Monday, September 4, 2006

Colorado candidate stands behind bizarre proposal

Last week when a strange proposal came to light made by Colorado congressional candidate, Rick O’Donnell, requiring all male high school seniors forgo their last semester of school to perform compulsory service guarding the US border with Mexico or patrolling vulnerable seaports, one would have thought the former head of the Colorado Department of Higher Education would try to put some positive spin on the debacle.

But that's not the case with O'Donnell. Using some peculiarly convoluted logic, the Conservative Republican running in the 7th CD is now defending his proposal claiming he somehow got the idea from Democrats like Bill and Hilary Clinton.


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First advocating his plan in a Jan. 3, 2004 Denver Post article titled, "A New Rite of Passage," O'Donnell proposed that "since more than 25 percent of Colorado men drop out before the 12th grade, and for those who remain it is a blow-off year," their time would be better spent if “after the first semester of 12th grade, all young men in America (did) six months of service. …Young men could have a choice of where to serve, such as homeland security, armed forces or community service. After a basic-training type orientation, they would be given various duties in sore need of attention: securing our border with Mexico; thinning our national forests to reduce fire risk; providing homeland security at ports and other vulnerable locations.”

His op-ed stated a litany of educational failures like the fact that less than half of Colorado's sixth- grade boys pass the writing CSAP compared to 62% of girls; that in the tenth-grade close to forty percent of boys fail the reading CSAP; and the staggering drop-out rate of 25% as reasons that a program was needed to ensure that "young men would do something productive for their country, rather than drop out of school or waste time in 12th grade."

Certainly this would seem a strange argument coming from the man who according to his campaign website, "designed Colorado's nationally top-ranked accountability system for K-12 schools. (and) developed 'Read to Achieve' to ensure that no student leaves fourth grade without basic literacy skills." One would think the former education chief wouldn't want to highlight such failures as a rationale for his proposal...but much of what O'Donnell says defies logic.

When O’Donnells’ opponent, Democrat Ed Perlemutter went to town on his proposal calling it dangerous, absurd and bizarre, the Republican fired back with a press release that was almost as peculiar as the first proposal.

His defense …. Democrats have long proposed national community service for young adults, and he's just following their lead.

But what Mr. O’Donnell failed to see in his defense of his outlandish proposal was that although some Democrats have in fact called for increased voluntary national service, their vision and his seem as different as night and day.

This fact could not escape even the most cursory reading of the quotes he chose to use in his press release.

Quoting from a book titled"The AmeriCorps Experiment and the Future of National Service" published by Washington think tank, The Progressive Policy Institute, O'Donnell bases his "Clinton would do it too" defense on statements like this:


The first and most compelling reason for expansion ( of Americorp) is to match the scale of America 's unmet needs. Our country's "social deficit" is as daunting as our fiscal deficit. Compared with other rich countries the United States has very high rates of poverty (especially among children), out-of-wedlock births, and youth violence, as well as a wide racial and ethnic gap in educational achievement. Add to these enduring social problems the new challenges presented by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the baby boom's retirement, and you have a "to do" list that overwhelms government's current capacities. We need to mobilize the nation's civic resources more broadly to tackle such urgent priorities as:

  • Tutoring and mentoring disadvantaged children, especially those from broken families and those with parents in prison.


  • Providing long-term care and other help for the elderly to help America age successfully as the baby boomers retire.


  • Protecting our homeland against terrorist attacks.

  • Sharing the burden of military service to our country


  • Despite the fact that the book excerpt that O'Donnel chose to quote, clearly notes that only "One of the book's contributors, William A. Galston, even suggests making national service compulsory, like the wartime draft." And that "Marshall and Magee, in the chapter excerpted...argue for keeping the program voluntary, but using the Selective Service System as one of its recruiting devices." O'Donnell's spokesman uses the quote to claim that "the Democratic Leadership Council strongly advocates something very similar to what Rick proposed in his article."

    Additionally, O'Donnell fails to see any difference between asking young people (including women) to serve their country by helping address "enduring social problems" like poverty, racial and ethnic inequities in education, helping un-wed mothers or providing care to the elderly and his plan requiring 17 and 18 year old kids to serve as guards along the Mexican border preventing economic refugees from entering the country to find work.

    Clearly O'Donnell's strange defense of his bizarre proposal seems odd coming from the Club for Growth endorsed candidate. I'm sure this is one of the first times a candidate who's supposed to favor free market economics and smaller government is advocating for a huge government make-work program on the grounds that he believes that's what Bill Clinton would want him to do.

    Since Mr.O'Donnell fails to post his press releases on-line at his website, it's reprinted in it's entirety below




    ------PRESS RELEASE --------

    For Immediate Release

    Tues, Aug 29, 2006


    Perlmutter Makes Reckless and Baseless Accusation – Again!

    Second Time in a Week Perlmutter is Reckless with the Truth


    WHEAT RIDGE – For the second time in a week, bankruptcy attorney Ed Perlmutter levied a desperate attack against congressional candidate Rick O’Donnell that recklessly distorts the truth. Furthermore, in criticizing a “Colorado Voices” column Rick O’Donnell wrote for The Denver Post on January 3, 2004, Mr. Perlmutter shows how out of touch he is with new ideas to move America forward – even ideas promoted by his fellow Democrats.

    In the article “A New Rite of Passage,” Rick describes the overwhelming evidence that America is failing to adequately prepare its boys for manhood, including: “Men commit suicide four times more than women. The federal prison population is 93 percent male. Only 47 percent of Colorado ’s sixth-grade boys pass the writing CSAP, compared to 62 percent of girls. For every 100 women who get a college degree, only 67 men do.”

