Thursday, December 30, 2010

Airplane Anonymity

Travel a lot?  If you do, this is probably not a new concept to you.  Frequent travelers have developed a whole host of coping strategies to get through hours of time in close proximity to strangers.  When I used to be in public office, it could be painful if my strategies failed.  As a result, I sort of became a master of avoidance and anonymity...

On airplanes, you are a trapped audience.  There is no escape, really, but with all of the full flights now there isn’t even a way to move seats for a little distance.  So, when I was a legislator, I would try very hard to avoid admitting what I do for a living.  I'd bring work to do, I'd put on my ipod (even if the battery is dead- still a great way to stop unwanted conversation), and I'd try to be completely settled in my seat and engrossed in something before the rest of my row mates would come to sit down next to me.  

If all of this failed and the natural conversation started with “So, what do you do?” I'd answer, “Oh, I just work for the state government.”  -- That is normally enough to frighten them and they would astutely recognize that continuing down this road would be boring and painful.

But, once in awhile, they would persist, “Oh, really?  What do you do for the government?”  I'd be coy as long as I could be without lying (there is always that nagging truth that they may actually recognize me).  “I work in the legislative branch.”

More?  “Oh, I mostly go to meetings and read a lot.”

And, if I really had to, I would offer, “Actually, I am responsible for writing bill language and amendments.  It’s sort of cool, I guess.”

This last one is brilliant because it takes the super nosey seat mate down a road that allows me to argue policy without acknowledging I was an actual policy maker.  And, I can present policy in very accessible and persuasive ways that just might allow me to take on the unsuspecting pupil as a new inductee into the School of Gorman... It isn’t entirely good sportsmanship, I suppose.  

But, I have been trapped next to rabid left wing goofballs who seem to think their opinion is so laden with compelling thought that I am going to abandon my world view, my free market philosophies, my love for rugged individualism and perhaps even join hands and sing a camp fire song with them.  Again, for the record, nothing you can say which you have gleaned from your email blasts is going to convert me.  It WILL make my ride miserable, however.

So, I avoid the conversation.  It is one of the few rights to privacy I have managed to cling to all of these years… my airplane anonymity.

This post is dedicated to the handful of friends I have made when I experience system failure with my whole strategy.  You all know who you are because you all said to me at the end of the flight, "I don't normally talk to the people next to me on flights!"  And THAT is how I knew we were going to be life long friends! :)

Bite Your Lip

As an Arizona Senator, I had the benefit of working with state legislators from all over the United States through multi-state policy groups designed to help representatives from each state both do their own jobs better and to better understand what was going on in other sovereign states.  Over the years, I apparently became known for immigration policy in many of these settings. Sometimes this was a good thing, other times not so much.

Strange as it seems to an intelligent reader, these folks who had no real experience with our federally ignored border seemed to have a strong opinion that they never failed to share.  I tried my best to gently inform them, but often left those conversations with the realization that my understanding of the border issue, having "been there" was causing them cognitive dissonance with their own strongly held (read: ignorant) beliefs.

Now that I am out of office, I would like to suggest to all elected officials that they take a deep breath and accept there are things you don't know yet.  There are things you can't possibly understand not having "been there."  And, while you were biting your lip enduring yet another cry for help from Arizona for the destruction of our state caused by our open border, we were biting our lip, too.

We bit our lip when you wailed that the billions in federal aid you received after your hurricane simply wasn't enough.  We bit our lip when you implored us to support a federal bailout of your largest industry because it would be crushing to your state budgets if all of those private for-profit companies failed.  We bit our lip when you asked us to force drivers to use more ethanol products because your farmers couldn't possibly be expected to actually sell corn for market value in ways other than through forced market creation by the federal government.  We bit our lip when your state created its own mini-European welfare state and then went broke, but you insisted that as one of the largest states you somehow deserve extra federal bailout dollars to continue your broken promises to your constituents.

The glaring difference is that OUR problem is also YOUR problem.  The open borders in Arizona present a national security risk that is absolutely the sole responsibility of the United States.  And, you swore to support the Constitution which provides for protection of the states.  And, yes, this includes the federal dollars needed to provide that protection.  So, while we all have our problems in our states, the problem in Arizona is a shared problem and it must be dealt with by the combined treasuries from all 50 states... through a federal appropriation.

