Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fortenberry Responds as Supporters Play "Kill the Messenger"

by Kyle Michaelis
The Lincoln Journal-Star has a fairly active website when it comes to readers' comments, and it's fun to see how much feedback a simple "Letter to the Editor" can generate. Unfortunately, while there was much relevant discussion of Rep. Jeff Fortenberry's record - especially his vote against raising the minimum wage - many of the comments on my most recent foray in this peculiar art of press-savvy citizenship demonstrate a disturbing tendency to attack me personally just for having questioned Fortenberry's votes.

As a testament to my egotism and self-amusement, allow me to share a few of the highlights:
Gerard Harbison: "If the Nebraska Young Democrats are going to be using the letters column of the LJS to issue partisan press releases, shouldn't they be labeled as such? Here, let me help you, LJS. Kyle Michaelis is the first district chair of the Young Democrats. That will give your readers a little better perspective on where his letter is coming from."
Seems like "The Right-Wing Professor" is keeping tabs on me (see his similar attempt to discredit me last July). Don't know whether to be flattered or scared for my well-being. Although far from a celebrity, I suppose this is the price of a none-too-common name and a digital paper trail available for all the world to Google.
SupportFort: "...Fortenberry, Smith and Terry...certainly support me and most folks I know and they do it well. Sounds like they don't support your viewpoints so you have resorted to character assasination instead of rational, logical dissent. I suspect you are a Democrat."
Character assassination? Huh? I called Fortenberry's votes "out of touch." If anyone cares to explain to me how that's character assassination, I'd love to hear it. Seriously, how does this sort of reflexive denunciation do anything but stifle the "rational, logical dissent" this reader supposedly desires? Is that even a question worth asking or are the inherently contradictory motives behind this response just as apparent as they seem?
Hey Michaelis: "If Fortenberry is so out of touch with America and Nebraska, why did 59% of the 1st district re-elect him?? Maybe you are out of touch with Nebraska. Please move away. Thank you."
At least that's an honest comment. Polite as well....beyond the whole bit about asking me to move away from the state (and the Congressional District) in which I've lived my entire life. But, I really appreciate the reminder that it only takes a change of opinion in less than 10% of the population to swing this state's politics in a bold, new direction. Maybe not a short-term project but certainly a worthwhile goal.
Who?: "Kyle Michaelis is the same college student who attempted to turn the congressional campaign into a race war. I checked him out and found that he is a college student, Democrat activist, and really scary liberal blogger. Perhaps when he gets a job and starts paying taxes, he may have less time to criticize his doubly-elected congressman."
"Really scary liberal blogger" - that's some ego-strokeage right there...especially since I generally fall prey to accusations of a too measured, too moderate approach on the issues. Need to look into having that put on some business cards and a t-shirt - maybe even a line on my resume.

Of course, the real pay-off comes in today's Journal-Star, with Fortenberry responding personally to my letter. He writes:
A recent letter on this page mentioned my vote on a proposal in Congress to increase the minimum wage.

I support a minimum wage increase. Almost a decade since its last adjustment, an increase in the wage is socially just. However, it must also be economically responsible. An increase, mandated without consideration of its effects on American small businesses, would have implications (reduced employee hours, increased prices, job layoffs) that would in effect harm those the policy seeks to help.

That’s why I co-sponsored the Working Families Wage and Access to Healthcare Act. This legislation proposes a $2.10 increase in the minimum wage. At the same time, it provides small business assistance that helps small employers and entrepreneurs shoulder the new demands of a wage increase. One of the ways it does this is by opening the door to new ideas to pay for employees’ health care, a significant expense to small businesses.

Unfortunately, the legislation proposed by Democratic leadership neglected to address these concerns, and proposals to help make the bill better were not allowed to be heard. As the U.S. Senate undergoes its deliberation of the bill, I am hopeful that these provisions will be included.

Then Congress will have crafted a minimum wage increase that is both socially just and economically responsible. That is good public policy, and it is the right thing to do.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry
In other words, Jeff Fortenberry supports increasing the minimum wage but voted against the bill that would have done just that. Just like he supports making college more affordable while voting against cutting the interest rates on student loans.

At least, he's consistent in his hypocrisy, if nothing else. And, in that, he's not alone. As the UNO College Democrats point out, 2nd District Congressman Lee Terry "just voted against a bill that would allow the government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices - to keep prescription drug prices low."

Clearly, Fortenberry and Terry deserve each other. But, the people of Nebraska deserve so much more than their shared tendencies to partisan double-speak. Games of message control and kill the messenger won't prevent the dawning of this realization. The truth may be delayed, but it will not be contained.

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Blogger Ryan Anderson said...

"I suppose this is the price of a none-too-common name and a digital paper trail available for all the world to Google."

You should definately look into getting a more common name there, Michaelis. Google "Ryan Anderson" and see how long it takes to get back to me. Hell, adding "Nebraska" to the search doesn't even help. I'm nearly invisible! :)

Anonymous Adam said...

Since now that we have to be completely non-partisan and have no political viewpoints whatsoever to point out the facts, I suppose we should just repeal the first amendment and not bother on commenting on what we feel about our elected representatives. I suppose that would please Professor Harbison.

Anonymous Elisia said...

Good for you, Kyle--keep it up! And we want you to stay in Nebraska! ;^)

I once wrote a letter to the editor and actually had a person call me at home (she was very supportive) and another person send me a rebuttal in the mail (not so supportive!). Proof that letters to the editors are a great way to make your voice heard. Again, keep it up.

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

Kyle, if you're a "really scary liberal blogger," what does that make the rest of us?

Funny how the people who are personally attacking you are the ones accusing you of personal attacks. At least the Congressman responded to your letter, rather than using ad hominem attacks.

Ryan, as a Mariner fan, I'm still disappointed that your shoulder injury prevented you from having a major league career. Or, wait, are you the basketball player for the Huskers? ;)


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