Rep. Jeff Flake (R, Arizona) performs one the most outstanding acts of human decency I’ve seen in politics in my lifetime

I looked and looked for a video of these touching moments to share with you if you didn’t catch Tuesday night’s State of the Union, but I couldn’t find one. So I’m sharing this video as an introduction. You can see Congressman Flake at Giffords’ left in the first half of the video below.

Last year’s State of the Union found Arizona Republican Representative Jeff Flake sitting next to Representative Gabby Gifford’s empty seat as she struggled for her life in the aftermath of the shooting. So this year he reports being delighted to be able to – as advocated for – sit in a bipartisan fashion next to his colleague. Throughout the speech, Rep. Giffords stood up with her Democratic party at the appropriate Democratic applause lines.

And each time she did, it was Representative Flake who both helped her to her feet and helped her sit back down again. He was, many times that night, the only Republican in the chamber standing.

“She knew when she wanted to stand up,” Flake told Yahoo News. “And I stood when she stood.”

Matt Miller: The third-party stump speech we need

“I want to raise your taxes, cut spending on programs you like, and force you to rethink how we run our schools, banks, armies, hospitals and elections. And I want you to cheer when I’m done.” Read the whole excellent article online at The Washington Post (This one is so good that we’ve added it to our Village Square Library…)

Howard Schultz: “A stunning lack of leadership & courage throughout Washington”

This morning Starbucks has announced some interesting community partnerships that will profit-share in neighborhoods like Harlem and the Bronx. We just mentioned Starbucks yesterday with news that its CEO Howard Schultz was recommending that companies consider sitting out this election cycle until the kids in Washington start behaving like grownups. What an interesting turn of events this would be: Our elected leaders stop leading and our companies stop funding their expensive campaigns to keep the jobs they aren’t doing; take the money and lead themselves… Check out the initiative at

Even Starbucks is annoyed

September 2011

Dear Starbucks Friend and Fellow Citizen:

I love our country. And I am a beneficiary of the promise of America. But today, I am very concerned that at times I do not recognize the America that I love.

Like so many of you, I am deeply disappointed by the pervasive failure of leadership in Washington. And also like you, I am frustrated by our political leaders’ steadfast refusal to recognize that, for every day they perpetuate partisan conflict and put ideology over country, America and Americans suffer from the combined effects of paralysis and uncertainty. Americans can’t find jobs. Small businesses can’t get credit. And the fracturing of consumer confidence continues.

We are better than this.

Three weeks ago, I asked fellow business leaders to join me in urging the President and the Congress to put an end to partisan gridlock and, in its place, to set in motion an upward spiral of confidence. More than 100 business leaders representing American companies – large and small – joined me in signing a two-part pledge:

First, to withhold political campaign contributions until a transparent, comprehensive, bipartisan debt-and-deficit package is reached that honestly, and fairly, sets America on a path to long-term financial health and security. Second, to do all we can to break the cycle of economic uncertainty that grips our country by committing to accelerate investment in jobs and hiring.

In the weeks since then, I have been overwhelmed by the heartfelt stories of Americans from across the country, sharing their anguish over losing hope in the strongest and most galvanizing force of all – the American Dream. Some feel they have no voice. Others feel they no longer matter. And many feel they have been left behind.

We cannot let this stand.

Please join other concerned Americans and me on a national call-in conversation on Tuesday September 6th hosted by “No Labels,” a nonpartisan organization dedicated to fostering cooperative and more effective government. To learn more about the forum and the pledges, visit

America is at a fragile and critical moment in its history. We must restore hope in the American Dream. We must celebrate all that America stands for around the world. And while our Founding Fathers recognized the constructive value of political debate, we must send the message to today’s elected officials in a civil, respectful voice they hear and understand, that the time to put citizenship ahead of partisanship is now.

Yours is the voice that can help ignite the contagious upward spiral of confidence that our country desperately needs.