I'd encourage elected officials from all 50 states to come to Arizona and see this national problem for just that... a NATIONAL problem.  Until then, please bite your lips a little harder.

Originally posted on

Being There

Not Just Another Stupid Resolution

I’m not one that’s big on New Year’s resolutions.  In fact, I like to be a contrarian and do strange things like starting a diet on December 1st, just to be different.  But, this year, recent events have shaken me to the point that I am willing to lay down my preconceived notion about the futility of January 1 resolutions.  What has so moved me?  Sadly, it was the death of a friend.

Have you ever been so fortunate to cross paths with a person who is completely “there” when you are with them?  So many of us are busy with our mind elsewhere.  Some of you even have the audacity to stop midsentence to join a different conversation on your electronic gadgetry (you know who you are).  But, there ARE those rare individuals who have an uncanny ability to stop their minds from wandering and really just be there with you.

Christopher Smith was one of those rare birds.  People who knew him very well and those of us who knew him from work all say that he was a special soul.  Yes, he was smart, funny, generous, warm… But, I could say that about several of the amazing friends I have.  What set this person apart was this unique gift he had to always make me feel like he had been looking forward to talking to me, even when the meeting was merely chance.  He looked me in the eye and we talked about real stuff in the midst of whatever chaos we found ourselves in.  When I would arrive home from one of the various political events and someone would ask who was there, the name “Christopher Smith” would come first to mind.  It wasn’t until he died a week ago that I realized he may have often been the only one in the room who was 100% “there.”

I think the world needs more of this, not less.  So as I ponder his death on the day of his funeral, I am choosing not to get caught up in the tragic way his last 6 month of life were spent or the ghastly way he was murdered.  Rather, I am remembering the last time I spent time with him.  And, I am regretting that I wasn’t totally “there” when he took the time to walk along with me as I left the groundbreaking ceremony. He told me about the health issues he was struggling with as a result of taking some cholesterol drug.  I didn’t really “hear” him when he told me he was in so much pain at one point that it was debilitating.  I was in such a hurry to jump in my car that day that I didn’t simply stop and be there.  I gave some sincere comforting words (probably clich├ęs) and let the flurry of activity surrounding the launch of Congressional campaign distract me from taking more time with a friend who was struggling.  Looking back, I can’t even remember if I offered to help or even pray for him.  For that lapse, that incredibly self-absorbed response, that wasted opportunity, I have deep regret.

So, my New Year’s resolution is going to be in Christopher’s honor.  I am going to do my best to try and fill the void left in the world by this special man.  And, because I will undoubtedly fail miserably to fully replicate his gift, I am calling on my fellow Americans to do the same.  Maybe if we all try a little harder to live in the moment and fully “be” right where we are, there would be a lot more folks walking around feeling validated and appreciated and a little less lonely.  Let’s really be with those who take the time to be with us.

On Christopher's Facebook page, his profile reads this "I aspire to be a leader, a man of honor, a man of vision, a man of passion, a man of faith demonstrated by action, a true and loyal friend and a defender and promoter of liberty." I believe he accomplished it. May we all aspire to do the same… Rest In Peace, my friend.

Originally posted on

The Dream Act: Unsafe for Children

In lawmaking, the words matter.  And, one of the biggest ills in making laws are the “unintended consequences” of the choice of words in a bill.  This is one big reason why the issue of interpretation by the courts of vague or sloppy language must be considered when creating law.  Add to this the intentional maneuvering to find loopholes in laws by various interest groups, and it is easy to see why writing a bill is not easy business.

Many, for instance, have presented the Dream Act as some sort of act of kindness or as a way to build our military.   In fact, the language of this bill has a glaring hole in it that could be seen by anyone who bothered to read it.  I have to assume that the folks who talk about amnesty for illegal alien children have not read the bill or are not being intellectually honest when they speak of it.

