Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Second consecutive front-page story on Rogers divorce attempts to clean up his image

If yesterday’s front-page story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus on the announcement that U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is divorcing from his wife of 17 years wasn’t enough coverage, today’s edition also featured a front-page story on the pending divorce.

Usually, newspapers will follow up a story that it got out the door in a hurry on a tight deadline before all the facts were known, but this story seems to focus only experts telling us not to worry that this will not hurt Rogers bright, political future. A friend recently remarked to me that the initial story looked more like obituary complete with an admiring review of his career while ignoring the hypocroracy of his previous stands on marriage and privacy.

Today’s story has well-known state political pundit Bill Ballenger, editor of the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter, assuring us that a divorce is not a political liability unless it’s a messy one. Rogers' name has been tossed around as a possible candidate for either Governor after Gov. Jennifer Granholm is term-limited or for Senator when veteran U.S. Senator Carl Levin retires. But Ballenger added, “I'm not sure he's viewed as quite as hot a commodity as he was in 2004.”

Over the years the P & A has been Rogers biggest cheerleader, and it appears this follow-up story may be an attempt to shore up Rogers political fortunes or merely a follow-up to explore facts that were not available before. Just six months ago editor and former conservative Republican House candidate Buddy Moorehouse told us “Rep. Mike Rogers, our congressman, who is destined for something much, much bigger. Mark my words.”

Allan Filip, chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, conveniently used the excuse that he didn't want to comment on the situation out of respect for the Rogers' privacy, but I’m not sure how not commenting on Rogers' political future compromises his privacy.

Matt Evans, chairman of the county Democrats, had the best take on the situation while also agreeing with Ballenger that a divorce alone is not a big deal. But he said that Rogers couldn’t escape the Republican platform of so-called family values.
"The fact of a divorce in and of itself does not carry a stigma, nor should it," Evans said. "But there's a great deal of situational ethics when it comes to family values in the Republican Party."

What really stuck me about this story was when I remembered a Rogers campaign commercial that aired last summer and fall when Rogers was locked in the tightest race since he won a squeaker over former state Sen. Dianne Byrum by a mere 111 votes in 2000. What made it even more memorable for me was that it was filmed right in my neighborhood in Howell’s West Street Park.

The commercial has a bride and groom getting married facing a minister with their backs to the camera, and Rogers is apparently the best man. Rogers turns around to face the camera and talks about the so-called “marriage penalty” in the U.S. tax code. He ends the commercial by making a joke about his wife says how it's tough being enough married to him without the “marriage penalty.”

It seems ironic that he is now making a plea “for respect for their privacy,” but it was a campaign issue and position. It’s also ironic that we have a party and a politician telling us who we can and cannot marry, but he now doesn’t want to talk about his marriage. It’s about a political party stating we must preserve the sanctity of marriage when individually they can't preserve their own marriages.

This is what he said about marriage on March 12, 2004 in the National Review:
"The marriage of a man and a woman is a sacred union and a fundamental element of building strong families and a strong nation," Rogers said.

UPDATE, Pohlitics: The LivCo Dems' blog "Living Blue" has a post up about this that's worth checking out.

Strange Bedfellows

Livingston County has been abuzz with the "news" of Mike Rogers' divorce... well, at least the Press & Argus has been abuzz, with 2 consecutive front-page articles yesterday and today. Sad for his family, not a surprise to most folks, not really above the fold material.

I came across some non-divorce coverage of Rogers today, which had a different take on his recent earmark spat with John Murtha (D-PA). You will recall that Rogers, with full Boy-Scouty indignation, was shocked, shocked to find Murtha upset about Rogers' attack on funding a drug intelligence center in Murtha's district.

[Hmmm. Guess Mr. Rogers (a/k/a Mr. Deputy Whip) wasn't ever in the room when Tom "The Hammer" DeLay was earning his nickname]

The MSM has spent a lot of time praising Rogers' "courageous" stand, and painting Murtha as a vindictive greedhead. No one has spent much time looking at the bigger picture, until this article in Executive Intelligence Review. It discusses why the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) was established and what it does.

The claims that NDIC is redundant within the group of anti-drug agencies (the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, to name just a few), and that intelligence can be gathered by the El Paso (Texas) Intelligence Center, are false. The NDIC was created in 1993, explictly to remedy the problem that the activities of all the organizations involved in anti-drug activity lacked overall intelligence-sharing and coordination. That is the mission of the NDIC. The El Paso center, established in 1974—almost two decades before NDIC—has never done this job; its intelligence function is operational, as befits the entity manning a front-line drug entry point into the United States.

