What is Moderation? Ramstad Misses the Mark

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Jim Ramstad, representative from Minnesota’s 3rd district, said Tuesday, “[m]y message for the Congress and the president is you have to work together in a bipartisan and pragmatic way” in a speech titled “Life as Centrist in the New Congress.”

Opinion: What is Moderation? Ramstad Misses the Mark

Moderation is great — as long as we know what it is, what it is not and elected officials don’t use it as an excuse to say one thing and do another.

Ramstad was one of a small group of Republican “moderates” who went to the White House before the last Iraq Supplemental vote to advocate a change in strategy. Indeed, media coverage of that meeting indicated that the so-called Tuesday Group “berated” the president on Iraq policy. Ramstad later voted with the president on the Supplemental Bill.

Saying one thing for the cameras and doing another in the halls of Congress is not moderation.

More recently, Mr. Ramstad’s office sent out a constituent update that made clear the issue of primacy for 3rd District residents: the ongoing occupation of Iraq. That’s good; it’s an issue on most American minds these days. But at a recent town hall meeting, he said, “I agree with [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid” that Iraq benchmarks need “teeth”: the ability to force changes in White House policy toward Iraq if those benchmarks are not met. The only problem with this statement: Ramstad also said at that same meeting that he supports the Salazar-Alexander bill, which Harry Reid himself has denounced as toothless.

Saying one thing for the cameras and doing another in the halls of Congress is not moderation.

This is not to say that Ramstad has not worked hard on bipartisan legislation. His Mental Health Parity bill has been a great opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to come together around a common cause to improve the general welfare of America. He said yesterday that he supports embryonic stem cell research, another policy area with strong bipartisan support.

But on the most important issue of the day, Ramstad continues to be a loyal soldier to a reactionary Republican congressional leadership and a jingoistic White House when it’s time to cast votes. Leadership and moderation require more than simply saying, “I agree with Harry Reid that we need benchmarks with teeth.” Leadership requires action, and moderation is not saying one thing for the cameras and doing another in the halls of Congress.

So what is moderation? Who knows anymore? Let us redefine it as “representing the will and needs of one’s constituents with fairness, with consistency and without the word games, cloak-room politics and endless poll-parsing that pervade the legislative process today.” Perhaps if this definition were in force several weeks ago, the Tuesday Group might have voted with their constituents on the Iraq Supplemental instead of the White House, and we might be on our way to ending the disastrous occupation of Iraq. Perhaps if this definition were in force last week, Ramstad wouldn’t be forced to play word games with his constituents, saying he agrees with Harry Reid on benchmarks but supporting a bill denounced by Reid himself. Instead, we have our current reality: no end in sight for President Bush’s Middle East calamity, and congressmen running around the country offering platitudes on their support for bills that do nothing to end our tragic mistake in Iraq.