The bill has a section that specifically allows the offspring of illegal aliens to opt out of the military and education requirements for citizenship.  And, if you actually read it, you would see that the opt out requires little more than a letter stating that fulfilling the requirements of the law would present a “hardship.”  Because the bill offers no definition of what is means by “hardship,” it is virtually impossible for a court to later have clear direction in determining what constitutes a life situation that prevents the young person from properly meeting the requirements of the law.  Additionally, it could be determined on a subjective case-by-case (read: politically motivated) basis by the government agency employee who receives the letter of excuse.

In application, though, this becomes a much bigger problem than simple confusion in terms of interpretation.  In application, this one section creates a powerful psychological motivation for foreign entities to rush into our country illegally with their children.  In effect, either intentionally or unintentionally, the Dream Act’s provisions encourage illegal crossings with children in tow.

If you were a parent living in another country and wanted to earn money to feed your family back home, you might take the risk and cross the border alone, at your own peril, for that chance.  But, compliments of the new Dream Act, you see the golden ring hanging much lower that would allow you to not only earn money for your family, but the promise that your children will gain citizenship if you bring them along on the dangerous trek.  The U.S. government is making that promise in this new law.  The Dream Act promises you that you can just write a letter with some random excuse of “hardship” to prevent your child from serving in the military or having to find a way to pay their tuition in college.

I’m a parent.  I get the powerful desire to want the very best for my child.  If you’re a parent, you have to be honest.  You’d take huge risks to assure a better life for your son or daughter, too.

Aside from the clear arguments we all can make against once again trying out amnesty to see if it will fail again, we must realize that the Dream Act takes this to a whole new level.  It ENCOURAGES parents to illegally drag their children from their homeland, across dangerous crossings, living illegally as second-class humans in hiding.  It isn’t good for our country, but it is even worse for the safety and well being of young people who will be brought in much greater numbers due to the enticement created by this misguided legislation.

Originally posted on

The Proper Role of State Government

As part of the application process to work for Governor-elect Scott Walker (WI), an essay answer to a question about the proper role of state government was required.  Below is my answer to that question.  My own question remains, though.  Who is reading all of these essays?!  LOL.

The proper role of state government is to provide for those areas of interest where the private sector or individuals cannot carry out duties for themselves.  It is my firmly held belief that people don't want to fail. So, when you get government out of the way, businesses are created and grow which means people can work and grow. If you can fuel an entrepreneurial spirit in individuals and allow such an environment to flourish, people -- not government -- begin to accomplish special things in all aspects of their lives. This extends well beyond their pocketbook, but it starts there.

Fiscally, the state should consider itself little more than a clearinghouse for the collective purchases of the taxpayers.  This means that if there is a project for which it is only reasonable to assume collective funding is necessary, the state should provide the oversight necessary to enter into contractual relationships with private contractors who can be held accountable for both the quality of the end product and the expediency with which the project is completed.  Except in very limited cases where highly sensitive private information is exchanged, most activities the state overseas on behalf of the taxpayer would be better provided through experienced oversight of the private entity that contractually agrees to carry out the activity.

The state, therefore, should act solely as a qualified expert agent for the taxpayers to benefit from economies of scale and not as the deepest darkest pockets in the marketplace.

The state should also stay out of the business of “helping” people make better decisions in how to live their everyday lives.  History proves out that the very moment a new limitation on behavior is decreed by state law, a new loophole is created that often drives human behavior to ridiculous outcomes.  The addiction to social engineering through government regulation and statute is unhealthy and doesn’t work.  By limiting the size and scope of state government, I believe people will generally make decisions that create a better life for themselves.

State government’s role is to preserve freedom and create a healthy atmosphere for choice and competition among the people and employers in the state. The state, essentially, should be working for the citizens… not the other way around.

Don't Cry for Me, America

I’ve received an outpouring of emails, tweets and Facebook messages since losing my bid for Congress in the last few days.  I am truly grateful.  Thank you, to everyone, who contacted me after the race was over and also to everyone who sent along encouragement throughout the race.  Your words were truly touching.

