Personal Reflections on 9/11

Personal Reflections on 9/11

Note: I was appointed to the Bush Administration in 2001 as the chief information officer (CIO) for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and, subsequently, I served with the Homeland Security Transition Planning Office, the White House team that laid the groundwork for the launch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where I served briefly as a senior adviser to the DHS CIO. I was a leader and active participant in the initiation of our nation's federal homeland security infrastructure, and it was all due to the timing of my arrival in Washington during the summer prior to the largest enemy attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. This story is excerpted from my book SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Tom's Porch.

Read More

Lies of the Left, Wrongs of the Right: The State of Black Leadership in America

Note: These are my prepared remarks from Tea Party Review Magazine’s press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on May 18, 2011, titled “Lies of the Left, Wrongs of the Right.”

In the midst of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine began his essay series, The Crisis, with these words: "These are the times that try men's souls." Two-hundred and thirty five years later, those words sound eerily relevant to our circumstances today.

In times of crisis such as these, visionary leadership is not just important, it is essential. We need men and women who can define with crystal clarity what the future should look like, and how we will get there.

If we define vision, however, as foresight, then no community in America has been failed more by its so-called leadership than the black community. Rather than looking forward to a future of opportunity and promise after our victories in the civil rights movement, they continue to look backward as if this were still 1955 and we were still forced to ride in the back of the bus.

If education, employment and a strong family structure are the best indicators of success within a particular demographic group, then by any measure, the black community is in a death spiral. A quarter of black students don't graduate from high school; among young black males, over 50 percent don't graduate. The percentage of black people employed is the lowest it's been since records on that statistic have been kept. About three out of every four black children brought into the world are born into single parent families. Black women account for over a third of all abortions in America despite comprising only 13 percent of the female population.

The impact of the destruction of the black family is particularly telling. Families where black children are raised by a married mother and father have a poverty rate of 8.3 percent, while the poverty rate among single black parents is a staggering 40 percent.

Black leadership, whether it emerges from the pulpit, the classroom, the boardroom, the political rostrum, or any other platform, should be focused like a laser on these challenges, and promoting proven or promising solutions regardless of where they come from.

It's clear to me, however, based on simple observation, that the black leadership in America today is, for the most part, completely assimilated into and beholden to the liberal political agenda.

The Bible says, "By their fruits you shall know them," and their actions loudly declare that they are more dedicated to keeping their seat at the table with their liberal enablers than helping those of us who desperately need principled and compassionate leadership.

While black children and their parents are crying out for education options that remove their children from poor-performing and unsafe public schools, the Congressional Black Caucus stands in the school doorway like George Wallace in 1963, voting against vouchers and other alternative education programs at the behest of the unions, and denying black children the best chance they have for learning and getting ahead in life.

While black people are suffering the most under the high unemployment rates of the past two years, our self-anointed leaders find more solidarity with illegal aliens and unscrupulous employers, who collude to take jobs away from young and low-skill American workers, than they do with their constituents who look to them for help.

While over 16 million black lives and $4 billion of black wealth are taken from us by the abortion industry, black leadership screams in protest at the pro-life billboards erected in our cities by black people of principle, who actually live their Sunday values every day of the week.

As recently as this week, these self-anointed leaders were blaming racism for the high black unemployment rate. It's their continued refusal, however, to empower the black community with personal responsibility and expectations of excellence, and their support of policies that destroyed families and incentivized dependency, that have brought us to this point. We need less "Yes, we can!" and more "Yes, I can!"

A new millennium demands new leadership that acknowledges the broad shoulders of leaders past upon which we stand, but also recognizes that we gain no ground by casting our gaze steadily backwards. The world will surely continue to pass us by, and we must prepare ourselves for the great new challenges and opportunities to come.

I am heartened by the emergence of a new wave of independent black leadership, which embraces the uniquely American character traits of individual initiative and personal responsibility, entrepreneurship and redemption through grace. Their goal is to bring the black community into the American mainstream because, at the end of the day, we are equal heirs of this great land. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.”

For this emergence to take hold, however, we need the conservative movement to come alongside the new leaders, some of whom are in this room today, and work with them as equal partners.

If I may presume to speak as one of that number to our conservative and libertarian friends, we have made your task easier by returning to our conservative roots, sparing you the challenge of persuading us to join you.

The ostracism by family and friends, and the hatred of our community, were not enough to keep us from seeking and finding the truth. In return, however, we want to be respected as more than an adjunct arm of the conservative movement. We want to be standard-bearers, too.

