Adam Kinzinger


Since neither Ottawa Delivered nor The Times has U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s reaction to President Obama’s State of the Union address posted on their websites, and Kinzinger is the U.S.  congressman who represents Ottawa, I’m going to post the freshman Republican legislator’s response here, courtesy of The Pantagraph (Bloomington-Normal’s daily newspaper)*:

“In his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama made it clear that we must turn our focus squarely onto growing a competitive nation. The way to make our nation prosperous is by getting our neighbors back to work and ensuring our economy works for American families and businesses.

“The President made promising remarks about job creation, but the only action Americans have heard from Washington Democrats over the past two years is that more government spending and higher taxes are the only solutions to grow our economy and create jobs.

“The actions and decisions made by prior Congresses have led us to where we are today. Nearly one in 10 of our neighbors remain unemployed. Over the last two years unemployment has skyrocketed from 7.8 percent to 9.4 percent.

“In addition, our nation’s debt now exceeds $14 trillion. More than $3.3 trillion of this debt was piled on in just two years.

“We cannot continue down this slippery slope with the same failed policies that has led our nation to fewer jobs, more government spending and an intrusive expansion of government.

“As Ronald Reagan once said, ‘All great change in America begins at the dinner table.’

“This past November, American families, businesses, seniors and taxpayers sent a clear message to Washington. All across the nation, Americans chose the path toward limited government, reduced spending and a free-market system.

“We must quit spending more money than we take in and we must focus our efforts toward growing the private sector, where jobs are created. We have tough decisions to make but we can make them while living within our means.

“Earlier today, the House passed a budget resolution that would cut spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels. This, along with additional spending reforms, will ensure we continue to eliminate wasteful spending, and will force government to cut up their credit cards.

“House Republicans made a promise to the people to put our nation back on track towards fiscal responsibility, economic growth and accountable and transparent government, and this is a promise we intend to keep.

“We must promote and foster free enterprise here in America. Congress must work tirelessly to implement policies that encourage entrepreneurship, cultivate innovation and reward the hard work that will lead us toward prosperity.”

* I want to make clear that my posting of Kinzinger’s response doesn’t represent endorsement or rejection of his positions. It just bothers me that neither of Ottawa’s newspapers put the response on their websites, and I would have done so. It is important for constituents to know what their elected officials have to say about issues of the day.

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My last Ottawa Delivered column of 2010:

It’s been a great year to be a political reporter. Whether it was the Capitol Hill wars, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial or any of many interesting election battles, 2010 was notable in the political realm.

By contrast, it was a relatively quiet year on the La Salle County Board front, though the county certainly had its share of notability in 2010. For example, there was the swift rise and fall of the forest preserve; more administrative changes at the nursing home; controversial pay raises; and the dispute centering on the county’s now-former software vendor, Sikich.

Illinois politics created quite a range of news, from our state’s Blagojevich baggage to the close, contentious race between his successor, Gov. Pat Quinn and state Sen. Bill Brady, to the free-for-all to replace Richard M. Daley as Chicago mayor. State politics provided a couple memorable moments locally, namely Sue Rezin’s victory over state Rep. Careen Gordon and the surprise resignation of state Sen. Gary Dahl, which resulted in Rezin being named to Dahl’s seat.

The political story of 2010 that is most memorable to me is the 11th Congressional District race that saw challenger Adam Kinzinger defeat incumbent U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson by a runaway margin. Covering the race extensively made it memorable, to be sure, but so did the ramifications of the race. The GOP is clearly grooming Kinzinger for bigger things, giving him some plum assignments for a freshman legislator. It will be interesting to watch what happens to his political career.

Kinzinger will be only one of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, but he’ll be weighing in on matters of national importance – and when it comes to national politics, these are interesting times. The year began with President Obama riding high and pushing his agenda forward, only to be slapped back at the polls in November, and ending with Obama’s apparent comeback via compromise with Republican leaders.

Still, it’s too early to tell if Obama’s supposed comeback is indeed that. I suspect it’s more complicated than it seems, but if the president continues his path down the political middle, then he likely is doing himself a favor looking ahead to 2012. Either way, you can safely bet that 2011 will be another year when it’s worth paying attention to politics.

My column from this week’s issue of Ottawa Delivered:

Now that Labor Day has passed, the election season is kicking into high gear.

There’s no better time to be a political reporter – especially when there is a tight race to be covered, such as the 11th Congressional District battle between U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Crete) and challenger Adam Kinzinger (R-Manteno). And when it comes to pleasing readers, there is no worse time to be a political reporter.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it is the best of times and the worst of times.

