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Interviews With Joe Tegerdine and U.S. Representative Gene Taylor

Tegerdine and Taylor Discuss 2010 Elections, Issues

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
May 2010, Volume 86, No. 7

The 2010 midterm elections are shaping up to produce heated contests all across the nation that could drastically change the political landscape this November. One of those races may well take place in Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District, which includes Gulfport, Biloxi, Hattiesburg and Laurel.

Several candidates have stepped up to challenge incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, who has occupied his seat for more than 20 years. One of those challengers is businessman Joe Tegerdine who resides with his family in Petal. Taylor and Tegerdine both took time to speak to “The Radionian” about the election, their positions on the issues, and their visions for America’s future.

Congressional Candidate Joe Tegerdine (R-Mississippi)

“There’s a lesson to be learned from winning and there’s a lesson to be learned from losing. I have learned valuable lessons from both. That’s life.” Photo by Ashton Pittman

One year ago, Joe Tegerdine was virtually unknown in South Mississippi. Today, most favor him to win the June 1st primary for the Republican nomination to the 4th District’s U.S. Representative Seat.

Tegerdine said that his campaign began last year after he involved himself with the local Tea Party group, with whom he attended an April 2009 Town Hall meeting held by Taylor. Tegerdine said that during the meeting, he and Taylor had a heated exchange.

“People were cheering after I spoke,” said Tegerdine. “Immediately, someone tapped me on my shoulder and said ‘Hey, have you thought about running for office?’”

At the time, Tegerdine had only considered getting involved in politics at an older age. However, over the following weeks, he made a decision after finding himself troubled by national events.

“It was the realization that if I didn’t do something today, then I would not have the country I grew up in to pass to my children,” he said.

Tegerdine entered the race with business experience, a bachelor’s degree in communications, and a juris doctorate, but he lacked political experience. He considers that a positive.

“I truly believe that if we are going to put our country back on the right track, average, everyday Americans have to take the country back from career politicians,” he said.

Tegerdine believes that one of the biggest problems in American politics is the propensity for career politicians to be continuously reelected with the aid of special interest groups. He plans to champion an amendment that would limit U.S. Senators to two terms and U.S. Representatives to four terms. He has pledged to serve no more than four terms if elected.

As a Congressman, he would also like to work to wean Americans off dependency on entitlement programs that he believes will eventually bankrupt our economy. He related his story of being raised with four siblings by a single mom and the struggles they faced.

“She justifiably needed some help,” he said, “but I firmly believe that kind of help needs to come from your family, your church, your charitable organizations, and the very last option would be your community.”

He disagrees with critics who have alleged that he seeks to cut the lifelines of the needy.

“I believe that if we take the federal government out of the equation, people will start being more charitable again and families will take responsibility for their ailing or disabled family members,” Tegerdine said. “I think it’s a fallacy and a lie to think that just because the federal government isn’t there with a handout that somehow we would lose our humanity and not take care of each other. I think that we are starting to lose our humanity because we have just allowed the government to take care of our loved ones.”

Tegerdine also takes a family-based approach to education.

“We’ve got to find a way in our country to reengage parents in their children’s education,” he said, adding that parents, not federal bureaucracy, are the key to our children’s education.

He disagrees with educational programs that insulate children from failure.

“There’s a lesson to be learned from winning and there’s a lesson to be learned from losing,” he said. “I have learned valuable lessons from both. That’s life.”

Congressman Gene Taylor (D-Mississippi)

Station Gulfport Ribbon Cutting

“I wish everyone had been as concerned about the national debt as I have been. You can’t spend more, collect less, and pretend it’s going to work.” Photo by uspcgpress of Flickr.

Congressman Gene Taylor has served as the Mississippi’s 4th district U.S. Representative since his initial election in 1989. While the anti-incumbent mood is causing concern for some incumbents, Taylor is not worried.

“People have been running against me for 20 years,” he laughed.

He disagrees with Joe Tegerdine’s idea on term limits.

“I oppose them,” he said. “We already have term limits—elections.”

He also dismissed criticism levied against him by opponents accusing him of supporting Nancy Pelosi.

“That’s an election that took place in San Francisco,” he said. Taylor believes that his record will show him to be on the side of the American people, not fellow politicians.