In nearly all of the emails, though, there is a theme that speaks of “next time” I run.  Some even suggest I run for a higher office!  It seems that folks assume that another campaign is something that will naturally come next.  That is where the disconnect lies, I guess.  So, I’m writing this to help folks understand what I apparently did not clearly communicate during the race.  Here it is… Being an elected official is not my heart’s desire, affecting public policy is.  And, there are a myriad of good ways to do that besides being elected.  My plan is to go forward in one of those “other” ways now.

Since the beginning of my political career, I have been motivated by an intrinsic need to always be productive and to be moving toward some goal.  I want to make a difference and have my life on this earth be one of purpose.  In the realm of politics, that goal is to see the conservative ideals of limited government and personal freedoms win out over the collectivist and socialist movement that is tearing away at our nation’s foundation.  But, the mode of elected office was always just a tool for accomplishing my goal of making a difference.  It gave me a vote on public policy as an Arizona legislator and a voice to inform citizens and to hopefully be a thought leader for the conservative cause.

Being elected was a necessary role to play in order to be able to cast a vote on public policy issues I believe affect the lives of Americans and to help people have access to their government that almost seems convoluted by design.  I was willing to play the part and do the necessary work of getting elected so that I would have the opportunity to do the REAL work of thoughtfully reading and considering legislation.  My greatest joy, though, was in helping constituents weave through government red tape through the power of my office.

It was a great experience being elected to my state legislature.  I like to believe I made a difference and set the standard a little higher, while hopefully giving courage to others to also be “real” in their dealings.  The work I did with multi-state policy organizations allowed me to build friendships with state legislators all across this nation that I cherish.  I also like to believe I made a difference in these policy groups, too, passing free market based model legislation and participating in the debate with representatives from many states.  But unlike many candidates out there who recently lost their elections, I am not gearing up for another run.

Running for Congress in 2010 (though I lost) was a life experience I will always cherish.   I am confident that my conservative principles are not what kept me from being elected.  It wasn’t my hard work and reputation as an articulate and principled leader on conservative policy issues that pushed away votes.  Voters didn’t say “no” to me because of my solid voting record or my remarks at debates.  All of that was well received.  Rather, the voters chose a well-funded candidate who they heard from frequently throughout the race because that candidate had a war chest of campaign cash with which to communicate regularly with voters.  Pure and simple.  Voters wanted what I represented, but they just didn’t know I existed because the money wasn’t there to reach out and tell them.

In spite of the funding shortfall I ran with, I count my blessings.  The new friends of like patriotic mind that I came to know because of this congressional run make up a varied and incredible network of talented and committed Americans.  These are people that most voters have no idea are even out there.  But, thank God they are!  I will be looking for ways I can help future conservative leaders to overcome their own funding deficits in the coming months with this talented group of patriots.  I learned a lot that should not go to waste and I am looking for an outlet to share it all with good conservative candidates who are still in the fight.

There is also a chance that my unique call-it-like-I-see-it commentary will find an audience so I can continue to inform voters.  After all, once you see the puppet strings, you never believe the puppet’s dance is his own again.  Having been there, I watch American politics with an intimately informed eye.  Now that I am a private citizen, you might be interested to see what I see with the benefit of the “back story” on things not seen in public.  Keep watching.  Heck, maybe I’ll write a book.

Bottom line? I love America, consider her worth fighting for, and intend on remaining a voice in the mix if folks still want to listen.  And, my campaign team and supporters gave it our all.  We did amazing things with very little money.  I believe we inspired many along the way.  I am very interested in remaining a force for good and helping to strengthen this momentum for the rebuilding of America.  And, I am hoping to be able to do that without running for office.

So, while I have learned to never say “never” - my garage will no longer have the “campaign materials storage” area set aside as it has since 2003 when I first began running for office.  It is time for someone else to step up and run.  I’m hoping to enjoy being a private citizen for a while and reacquaint myself with family and friends.  I am thrilled, for instance, to finally be able to volunteer some time for my son’s football booster program.  Look for me happily selling Snicker bars and bottled water to Boulder Creek Jaguars football fans from the concession stand.

P.S. I will also need a paycheck, so if you know anyone that can use my skill set, network, and knowledge of public policy, please pass my name along. And, if you’re a publisher and want a great story written, boy do I have an interesting story to tell! 

Originally published on - Monday, August 30, 2010