The goal of any political reporter, including this one, is to give fair and balanced coverage to the candidates and the issues. Unfortunately, there are people I like to call Pavlov’s Politicos: They love any media story about their preferred candidate, and they call anything other than that biased reporting.

Case in point: Last week I covered a Halvorson campaign stop in Ottawa. As we do with all our articles, I posted a link to the story on Facebook. That’s where a Marseilles man suggested – tongue-in-cheek, I hope – I must be receiving monetary contributions from the congresswoman because I write “fluff” stories about her. I checked out his Facebook “likes,” which include Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, FOX News, the National Tea Party and nothing that appears to be remotely associated with Democrats.

So it follows suit that the commenter doesn’t like Halvorson. And apparently, because I covered a Halvorson event in the course of doing my job, he doesn’t like me, either. Or perhaps he just doesn’t like my writing. Doesn’t matter, really. I just wonder if, when he reads my coverage of a Kinzinger event, he feels the same way about my article.

I’m not mentioning the man’s political leanings to insinuate anything about Republicans. I mention them because a few days later, I received an e-mail message from somebody I know regularly attends meetings of the Bureau-La Salle Tea Party complimenting last week’s issue of Ottawa Delivered. Noting the spread of political stories in the issue, which included my Focus story about local political campaign volunteers and an in-depth interview with Halvorson, the e-mailer said the “good objective articles” were providing “a fine public service” to readers.

Apparently he wasn’t offended by the Halvorson article in the newspaper. Which brings me to my greater point: We don’t pander to any politicians here at Ottawa Delivered, and while I don’t expect to please everyone, I hope that readers will respect our attempt at providing them with views from all sides of the political arena: Democrat, Republican, tea party, independent, etc.

When our newspaper received compliments about its political coverage from a tea party member, a staunch Republican and a couple of union members all within a week’s time, I knew we must be doing it right. And I hope you agree. Because even if you don’t agree with the views expressed by the people being covered in a particular article, I hope you’ll at least respect the way we reported them.

I like to think the heated arguments over health-care reform that we see on television aren’t the norm.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy a spirited debate about issues – I’m all for such conversations as long as they don’t get out of hand. People should feel free to disagree with each other in a point/counterpoint way, not a loudmouthed, name-calling way. A debate without civility is an argument that never wins over the other side. (It’s true you might not win the other side over anyway, but at least your decorum should be respected by your opponent.)

Last week when I wrote my column for Ottawa Delivered about the new health-care reform law, I knew there would be plenty of people who disagreed with me. As always, my charge was to state my opinion and back it up – and to do so in a respectful way that made my points without resorting to cheap shots at those who would disagree with my stance.

I believe I succeeded in that task, and I’m proud to say that those who commented on my column and the health-care issue in general on Ottawa Delivered’s Facebook page kept the conversation civil and respectful of each other, even though there were definite differences in opinion being expressed.

Some people agreed with what I wrote. Others disagreed with me, but weren’t rude about it. I like to think this is the norm among those who engage in the health-care debate in “real America” (in other words, not on TV or otherwise in a glaring spotlight of mainstream media attention).

With that said, I want to compliment Adam Kinzinger for taking the simple step of saying a few words to defuse any potential ugliness that might have been waiting in the wings at his health-care forum in Ottawa last week.

When it comes to the health-care reform issue, I don’t agree with Kinzinger, the Republican nominee in Illinois’ 11th Congressional District race. I think the new health-care reform law isn’t perfect but is a move in the right direction; he agrees with the Republican party line of “repeal and replace” (which really isn’t a feasible plan, in my opinion). But as someone who values civil discourse, I appreciated Kinzinger’s appeal to his town-hall attendees not to jeer those who disagreed with them.

Guess what? It worked. Sure, most of the crowd probably agreed with Kinzinger’s point of view, but there were at least a few in the audience who didn’t – and they made it known through polite exchanges with the candidate.

I also liked that Kinzinger acknowledged there are some parts of the new health-care law he agrees with – specifically, not letting insurance companies deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, and allowing children to be insured under their parents’ plan until age 26.

Noting there are some good things to be found in an opponent’s plan can go a long way in fostering civil discourse. Unfortunately, politicians and mainstream political pundits willing to admit somebody with an opposing viewpoint has a decent idea might as well be placed on the endangered species list. That’s part of the reason why a relatively unknown politician like Barack Obama could ride a promise of bipartisanship all the way to the White House – because, in my opinion, most people want civil discourse rather than continual partisan bickering that accomplishes little.

We should expect no less from our elected officials. But remember, they ultimately take their cues from us. We must set the example for them – not the other way around.

A version of this column will appear in this week’s issue of Ottawa Delivered.