Some have suggested that his ability to hold this Seat for 20 years in one of the nation’s most Republican districts is remarkable. His success in the 4th District may be largely due to his willingness to embrace conservatism. He emphatically describes himself as a “very conservative Democrat.”

However, his party has moved to the left over the past year, with lavish stimulus packages and a liberal healthcare reform bill. Even so, Taylor does not place the blame solely on his party.

“I wish everyone had been as concerned about the national debt as I have been,” he said. “You can’t spend more, collect less, and pretend it’s going to work.”

Taylor said that he has been concerned about federal spending under both Democrat and Republican presidents.

When it comes to the recently passed health care reform bill, the only question for Taylor is whether it should be repealed or amended.

“I would prefer to repeal it,” he explained. “I guess it’s going to depend upon the makeup of the Congress in January.”

He does not believe, however, that the bill is entirely bad.

“Some provisions are worthwhile,” he said, pointing to the portion that bars insurance companies from discriminating against those who have pre-existing conditions.

Even so, he believes that bulk of the bill is bad policy that will only add to the national debt.

Taylor conceded that tackling the national debt crisis will not be easy.

“It’s going to be very difficult,” said Taylor.

He explained that the ongoing wars in the Middle East, programs like Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and an aging population are all complicating the problem.

“This is why we don’t need to make any new promises,” Taylor said.

When it comes to paying off the debt, Taylor does not rule out the possibility of raising taxes.

“There will have to be some changes,” he said. “If we’re going to be at war, then we ought to be willing to pay for that war right now. Any program worth doing is worth paying for right now.”

Taylor offered advice for college students who may feel discouraged by the woes facing our country.

“Read history,” he said. “When you read history, you realize that every generation of Americans has had significant challenges.”

Whether it was the people who had to weather the Great Depression and World War II, or those who had to serve in Korea and Vietnam, Taylor said each generation of Americans has risen to meet its challenges.

“I intend to help us to face these challenges and to protect the freedoms and liberties we cherish so that we can leave a better place for our children and grandchildren,” Taylor said.

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Exploitation of Race Card Destructive to America

Exploitation of Race Card Destructive to America

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
May 2010, Volume 86, No. 7

A year and a half after we elected our first non-white President, the race card continues to play a shameful role in American politics. It seems almost impossible to criticize legitimately the President’s decisions without enduring accusations of racism. If anything, racial accusations have become even more prominent than before.

The latest issue to draw racial ire is Arizona’s immigration bill, SB1070. The bill allows law enforcement to verify the status of people reasonably suspected of being illegal immigrants.

Since being signed into law, it has met a firestorm of controversy. Politicians and pundits from across the nation have been quick to inject race into the mix, suggesting that the bill mandates racial profiling.

In a piece entitled “The Arizona of 2010 is the Alabama of 1963,” The Huffington Post’s Robert Creamer argued that the law will result in attacks against Hispanics akin to those perpetrated against civil rights marchers. Others have likened the law to the segregationist Jim Crow laws.

The immediate move to play the race card disregards the facts in favor of brash hysteria. The bill states, “The attorney general or county attorney general shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin.”

The truth is that illegal immigrants are responsible for a large amount of crime in Arizona, including drug trafficking, theft, violence and even murder. For the protection of its citizens, it was necessary for Arizona to pass a bill that would allow it to enforce its immigration laws.

The law is not about race; despite the fact that 76 percent of illegal aliens are Hispanic, the bill specifically disallows racial profiling. As bill sponsor Russell Pearce said, “Illegal is not a race; it’s a crime.”

Frankly, those who default to the race card anytime their beliefs are challenged represent an appalling form of intellectual cowardice. By marginalizing those with whom they disagree, they divert attention from the actual issue and avoid ever having to qualify the merits of their own position.

They also “divide and conquer” by encouraging people to vote along ethnic and racial lines. Perhaps they are the true modern day segregationists.

Exploitation of race for political gain is destructive. Its anti-intellectual nature undermines healthy debate and births racial animosity that did not exist prior. Most unfortunately, it diminishes the sufferings of all those who have ever truly faced the harsh reality of racism.

Out of respect for common decency, it is incumbent upon Americans of all colors to reject the gross abuse of the race argument, reserving it only for those times when it is plainly warranted. When that day comes, we can begin to engage in a national dialogue that exhibits some semblance of integrity.