Why did the White House decided to shut down NDIC less than a year after praising its efforts in 2006? This article connects the dots between Murtha's untiring -- and highly credible -- opposition to the war, and a White House that views dissent in the same way as the Corleone Family.

With his attack on Mr. Murtha, Mr. Rogers has shown that he once again is happy to attack on behalf of the Bush administration, facts be damned.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Mike Rogers is Getting a Divorce

Mike Rogers, who has consistently received high marks from the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, is getting divorced:
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, considered by many to be a rising star in the Republican Party, is expected to file for divorce today from his wife of 17 years, Diane Rogers.

They have two children.

Neither the congressman nor his wife would comment, other than to issue the following joint statement: "After working on our marriage for years, including marriage counseling, we have decided to separate. We do so with mutual respect and a commitment to friendship in the best interests of our children. We ask for respect of our family's privacy during this difficult time. We will have no further comment on this matter."

It's not clear whether a divorce would dampen Mike Rogers' future in politics. Several Republican candidates for president have been divorced.

In fact, the only top-tier Republican presidential candidate who hasn't been divorced is the Mormon, Mitt Romney... but that's another matter.

In 2005, Mike Rogers supported the interests of the FRC 92% of the time; 92% in 2004; and 92% in 2003. It's clear that Mike Rogers is an avid supporter of the so-called "family agenda," but what exactly does that mean?

Here's a little more background on the Family Research Council:
"The Family Research Council (FRC) champions marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society. FRC shapes public debate and formulate public policy that values human life and upholds the institutions of marriage and the family."

Here's what the FRC has to say about divorce:
Today, 40 to 50 percent of marriages are likely to end in divorce, with second and subsequent marriages having an even higher likelihood of divorce than first marriages...

Divorce has long-lasting emotional consequences on children, often negatively impacting them into adulthood. Divorced men and women also suffer tremendously from divorce, often experiencing depression and financial loss.

Speaking as a child of divorce, I know that Mike Rogers' family must be going through some tough times right now. So, I'm willing to cut the guy some slack.

After all, it's not hypocritical to get a divorce if you only support "family values" issues -- like banning gay marriage, blocking stem cell research, supporting abstinence-only sex education, etc. -- 92% of the time.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Question for Mr. Rogers About Earmarks

Last Friday, Mike Rogers submitted an op-ed to the Lansing State Journal about earmarks (also known as pork-barrel spending). Here are a few excerpts from his column:

Even more troubling is that this incident led to the new Democrat majority not allowing any earmarks to be vetted or debated in the process of working on spending bills. Clearly this is a step backwards that takes us back to the image of secret deals in dark smoke-filled rooms.

This incident in the people's house highlighted an arrogance of power at its worse. Both political parties are guilty.

Earmarks should not be decided in the dark. Every dollar the federal government spends should be vetted, offered in a transparent way, and open for debate. If we turn the lights on the earmark process, we can work to protect Americans against the abuse that has brought us considerable misuse of the public's hard-earned dollars. No more bridges to nowhere. No more $100 hammers. No more rainforests in Iowa. And no more spending of billions in taxpayer funds without full disclosure.

In this time of economic hardship in our state, no dollar can be wasted. Transparency and accountability are crucial to keeping America and Michigan fiscally healthy. We need to turn the lights on and change the way Congress does business with the people's pocketbook.

Setting aside Rep. Rogers' spotty history on open government legislation for a moment, I actually think this is a noble effort that's worth pursuing. The people do have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent.

So, I wrote Mike Rogers a letter...

I just read Rep. Rogers Op-Ed from Friday's Lansing State Journal, and wanted to send my compliments to the Congressman for taking such a strong stand against earmarks. I especially agree with this statement: "Every dollar the federal government spends should be vetted, offered in a transparent way, and open for debate." Rep. Rogers, could you please lead the way by disclosing every earmark you have ever requested in Congress? If we are going to "turn the lights on the earmark process," as you suggest, I believe your constituents deserve to know what earmarks you have placed in legislation during your career in Washington. Thanks for your time. I look forward to your response.

