some day the Journal-World will editorialize on how Democrats in the U.S. House should have elected a moderate speaker over ultraliberal Nancy Pelosi even though liberals still hold a majority in the Democrat House delegation. After all, it seems a moderate would have been in a much better position than Pelosi to work with moderate Democrats and Republicans in the House.

Don't hold your breath waiting on that editorial.

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