Philanthropy Promotes Small Government

Editorial
Philanthropy Promotes Small Government

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
May 2010, Volume 86, No. 7

Americans share an inherited desire for independence and small government. At the same time, several generations of transformative social welfare programs have caused us to adapt to an expanded view of the role of government in our lives. The clash of these two ideals evokes in us a curious contradiction; even as our classic American spirits resist the threat of emboldened bureaucracy, our acquired taste for public assistance begs for more.
This contradiction manifests itself in our daily lives. An American citizen will drive by a dilapidated building on a street peppered with potholes and ask himself, “Why hasn’t the government fixed this?” Moments later, he will come upon a traffic stop where a homeless man with a cardboard sign begs for food. “How can our government allow this to happen in America?” he will wonder, shaking his head, before continuing his drive to work. Later on, he will ask another question: “Why is the government taking so much of my hard-earned money in taxes?”
He, like most Americans, will fail to see the irony.
The tax question represents a growing concern among Americans. Rasmussen Reports shows that 66 percent of Americans believe themselves to be overtaxed. Meanwhile, Gallup polling reports that 63 percent of Americans expect a tax increase over the next 12 months. On April 15, hundreds of thousands across the nation demonstrated their concern at the Tax Day Tea Party protests.
However, as long as we cling to the notion that government alone is responsible for supplying all our basic needs, we should expect no different; low taxes and expanded government duty are two competing ideals that are wholly irreconcilable.
Instead of only complaining and protesting, perhaps we should also be consistent; if we choose to complain about high taxes, then we should also be willing to take up jobs that the government has not. We can do this by volunteering our time, effort, and if at all possible, money to community projects and restoration efforts. Instead of asking why the government has not taken care of needy families and individuals, we should offer compassion at our own initiative. Simple gestures of good will and assistance go a long way.
We can also aid in lessening the burden of social programs by supporting charities and volunteer groups that build homes, provide healthcare, feed the hungry, fund scholarships, aid in adoptions, and give children the opportunity to receive quality educations.
In America, we can argue over taxes and the role of government all day long. However, one thing we can all do to promote lower taxes is to prove to our government that we are not only self-sufficient, but also more than willing to help our fellow man. Where philanthropy exists, tax money and bureaucracy are not needed.

Interview With MS State Senator Chris McDaniel

McDaniel Discusses ‘Nathan’s Law,’ Economy

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
February 2010, Volume 86, No. 4

Recently, Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) of the 42nd District, a JCJC alumni, spoke to The Radionian about issues that lawmakers in Jackson are currently dealing with. McDaniel offered insight into several of these issues and shared some of his thoughts.

One topic of particular interest to Jones County residents is Nathan’s Law, a school bus safety bill that McDaniel formally introduced in January.
“Nathan’s Law is pretty special to me because of the genesis of the act,” he said, referring to the death of North Jones Elementary kindergarten student Nathan Key, who was killed in December after a driver failed to yield to a stopped school bus. “It’s probably one of the most horrible things that’s happened here in a long time.”
The bill creates harsher penalties, enacts a curriculum to teach about school bus safety, and demands that drivers be tested. “There are school bus laws in other states, and we researched many of those laws in compiling Nathan’s Law,” said McDaniel, “but we believe this one is the most comprehensive.”
Turning to the state’s economy, McDaniel offered a somewhat grim assessment of the situation, citing a very difficult budget year. “The reality is that we are about $400 million behind our anticipated revenue for this year, and there’s absolutely no end in sight, no clear economic indicators that this recession is over. So we have to assume that it will be equally bad if not worse for next year. It’s the result of a worldwide recession that we did not cause and wish would end.”
He made it clear, however, that education reamins a priority despite the recession. “First and foremost, for [Jones Country Junior College], we’re trying to see that JCJC receives the funding it needs to operate without costing any jobs and to make sure it can do its job efficiently.”
When asked about comments made by some in the Obama administration that “everybody agrees that the recession is over” and we are now in a recovery, not a recession, McDaniel was blunt. “That’s just political posturing,” he said, “They’ve lied to us before and I think they’re lying to us again.”
He said that the Obama administration’s policies weren’t helping, either. “When people are uncertain about the future, they stop spending, and frankly Barack Obama and his administration, by pushing nationalized healthcare and pushing our spending to historic levels, is creating uncertainty and people aren’t spending.”
He said that while Mississippi lawmakers are working to find ways to ensure that that the most needy and vulnerable are covered “while getting the waste and abuse out of the system,” the cloud of chaos in Washington looms heavily over Jackson, making it very hard for Mississippi lawmakers to take action to improve our own health care and economic conditions.
“The debt and proposal of new taxes in the future weighs on our minds heavily. We know the federal government has gotten way too large and has taxed us way to much, which makes it almost impossible for Mississippi to tax its citizens. I am not going to support a tax increase, period. We’re taxed way too much and too often. Now is not the time to burden families and businesses; they need to operate.”