    Deeply concerned with these alarming facts, Rick proposed in his article that community service to their country could be one possible remedy for young men struggling to mature in an environment where “sex, sports and violence are all that is left as anchors of their souls, rather than family, faith and hard-work.”

    As evidence of his bi-partisan, reform-minded approach to governance, Rick O’Donnell suggested a possible solution in his 2004 article based on ideas from Democrats. From Bill and Hillary Clinton to Senator Evan Bayh, since the 1990’s many new Democrats have advocated national community service. In fact, the Democratic Leadership Council strongly advocates something very similar to what Rick proposed in his article, (quoting at length from http://www.dlc.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=253462&kaid=115&subid=145):

    “National service ought to be more than a small demonstration project on the margins of big government. It must take a great leap forward or risk going the way of the Peace Corps and VISTA , noble endeavors that languished after an initial burst of inspiration and failed to reach critical mass.

    Why is bigger better? The first and most compelling reason for expansion is to match the scale of America's unmet needs. Our country's "social deficit" is as daunting as our fiscal deficit. Compared with other rich countries the United States has very high rates of poverty (especially among children), out-of-wedlock births, and youth violence, as well as a wide racial and ethnic gap in educational achievement. Add to these enduring social problems the new challenges presented by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the baby boom's retirement, and you have a "to do" list that overwhelms government's current capacities. We need to mobilize the nation's civic resources more broadly to tackle such urgent priorities as:

  • Tutoring and mentoring disadvantaged children, especially those from broken families and those with parents in prison.


  • Providing long-term care and other help for the elderly to help America age successfully as the baby boomers retire.


  • Protecting our homeland against terrorist attacks.


  • Sharing the burden of military service to our country.


  • …Scaling up AmeriCorps would transform national service from an exceptional to a fairly common experience for young Americans. And, like the draft of old, it would be one of the few institutions in our increasingly stratified and segmented society that throw together Americans from different social and economic backgrounds. The experience of working together across racial, ethnic, and class lines to solve common problems hones the basic skills of democratic citizenship -- the ability to see past stereotypes, to empathize with others, to negotiate and compromise, and to transcend our group identities. In political scientist Robert Putnam's term, it creates the "bridging" social capital essential to making a multiethnic democracy work.

    Five Ways to Scale Up National Service. Our ultimate goal should be to make national service a common expectation -- a rite of civic passage -- for young Americans on their way to responsible and productive citizenship. Here are five ways we can reach the next plateau in the evolution of national service:

    1. Replace selective service with national service.

    2. Expand AmeriCorps

    3. Recruit more citizen soldiers

    4. Replace work study with serve study.

    5. Link federal student aid and national service.”

    (Underline and bold emphasis added.)


    “Three years ago, before immigration and border security became the top priorities of the nation and before concerns about Dubai operating American ports shed further light on our unsecured ports, Rick proposed an idea that even the DLC’s website today echoes,” said O’Donnell campaign manager K.C. Jones. “This just goes to show you that Rick is the candidate of bipartisan ideas. It’s startling how unfamiliar Ed is with the centrist Democrats – I guess it is because he isn’t one.”

    In his press release, Mr. Perlmutter stated that Rick wrote in his article that he wants to draft, “all teenage boys in their final semester of high school to serve as border patrol agents.” Rick O’Donnell’s article says nothing of the sort, and this statement – as well as Mr. Perlmutter’s entire press release – is a reckless distortion of the truth.

    In fact, Rick O’Donnell wrote that “young men could have a choice of where to serve, such as homeland security, armed forces or community service. After a basic-training type orientation, they would be given various duties in sore need of attention: securing our border with Mexico ; thinning our national forests to reduce fire risk; providing homeland security at ports and other vulnerable locations.”

    “The voters deserve better than Ed Perlmutter’s reckless distortions and fabrications,” said K.C. Jones. “But, as a candidate without any new ideas of his own, Ed can only baselessly attack his opponent.”

    “We can only imagine how the nation could have responded to the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita if we had thousands of trained young men at the ready to offer support,” Rick O’Donnell said today. “We need new ideas in Washington , and that’s exactly what I will take to Congress: new blood and new leadership. We can not afford to have the same old blame-and-complain, truth distorting partisan politics that my opponent represents.”

    “It’s startling that Mr. Perlmutter would oppose having young men serve their country and community,” said KC Jones. “Doesn’t Ed know that the Colorado National Guard, without carrying weapons, is providing support for the border patrol today? Doesn’t Ed know you can be 17 and still in high school to join the National Guard? What could be wrong with young men providing peaceful, unarmed support to keep our country secure? But when you consider that Ed is soft of crime, soft on immigration reform and soft on the war on terror, perhaps it’s not so surprising after all.”

    # # #

    3 comments:

    sappho said...

    Found you via the blog, "Para Justicia y Libertad!", & I just wanted to let you know how incredibly fortunate we all are to have such a great site as yours!
    It is so professional & chocked full of great information, that I am sure to use in the future!
    I am an immigration & anti-MinuteKlan/S.O.S. activist from Los Angeles, & this site makes me proud!
    Keep up the amazing work!
    In solidarity,
    Sappho

    XicanoPwr said...

    Sort of reminds me of the whole Hitler youth program is you ask me.

    Compare his press release:
    ---------
    In the article "A New Rite of Passage," Rick describes the overwhelming evidence that America is failing to adequately prepare its boys for manhood
    ----------
    to Herman Rauschning, Hitler Speaks (1939)
    ---------
    In my Ordensburgen there will stand as a statue for worship the figure of the magnificent, self-ordaining god-man; it will prepare the young men for their coming period of ripe manhood."
    ----------
    I would be worried about people like him.

    Duke1676 said...

    thanks Sappho,

    BTW I checked out your blog... nice work. I'll be adding it to the blogroll... it's a site worth visiting fequently.


    thanks
    duke