ACT: Supports Shuler

From ACT:

This is from the Asheville Citizen Times’ Op-Ed page.  Strong statement.

Heath Shuler promises to be such a leader. Voters in Western North Carolina’s 11th District should send him to Washington to replace eight-term incumbent Charles Taylor.

During the past 16 years, we have often disagreed with Taylor on issues and been dismayed by questions about his ethics and reports of his failure to comply with government regulations without being coerced.

Even so, we have supported him because his seniority has helped bring to the district millions of dollars for infrastructure and other projects that support education and jobs.

But the failure of the 109th Congress to deal with the problems that threaten to overwhelm our nation and its unwillingness to act as a check on the Bush administration take precedence in this election.

To support Taylor is to endorse two more years of the same ineffectual leadership.

The 109th Congress was a disaster in almost every arena.

* Its members widened the gap between rich and poor by continuing a tax policy that favors the rich, by failing to address unfair trade policies that undermine American workers and to address the growing health care crisis.

* They allowed the federal deficit to continue spiraling out of control but failed to provide support for largely unfunded mandates such as No Child Left Behind.

They reduced the amount of funding for college grants and scholarships, and inadequately funded National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges. The list goes on.

Thanks to the deficits, the Untied States has gone from being the world’s largest creditor nation to its largest debtor nation, in hock to countries like China.

* They renewed the Patriot Act without any meaningful change to a bill that expands law enforcement surveillance and investigative powers in ways that undermine our civil liberties.

* They passed President Bush’s version of a detainee bill that imposes extraordinary limits on defendant’s traditional rights in the courtroom.

* They failed to pass meaningful immigration reform, a 700-mile fence notwithstanding.

* In fact, this Congress, which set an all-time record for the fewest days worked by a U.S. Congress (just 93), seemed to spend more of that time dealing with scandals including Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, Randy Cunningham and Mark Foley than to passing meaningful legislation of any kind. And much of the time in session was spent grandstanding; the Senate, for example, slated 10 hours of debate on the detainee bill vs. three days for debate on the Marriage Protection Amendment.

No oversight

They have failed to use their oversight powers to address the dangerous overextension of the American military as a result of the war in Iraq.

In this, as in practically every area, they have been utterly co-opted by the administration.

It’s no wonder polls show only a 16 percent favorable rating for Congress.

And it should be obvious that the need for a change in that august body’s makeup takes precedence over almost all other considerations.

His voting record shows that Taylor, a wealthy 65-year-old who owns thousands of acres of land in the district along with banks here and in Russia, is part of the problem.

Taylor has supported the president’s tax policy; he voted for the detainee bill and the Patriot Act reauthorization.

And, though most of Taylor’s earmarks for WNC have been cost-effective, his support for the North Shore “road to nowhere” in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park cannot be justified at a projected cost of $600 million and attendant environmental damage.

Shuler, a native of Swain County where the road would be built, opposes the project.

Leadership qualities

Although Shuler, 34, brings no political experience, he has a charismatic leadership style that could make him a force in Congress. A businessman and former professional football player, he was a national spokesman for Character Counts, an organization dedicated to character education for young people, during and after his football career.

Unlike some previous Democrats who opposed Taylor, Shuler is a moderate who more accurately reflects a district where Democrats hold the majority, but Republicans generally win national races. Like Taylor, he supports the Second Amendment and opposes abortion.

On other issues, the candidates have similar positions, as well. Both oppose amnesty for immigrants in the country illegally, and both support developing new industries and jobs.

There are differences, however. Taylor favors leaving decisions about when to withdraw from Iraq to military leaders.

Shuler says the status quo is unacceptable and supports setting clear benchmarks to measure success.

A difference outdoors

Shuler, a hunter and outdoorsman, places a strong emphasis on protecting the environment.

Taylor is on the bi-partisan League of Conservation Voters list of “Dirty Dozen” for his poor environmental voting record. The Humane Society of the United States is also targeting Taylor for his poor voting record on animal issues.

Over the past few years, Western North Carolina, hard hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs, desperately needed a Congressman with the clout to secure federal funding to help rescue our economy.

To his credit, Taylor worked with the business community and with local colleges and universities on numerous projects to do that.

A Wall Street Journal story accuses Taylor of securing funding for some road projects that benefited him personally, and that may be true, but they benefited the region as well.

But the overriding issue in this election is the need for a change in direction for the nation.

Taylor represents more of the same.

Shuler represents hope for something better.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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