Education Crisis Calls for Practical Reforms

Editorial
Education Crisis Calls for Practical Reforms

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
April 2010, Volume 86, No. 6

States across the nation, Mississippi included, are facing budget cuts, and education is not immune. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour made that clear in his State of the State Address by declaring that “no sacred cows” will be left untouched. Understandably, many are upset. At a time when our education system demands improvement, funding cuts do not help. However, national and local leaders would be wise to also understand that dropping money on the problem is not enough.
Change can still be enacted to arm the next generation for success and make us competitive on the world stage once more. To accomplish this, America must return to the practices that enabled some of the greatest minds of the 20th century.
In a column earlier this year entitled “Black Opportunity Destruction”, economist Walter Williams recounted his experience in the 1950s at a high school composed mostly of minorities and low-income students. “Despite that fact that we were poor,” he wrote, “most of Franklin’s teachers held fairly high standards and expectations.” He lamented that in today’s environment, such universally high standards and expectations can mean trouble for teachers.
In America, this should not be. Students should not be hindered by what President George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of low expectations”; no child should be presumed any less capable of meeting challenging demands than another on the basis of race, gender, or economic status. Perhaps, in this one instance, 1950s America understood better than today’s progressive America that pigment and poverty need not determine potential. By granting all students the courtesy of high expectations once more, we can end the practice of “soft bigotry” and culture a generation of achievers who necessitate less funding for remedial programs and gimmicks.
Similarly, many would argue that teachers ought to also be held to higher standards; that is true. But the most significant influence on a child’s education should come from the home. Parents should not be satisfied that their children attain passing grades, but proactively insistent that their children learn in the process. Public policy can go a long way, but the greatest impact on a child’s success will often be his or her parents, for good or for ill.
Education can be improved in ways that not only require less money, but do so without cutting faculty or character-building programs like athletics, band, and drama. Short changing our educational system of money is no solution, but all the money in the world will not excuse short changing our children of knowledge. Equipping them to be worthy stewards of this great nation, after all, should be our primary focus.

Victory Emerges in Iraq

Victory Emerges in Iraq

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
April 2010, Volume 86, No. 6

