Udall resurrects the idea of statesmanship
It’s difficult to come right out and say you like a politician. The very thought seems counter-intuitive.
But we have to speak out in support of Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, who visited Summit County Tuesday, because he doesn’t come across as the usual evasive rhetorician we see so often in government.
The main reason it’s easy to like Udall, in spite of his status as a politician, is because he embodies values that are in polar opposition to those of the usual spin-doctor types. Udall has resurrected the idea of statesmanship.
This is not just party-line support. We certainly couldn’t say the same of a Democrat like Tom Strickland. (We might be leaning to the left, but we still think most people who want to be in politics should automatically be disqualified because that desire is almost insane.)
In Sunday’s Summit Daily, state Senate President John Andrews, a Republican, touted the “successes” of Colorado’s 2003 legislative session, and we’re dizzy from the spin: We balanced the budget (by borrowing against our future). We’re proposing the state spend $2 billion in bonding authority to build and expand reservoirs (but we didn’t lift a finger to promote water conservation). We made it easier to buy firearms to protect our children (from another Columbine?).
It’s refreshing in our election-driven political climate to hear Udall declare his opposition to Republican U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis’ wildfire mitigation bill – without muddying the waters with accusations the bill is an excuse for wide-scale logging (the environmentalist/Democratic spin).
Rather than use the bill as an opportunity to defame his opponents, Udall has carefully considered the ramifications of the bill and is weighing in honestly. A true statesman knows that true progress is achieved only through working together, rather than “demonizing” one another.
Udall speaks frankly about how our government operates, stating unequivocally that our Congress is reactive rather than proactive.
It’s rather unusual for an elected official to say he’s part of a governmental process that doesn’t work very well – it’s hard to earn votes that way. Most politicians prefer to profess they can solve all the nation’s ills in one term.
“The current situation is beyond frustrating,” he told members of the Summit Daily editorial board during a meeting at our office Tuesday.
Not that this is news to us. We are more than a little alarmed at the speed with which our government created the Homeland Security Department – a venture of such magnitude it really deserved far greater scrutiny than it received.
But it was a reaction to what was in the news at the time. If, a decade ago, we had had a proactive government whose members could think further into the future than the next election, we might have preempted the Sept. 11 attacks.
Unlike so many reactive politicians, Udall strikes us as too pragmatic to merely react.
After telling us he’s frustrated with the governmental quagmire, he quickly counters by reminding us – or perhaps himself – that whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. His tack seems to be, “do it well, not just fast.”
This is the attitude of someone who’s looking into the future – someone who’s learning as he goes along. It is that experience that will make him an effective leader in the long run – that will allow him to fulfill promises rather than use them merely as campaign fodder.
Case in point: the McInnis bill.
Rather than become mired in typical mudslinging and jockeying for position, Udall is willing to concede the merits of the Republican proposal in the interest of drafting effective legislation.
While many Democrats and environmentalists have blasted the bill as an excuse to allow wide-scale logging, Udall dismisses that claim (over-logging can still be addressed through the courts, he says) in favor of looking at the real problems with the bill: It doesn’t address the critical red zones (forest areas surrounding neighborhoods and water supplies). And, the truncated National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, process will, he predicts, actually encourage opponents of any proposal to file lawsuits immediately, just in case, rather than taking the time to find common ground before a proposal ends up in court. This process will not only be expensive, he says, but it will also prevent the Forest Service from undertaking the appropriate level of thinning that truly does need to happen in the name of fire prevention and mitigation.
Udall is a breath of fresh air in a stagnating government. He’s a true statesman, in his father’s tradition, refusing to “demonize” his opponents. Statesmanship isn’t a flashy approach to politicking, but if we saw it more frequently in our elected officials, we might see less grandstanding and more actual progress.
It makes us feel a little dirty to support a politician with such vim, but on the rare occasion we see a politician tackle his role with more maturity than ego, we must speak out.
Join us again tomorrow when we talk about Republican U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, who will meet the Summit County public today at 1:30 p.m. at the Silverthorne town council chambers.
Opinions published in this space are formulated by members of the Summit Daily News editorial board: Michael Bennett, Jim Pokrandt, Abigail Eagye, Rachel Toth, Reid Williams, Aidan Leonard, Shauna Farnell and Martha Lunsky.
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