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Context Florida: Ed Moore: Some folks missed the lessons of kindergarten

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Like you, I have been both entertained and disgusted by the inability of elected officials in Washington, D.C., to address critical issues. It seems they not only can’t deal with issues of substance and complexity, but they can’t even do a modicum of effort without resorting to name-calling and snide remarks.

I guess Robert Fulghum was almost right when he wrote “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” He got the concept correct, but apparently some folks learned only the bad stuff on the playground and none of the good stuff in the classroom.

Fulghum crafted a simple, straightforward approach to living and learning. Yes, life is complex, but it is the simple things that help to make it easier to get along.

Two critical points are “play fair” and “clean up your own mess.” Both need to be retaught to Congress and the White House. Take responsibility, be willing to lead, especially down paths where people will not willingly go, think about tomorrow, and above all: don’t leave a mess for later generations to clean up!

The old coaching expression comes to mind: “Man up!” Leaders in Congress need to grasp the concept that “It doesn’t matter what you say you believe — it only matters what you do.”

It is not enough to just express your beliefs; one must act with the will to succeed. Saying one thing one year or to one audience, only to say something completely different just doesn’t work in this age of instant information.

The president’s speech when he was running for office in 2008 — the one that condemned the George W. Bush administration for increasing the national debt $4 trillion and stating unequivocally that he would never increase the debt ceiling — rings hollow in the context of the current discussions. This is especially true when he abetted the increase in the debt to $17 trillion in just five years.

Some may ask, “Why is Congress failing?”

The answer is simple. They forgot how to legislate. Even while many of them came through the ranks of state legislatures, they seem to have forgotten how to use a robust committee structure to investigate issues and develop ideas.

In D.C., major issues are bandied about in back rooms by a shrinking number of leaders, many of whom are more interested in being on Fox or MSNBC than in finding solutions.

The rank and file, many of whom are smart and capable of crafting compromises, are relegated to being Fulghum’s giraffe.  “A giraffe,” he wrote, “has a black tongue twenty-seven inches long and no vocal cords. A giraffe has nothing to say. He just goes on giraffing.”

There are potentially effective members in Congress, many from Florida, who have vocal cords and something positive to add. They just don’t seem to have much chance to help resolve the critical issues facing our country. They need to stop relying on the “leaders” and start being leaders themselves.

Some suggestions to members of Congress:

– Seek simple solutions to a messy situation.

– Use the committee structure to develop policy and budgets, and then give it all time to mellow, simmer and resonate.

– Stop passing bills under pressure and start reading the bills before voting on them.

– Take up more than one issue at a time; that is what committees do.

– Use your talent before voters decide that it’s all just too messy for anyone to clean up.

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