Seven years have passed since Operation Iraqi Freedom first began. At the time, President Bush declared that Iraqi democracy would succeed and “send forth the news from Damascus to Tehran that freedom can be the future of every generation.”
Today, democracy is emerging in Iraq as more progressive values begin to flourish. In the recent parliamentary election, a determined electorate braved threats of violent retaliation to make their voices heard. Women now enjoy more freedoms than ever before. Millions of children now have access to a vastly improved educational system, an advent that will make indoctrinating them into radical ideologies more difficult for Islamists. Also, even as Americans continue to fiercely debate healthcare reform, millions of Iraqis now have the opportunity to access healthcare for the first time.
Everyone knows that the journey to this point has not been easy. As the war drug on, many in Congress and the media who once supported the effort turned on it. By the time Bush was up for reelection in 2004, the war was already a campaign issue; his opponent, John Kerry, advocated a total withdrawal of troops. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shocked the nation in 2007 when he declared that U.S. had lost the war. A wearied American public turned against the war and Bush’s lofty vision of a free Iraq became an object of derision and ridicule.
Today, thanks heavily to the successful 2007 troop surge, Operation Iraqi Freedom has finally ended, succeeded by Operation New Dawn. A more victorious America now has the chance to reevaluate the effort without the volatile emotions that occur in the midst of battle.
The first step in reevaluating the war should be to dispel the many myths and fabrications that have long plagued the effort. The most popular of these myths is the theory that the war was a ploy to steal Iraq’s vast oil supply. No evidence exists to back up this allegation; the same kind of oil distribution system that has been used in Iraq for decades is still in place, and the U.S. is not benefiting from it. The only difference is that profits will now go to the government of the Iraqi people instead of Saddam Hussein.
Another widely spread misconception is that Bush violated international laws in launching the war, making it an illegal war. Some in the Obama administration even once considered prosecuting the Bush administration for war crimes. Again, this is simply untrue. The Gulf War that the United Nations authorized in 1990 was suspended in 1992 following a cease fire, but not ended. In 2002, a U.N. resolution determined that Hussein had violated the terms of the cease fire agreement due to his refusal to comply with U.N. weapons inspectors. The resolution meant that the Gulf War was essentially reactivated; any member state that felt threatened was then given the right to take action. Thereafter, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly approved authorization to take action against Hussein’s regime. Operation Iraqi Freedom was a continuation of the initial Gulf War, and it was in total compliance with national and international law.
The chant that arose among the anti-war crowd, “Bush lied, people died,” is also based upon a false premise. It supposes that in making the case for the Iraq war, Bush lied or exaggerated the threat of Hussein obtaining or possessing weapons of mass destruction. The problem with this criticism is that those claims were not new. Throughout the 90’s, President Clinton warned about Hussein’s intent to obtain nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. In 1998, Clinton launched an airstrike on Iraq in an attempt to destroy Hussein’s WMD program. “If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond,” Clinton said at the time, “we will face a far greater threat in the future . . . And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction.” While it is true that U.S. forces have not found fully-developed WMDs in Iraq, they have found evidence of attempts or plans to produce them. Five-hundred tons of yellowcake uranium, a key ingredient in enriching uranium for the production of WMDs, have been found since 2003. Neither Bush or Clinton lied.
Finally, for those who oppose the Iraq war because they believe it violates human rights, perhaps they should consider Hussein’s Iraq. His Iraq tortured dissidents with acid baths, bone-crushing, dismemberment, and imprisonment inside coffin-sized cells. His Iraq punished men for crimes by raping their wives, sisters, and daughters before their eyes. His Iraq committed genocide against hundreds of thousands of its own citizens and disposed of them in mass graves.
If anything, the lasting legacy of the U.S. effort in Iraq will be that it liberated over 60 million people from tyranny. At the same time, it dealt a major psychological blow to Islamist terrorist networks; by proving that a brutal regime could be overturned and replaced with a thriving democracy in Iraq, the U.S. showed that it was possible to override centuries of violence and oppression in the Middle East, setting the stage for a more tolerant future Middle East. For years, people laughed at Bush’s claim that the “establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be watershed event in the global democratic revolution.” No one is laughing now.
As Bush’s prediction comes true, it becomes more evident that he was a visionary leader ahead of his time. Maybe it is finally time to recognize that, in Iraq, the final verdict will be “mission accomplished!”

Editorial: Americans Angry at National Leaders (Mar. 2010)

Editorial
Americans Angry at National Leaders

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
March 2010, Volume 86, No. 5

The idea that elected officials in Washington are not operating as they should is not a new concept in American politics. However, that consensus is at an all time high. Rasmussen Reports indicates that voter dissatisfaction with Congress recently reached a record high.

A striking 71 percent of respondents said that Congress is doing a ‘poor’ job and only one percent said ‘excellent.’ Yet while independent and Republican voters were the most likely to give Congress low ratings, 48 percent of Democrats, whose part commands a majority in both houses, also said Congress was doing a poor job. The executive branch also received less than stellar ratings, with the president’s approval rating falling to 44 percent approving and 55 percent disapproving.

With the 2010 elections on the horizon, senators and representatives are retiring from Congress in droves. Fully ten percent of the Senate intends to sit out the next election. Some fear a massacre at the voting booths in November, while others are leaving out of frustration.

What does this mean for the American people? For those ‘leaders’ who have ears to hear, the American people are speaking loudly and clearly. If they truly are leaders, then the time has come for them start leading. They should stop lying about their desires for bipartisanship, even as they turn around and fight their political opponents tooth-and-nail without rhyme or reason.

They should stop stalling progress for their own political gain. For that matter, they should not support ‘progress’ that is not really progress just for the sake of being able to claim that their side “got there first.” It is time for them to restore the dignity that was lost as they devolved into what essentially amounts to ‘playground politics.’

Otherwise, if the people Americans once trusted to represent them cannot cease their adolescent ways and bring the change and progress they always talk about during election seasons, maybe it is time the American people wiped the slate clean and expelled all 535 of them from office.

That would certainly be a change.

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