With great respect,

Howard Shultz

chief executive officer, Starbucks Coffee Company


(Thanks to – who else but – Lea Marshall)

Ross Douthat: A Requiem for Huckabee

Noting that “we live in an age of economic stagnation and social crisis, and the two are intimately connected,” Ross Douthat wrote this about the end of Mike Huckabee’s 2012 presidential prospects in The New York Times:

He’ll be missed because he embodied a political persuasion that’s common in American life but rare in America’s political class. This worldview mixes cultural conservatism with economic populism: it’s tax-sensitive without being stridently antigovernment, skeptical of Wall Street as well as Washington, and as concerned about immigration, family breakdown and public morals as it is about the debt ceiling.

This combination of views represents one of the plausible middle grounds in American politics.

Read the whole article HERE. Hat tip to Bill Mattox for sending it our way.

Differences in liberal vs. conservative brain stucture found

A British study released Thursday in Current Biology further supports theories that there far more to political difference than just who we vote for. It’s already been shown that there are differing levels of brain activity in the amygdala and upper brain cortex in liberals and conservatives, but apparently there is also a difference in the size of each part of the brain. Conservatives have more brain mass in their amygdala, the region of the brain associated with fear. Liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex which is associated with managing uncertainty and conflict. It’s anybody’s guess as to whether the political bent affected the size of the brain region or if the brain differences started the whole shebang. It continues to be our assertion that it’s understanding where people are coming from – differences in brain and all – that makes all the difference in having a constructive civic dialogue with them. Read all »

University of Arizona slated to open National Institute for Civil Discourse

“Former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush will serve as honorary chairmen of a new center at the University of Arizona that will focus on civility in political debate, university officials will announce Monday.”

“The National Institute for Civil Discourse – a nonpartisan center for debate, research, education and policy about civility in public discourse – will open Monday in Tucson. It was created in the aftermath of the Jan. 8 shootings in the city where six people were killed and 13 injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.)…” Read the entire Washington Post article HERE.

Ron Sachs Communications: The Rules of Civil Political Disagreement

Kudos to Michelle Ubben of Ron Sachs Communications this morning for demonstrating leadership in proposing specific (and smart) rules we should follow in our civic conversation:

In a recent Facebook exchange, the Collins Center’s Tony Carvajal and I were bemoaning the lack of civility in modern political discourse. I suggested that what’s needed now is a Hoyle’s for Civility that outlines what’s fair and what scores below the belt.

I invite everyone who is tired of the current climate of rhetorical distortion and hate politics to weigh in and suggest what the Rules of Civil Political Disagreement should be. Here are a few thoughts to get us started (read them – and please take a moment to add your thinking HERE).

Imagine if Michelle’s “Hoyle’s for Civility” became the civic gold standard… we might just solve a problem or two.

Clinton + Bush

Larry King interviewed George H.W. and Barbara Bush last night – an interview I’d highly recommend you catch if you can see it in its entirety (I think they replay over the weekend). Most Americans will hear the sound byte of Mrs. Bush zinging Sarah Palin that managed to make our daily media do-loop, but here’s what we thought was the relevant news:

President George H.W. Bush: “I have a very good personal relationship with [Bill Clinton].

Larry King: (to Barbara Bush) “What do you think of his relationship with Bill?” Read all »

Authentic Patriotism: “In this nation’s origins lie the essential elements for its renewal”

On this July 4th, I’m reading Authentic Patriotism by Stephen P. Kiernan. You should too. Here’s Kiernan about the origins of this very day, 243 years ago:

The colonists rebelled not only to free themselves from the yoke of British rule but also in order to reject the stratification of British society. They fought to bring to life one of the Enlightenment’s highest ideals: a new and nobler definition of what a human being is.

According to progressive thinkers of the eighteenth century, people did not need to bow to someone whose sole claim to superiority over them was birth… In the New World, in other words, merit alone would count. A man should advance not because of which family he was born into I but by virtue of his intellect, character, exertion, and luck.