Some of you may remember that Mike Rogers actually wrote me back the last time I submitted an email to his office. We'll see if I get a response this time. Hopefully I won't have to wait another three months to hear back from him.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Rogers’ staffer used standard GOP defense

If you needed any more examples that people with influence, power and money – other than Paris Hilton - can get away with just about anything, the case of Mike Rogers senior staff member Charles “Tony” Baltimore is just one more.

You may recall that Baltimore was arrested for domestic assault in April by Lansing Police at a downtown Lansing club after what police described as an "altercation with a female companion.” According to the Lansing State Journal, District Court Judge Charles Filice dismissed the charges today. However, there appears to be more to the case, and it appears there was some merit to the charges.

The LSJ reported, “As a condition of the dismissal, Baltimore has to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as well as a batterers’ intervention service. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Linda Maloney said they will monitor his attendance.
“In the event of noncompliance, we could consider reissuing the charges,” she said.

Back in April spokesperson Sylvia Warner, Rogers’ press secretary, said action would be taken when Rogers knew more about the situation.

"The congressman obviously takes this very seriously," Warner said back in April. "The congressman wants to know, himself, exactly what the situation is."
Warner said Rogers would take "appropriate action" as soon as he had all the information about the incident.

He now, apparently, has all the information. What action is he planning to take? Why is Rogers still silent? Apparently, some sort of altercation occurred, or why the batterers’ intervention service? Just because there is no civil action does not mean Rogers cannot or should not take action. However, it appears Baltimore will take the standard defense we have seen other prominent Republicans take when caught in a misdeed: rehab.

It appears that promise of action by Rogers evaporated after the charges were dismissed.

“Tony continues to be an important member of the congressman’s staff,” said Sylvia Warner, Rogers’ press secretary. “The merits of the issue were reviewed by a judge and dismissed. We are pleased the matter has been resolved.”

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Rogers votes against stem cell research... again

Back in January, Mike Rogers voted against H.R. 3, a bill that would amend Public Health Service Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct and support research that utilizes human embryonic stem cells. Here's what we said back then:

Mr. Rogers consistently gets perfect marks from the National Right to Life committee, which opposes embryonic stem cell research, so it's not a big shock that he would vote against such a bill.

Of course, Mike Rogers wasn't elected to congress to represent the National Right to Life committee, he was elected to represent voters in the 8th district.

National polls have consistently shown strong public support for stem cell research (as high as 74%), so it's a safe bet that there is similar support here in the 8th district. Once again, Mike Rogers has proved that he doesn't represent the values of his constituents.

Well, he was at it again today. The bill came back through the House after the Senate voted to pass a slightly modified version back in April by an overwhelming majority.

Fittingly, Mike Rogers voted against stem cell research for the second time today.

Are we disappointed? Of course!

Surprised? Nope.

Of course, over in the UK, they've already had remarkable breakthroughs with stem cell research. In fact, just yesterday, British scientists announced that a cure for the most common cause of blindness may only be ten years away:

A ROUTINE operation to restore the sight of people afflicted with the most common cause of blindness will be available within a decade, British scientists believe.

Their declaration came as teams of US and Japanese experts turned mouse tissue cells into embryonic stem cells without the use of eggs or embryos, the most controversial aspect of ES cell research.

The US and Japanese findings were reported yesterday in the journals Nature and Cell Stem Cell.

"We now have the right mechanism for sourcing cells without ethical quibbles," said Peter Mountford, head of Melbourne- and London-based Stem Cell Sciences.

"We can foreseeably generate human ES cells from anybody with any genetic background with any disease."

Lawmakers in the UK understand that stem cell research holds great promise for medical breakthroughs like the one announced yesterday. That's why the British Government created the UK Stem Cell Initiative in March 2005:

The Government believes that stem cell research offers enormous potential to deliver new treatments for currently incurable illnesses, like chronic heart disease, diabetes and Parkinson's. The UK shows considerable strength in this area. On the back of rising public funding for medical and bioscience research, and emerging commercial and public health opportunities to translate this R&D into patient benefit, there is a real opportunity now to set a clear direction for the UK's future endeavours in stem cell research.

On 16th March 2005, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the establishment of the UK Stem Cell Initiative. The Budget report set out the broad goals of the Initiative: a high-level review, in collaboration with public and private sector stakeholders, to formulate a ten-year vision for UK stem cell research, creating a platform for coordinated public and private funding of research.

Fortunately, despite Mike Rogers' NO votes on stem cell research, the bills passed anyway. However, it is unfortunate that our congressman continues to vote against this life-saving research. Michigan's 8th district deserves better representation.