When Congress was debating whether to extend its session into August to work on the nation's pressing energy issues, Connecticut's 2nd District Congressman, Joseph Courtney, stood tall and cast the decisive vote … to head out on vacation.
"Party hearty!" became the official slogan of Congressional Democrats as they raced Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for the exit door. Courtney and his fellow Pelosi minions were hard on her heels as they fled to the mountains, beach resorts, and foreign vacation spas.
The Democrats quickly forgot any aspect of their duties to the country at large, not to mention their home districts. Republicans on the other hand, office holders and candidates alike, including Connecticut's 2nd District challenger, retired Navy Captain and U-Boat commander Sean Sullivan, stayed at their posts.
As his opponent basked in the waning summer sun and the first chill breezes of autumn hinted at the need for heating fuel that will soon be upon us, Sullivan studied the situation in depth. He issued a series of position papers outlining not just the difficulties we face, but possible solutions as well.
At a press conference in Enfield in mid-August Sullivan discussed some of the options that will ease the both the price and supply issues, including: Lifting the offshore drilling ban; Building more oil refineries; Building more nuclear power plants; Providing tax credits to consumers making energy efficient purchases.
Sullivan has more than a passing familiarity with energy needs. The years he spent learning the systems necessary to keep a nuclear submarine running for months on end with no external support serve him well in the civilian world.
Those systems included the nuclear reactor; seawater to oxygen conversion to provide breathable air during extended submerged periods; electrical generation and more.
As Democrats, imitating the proverbial grasshoppers, dance and fiddle the summer away, Sullivan and other Republicans are delving into the energy issue working to develop solutions.
There are myriad ways to compare our choices in the November election to determine who will represent us in Congress for the next two years, but the difference between Sullivan's response to solving the nation's energy needs versus Courtney's really tells us all we need to know.
Sullivan, who spent a lifetime in service of his country, took stock of the issue, and immediately set to work on finding solutions. He applied his extensive knowledge of energy systems and energy requirements in the US Navy's submarine service to civilian energy needs. He looked for common areas where solutions long in use for the military can be modified and applied to the wider needs of the country. His opponent did … nothing.
There are two major lessons we can learn from the incumbent's response to a matter of national urgency when compared to the challenger's.
First, Joe Courtney obviously cares more about his standing in the Washington D.C. fraternity known as the Democratic Caucus than he does about the issues facing his constituents in Connecticut's 2nd Congressional District.
When Congress reconvenes in mid-September, the national debate on energy solutions may be no further along, but Republicans in and out of Congress will be well prepared to offer realistic solutions, while Democrats can only offer more political rhetoric and stonewalling.
Also, while Courtney and his pals fiddled away the summer, other issues arose, such as the Russian invasion of the former Soviet republic of Georgia. It will take Sullivan's work ethic and knowledge of the wider world outside of the Washington social scene to effectively tackle these issues, and make the 2nd District safe and energy independent.
There is far too much going on in the world and in our country to take a cavalier approach to serving in Congress. This is no time to be fiddling around.
Saturday, August 23, 2008