Thursday, June 5, 2014

Congressman Ted Poe Speaks

My Congressman, since redistricting a couple of years ago, is Ted Poe. He spoke Monday evening at King Street Patriots, and I thought there were enough things worth repeating.
Catherine Engelbrecht, head of King Street, gave quite an introduction. She said, “Of all of the politicians I have ever met, Congressman Ted Poe is my favorite.”
Congressman Ted Poe
at King Street Patriots, 6-2-2014
If you’ll recall, Catherine Engelbrecht testified before Congress not long ago, during hearings about the IRS targeting of conservative groups. Her testimony was powerful. So, anyway, she has met more than the typical number of politicians. And she mentioned how comforting it was to see Ted Poe's friendly face when she testified.
Ted Poe’s father was on the row in front of me. Here’s what the Congressman told us about his father. Ted Poe was listed as the seventh most conservative member of Congress (out of 435, so if you do the math, he’s at the 98th percentile, which isn’t too shabby). Early in the morning that the news appeared, there was his dad on the phone, “Why are you only number seven?”
Ted Poe talks straightforward, Texas style. Words like this come naturally: “The Constitution is not a mere suggestion. It is the law of the land.”
This was partly, but not totally, in relation to the news over the weekend about the president unilaterally (and illegally) exchanging five dangerous terrorists being held at GITMO for a prisoner of war (or possibly a defector—still to be determined, in a court martial, I’m assuming). The Congressman offered us a three-page handout, “Fact Sheet on Guantanamo Transfers,” which was a House Armed Services Committee Press Release, June 2, 2014. You’ve probably heard the essence of this elsewhere by now. Here’s what the law requires (this law was signed by the president some six months ago):
·        The Secretary of Defense must determine that the risk posed by the detainee will be substantially mitigated and that the transfer is in the national security interests of the United States.
·        The Secretary of Defense must notify the appropriate committees of Congress at least 30 days before the transfer or release of a Guantanamo detainee
·        The Secretary of Defense must provide detailed information regarding the circumstances of the transfer or release along with the notification, including how the risk posed by the detainee will be substantially mitigated, the security arrangements in the receiving country, and an assessment of the capacity, willingness, and past practices of the receiving country.
So, clearly the law has been broken.
The Q&A portion of the evening was heavy with questions about what can be done in response to the president’s lawless behavior. I don’t know that there is a good answer. However, Congressman Poe is an optimist. He’s seeing protests of the president’s behavior from both sides of the aisle. He thinks the House will pick up 10 seats, and that Republicans will take the Senate as well. Then we have to have a presidential candidate that can win the 7 states that must be won. He thinks that, because most Americans are conservative, we need to appeal to conservative values. We need to be able to talk to our neighbors and speak persuasively, and get them engaged. Incidentally, he pointed out that only 5% of eligible voters participated in the runoff election held last week.
Much of the speech portion of the evening concerned the First Amendment. We’re in agreement that the very first words, “Congress shall make no law” means that, concerning those things, Congress really can’t violate our rights.
I enjoyed a story he told, of a time when he was in the midst of raising his four kids. He had a daughter who was 8, on a girls’ soccer team. The coach moved away. And somehow Ted Poe got “volunteered to coach. He knew nothing about soccer. He said the first game he ever saw was the first one he coach—rule book in hand. But he did what he could.
At one point he took a girl out of the game and replaced her with another player. She pouted and cried. He found, eventually, that this was not an uncommon reaction among young girls. But he was perplexed. There’s no crying in sports!
But eventually he figured it out, and sees this as a metaphor for us concerned citizens. The girl wanted to be in the game. She wanted to participate.
“Most Americans,” he said, “aren’t participating; they’re in the stands. But you want to play because you think you can make a difference.”
I think he’s right about that. That meeting, on a Monday night, held I’m guessing a full room of 200 people, maybe more. Our regular local tea party meetings have 30-50 people meeting on Saturday afternoons. Everyone is asking, “What can we do?”
I hope there are answers. The other day, along with the Edmund Burke quote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” a friend sent some suggestions:
·         Support a strong party platform.
·         Contact Congress often, and instruct Congress and Senators to elect leadership who oppose tyranny.
·         Donate to true conservative candidates.
·         Stay informed.
·         Network with other patriots.
I’m doing some of these very things this weekend, at the Texas GOP Convention, where I’m a delegate. I expect to hear a lot of conservative language—nothing else would be acceptable. I pray that all of us will be able to discern between those who mean it—because we need them—and those who are just saying it because they have to. So many thousands of people will be there—because we want to do whatever good we can. I hope we can use this combined energy for the good of all.

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