Kiernan writes about what transpired in the spring of 1776 in New York Habor:

There George Washington and the fledgling colonial army had gathered after an unexpected victory in Boston. At the time the colonies did not possess a navy, not even a single ship. To demonstrate his power, the king sent warships to New York that May and June, foremost among them the sixty-four gun HMS Asia. Soon the British added two fifty-gun ships, the Centurion and Chatham, then the Phoenix with its forty guns, next the thirty-gun Greyhound with an army general aboard. These ships also bore tens of thousands of troops. The king then added the Rose, as well as the Eagle-another sixty-four-gun ship, this one commanded by the fearsome Admiral Lord Richard Howe. Colonists spied five lore ships arriving one day, eight another, twenty another. By late June the harbor and its outer reaches were crammed with some four hundred ships, including seventy-three warships and eight ships of the line with fifty or more guns each. It was the largest military force ever dispatched by any nation on earth.

And what did the colonists do that July? How did they reply to his terrifying display of power and glory?

They declared their independence. They cataloged their grievances, explained their reasons, and announced their permanent separation from Great Britain. The bonds were dissolved, the ropes that tied the colonists to the monarchy permanently cut.

It was not mere impudence that this act of rebellion displayed. It was character. It was determination. The king had failed to realize that every step he took to suppress the colonists, to intimidate them, to reinforce their inferiority, only invigorated their growing conception of what a human being is.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn does Village Square

Senator Tom Coburn (R- OK) made comments in a town hall last week with a little bit of something for everyone. For The Village Square, Republican Coburn stuck up for rival Democrat Nancy Pelosi, calling her “a nice lady” to a crowd that didn’t want to hear that.

But what was most interesting was to watch the coverage of different aspects of Coburn’s town hall depending on which network covered it.

At The Village Square we have observed an attendance pattern at events: People tend to come to the forum that interests them, therefore we get more conservatives when we talk taxes and and more liberals when we talk environment. We’d like to reverse the trend, for the sake of improving the civic dialogue. So… in that spirit, please note the reading instructions for this blog post:

For Republicans, please read this:

“What we have to have is make sure we have a debate in this country so that you can see what’s going on and make a determination yourself,” the Oklahoma senator said in remarks to a home-state town hall meeting… “So don’t catch yourself being biased by FOX News that somebody is no good. The people in Washington are good. They just don’t know what they don’t know.”

“I want to tell you, I do a lot of reading every day and I’m disturbed that we get things… that are so disconnected from what I know to be the facts. And that comes from somebody that has an agenda that’s other than the best interest of our country. And so please balance and be careful.”

And here is the reading assignment for Democrats:

“The motivation is not to fix health care,” Coburn told about 40 people at the Miami Civic Center. “The motivation is to put the federal government in charge of health care.

“This sounds somewhat paranoid, but I think they know this is going to fail,” he said. “Then they can say, ‘See, the government needs to be in charge of all prices doctors (charge) at all levels.’?”

Rigging the system to fail will pave the way for “single-payer, government-run, rationed health care,” he said.

(Photo credit.)

Good behavior (on bad behavior) duly noted

As details of the expose on John Edwards’ train wreck (and oh my this is an epic train wreck) come out from Andrew Young’s book The Politician, it’s worth noting that I haven’t heard one peep from the GOP trying to tie Edwards to President Obama and the Democratic party in general. Apparently they’ve suspended “politics as usual” on this one, for which we should all be eternally grateful.

Too often we notice the transgressions, but I believe it’s worth noting the moments of real decency. We found one.

Go figure.

(Editorial comment: Citizens should be on guard for the corrupting nature of fame and power in their leaders on both sides of the aisle. To pretend that this is the exclusive territory of one or the other party – which one entirely related to which one you’re in – is just silly.)

(Photo credit.)

“There’s no Republican way to collect garbage”


On tonight’s Hardball, Chris Matthews, when discussing Judd Gregg bowing out of consideration for Commerce Secretary, referred to former New York Mayor John Lindsay (R), who according to Matthews said “there’s no Republican way to collect garbage.”

A wise man clearly ahead of his time.

(To my dear friend Anne: 1. Fact check, just like old times 2. More wise John Lindsay quotes 3. I remembered I always got the Ann vs. Anne wrong so I worked hard to get it right)