When we risk everything to take a public stand for conservative values, please stand with us. When we suggest ways in which the conservative message can be more effectively conveyed to the black community, please act with us.

The Bible says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” We need more than talk; we need action, because lives are at stake.

We have come a long way to be here with you, and made many sacrifices on the road to liberty, and all we ask is that you honor us with your time, attention, and partnership so that we can lead with you.

We need each other, and our nation needs us. Just as Thomas Paine gave us words of warning about times of great crisis, he also gave us words of hope in his pamphlet aptly titled, Common Sense: "We have it in our power to begin the world over again."

Shooting Exposes Paternalism of the Left

One of the valuable lessons I’ve learned in my 50-plus years of living is not to respond to an emotional event on the spur of the moment, but to give reason and thought the opportunity to take hold and better inform one’s actions. Regrettably, that lesson was ignored by far too many people this weekend.

I was somewhat isolated from the news for a good part of Saturday morning and afternoon, so when I returned home, prepared for an afternoon of playoff football, I didn’t know about the massacre in Tucson, Arizona that gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), killed six, including a 9-year old girl and a federal judge, and injured 14 others.

As stunned as I was by this senseless act of violence, I was equally sickened by the shameless exploitation of this tragedy by the liberal elite and the sycophants who parrot them, for the purposes of smearing their political opponents.

Their grasping at straws would be pathetic if it wasn’t for the fact so many of them reside in the mainstream media, and therefore have the power and passion to flood the public arena with their scurrilous accusations.

As the recently censored Mark Twain once said, “The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers if a man only tells them with all his might.”

At best, if they truly believe the drivel they are spouting, they are horribly out of touch with their neighbors and fellow Americans, delusional, or some combination of the two.

At worst, if they’re simply doing it out of desperation as they see their ideas rejected, their narrative discredited, and their opportunity for power spiraling down the drain, they are unscrupulous.

Their reaction to this specific incident, however, should also be viewed in the context of how modern liberals view human beings.

To them, people are largely ignorant, impulsive and malleable, and not only require guidance from more enlightened souls – namely, themselves -- but must also be shielded from circumstances, people or points of view that the enlightened ones have deemed dangerous or unworthy. All of this, of course, is done for the benefit of the less fortunate.

This elitist perspective toward people is cloaked in benevolence but is in fact condescending and authoritarian in tone and practice. What they are saying, in effect, is that we are incapable of taking responsibility for ourselves, or being held accountable for our actions, and therefore they must take the reins.

The same mindset that declares a deranged shooter the “victim” of a toxic political climate believes that classic literature should be censored to protect us from insensitive language, talk radio ought to be regulated to ensure “fairness”, people of faith should be banned from the airwaves for “hate” speech, and illegal aliens ought to be called “undocumented workers” instead because the truth is too harsh.

You can almost hear your mother or father lecturing you, saying “It’s for your own good.”

I call it the infantilization of America.

Infants aren’t capable of reason or thought, but instead react based on instinct, feelings and desires. Infants are self-absorbed and unpredictable. Infants can’t fend for themselves. In short, infants can’t be trusted with liberty or self-governance.

As an example, in my book SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Tom’s Porch, I write, “I see in liberals a condescending paternalism toward blacks as if we are incapable of surviving and thriving on our own.” The policies and politics they’ve foisted on black Americans for nearly half a century have done irreparable harm, especially to young black men, who have been emasculated and robbed of their self-sufficiency and dignity.

Moreover, like overindulgent parents, the liberal elite seek to shield us from pain or hardship, even of our own making. This is particularly dangerous because not only are we deprived of the lessons and character development that come from confronting and overcoming adversity, we are encouraged to be reckless and irresponsible because we know we’re going to be bailed out or excused for our behavior.

Liberty isn’t freedom from adversity, as author Mark Steyn points out:

Freedom is messy. In free societies, people will fall through the cracks — drink too much, eat too much, buy unaffordable homes, fail to make prudent provision for health care, and much else. But the price of being relieved of all those tiresome choices by a benign paternal government is far too high...It’s a liberty issue. I’d rather be free to choose, even if I make the wrong choices.

The infantilization of America is what gives liberals the authority to tell us how much money we should make, what car we should drive, what health care we should use, what we should or shouldn’t eat, and what moral beliefs are acceptable.

It’s also what sanctions them to blame others for the poor life decisions people make, rather than compelling them to stand on their own two feet and take personal responsibility for their actions.

The paternalism that undergirds liberal thinking has always been there, but the ongoing rebellion of liberty-loving Americans against their coercive utopianism, to use Dr. Mark Cooray’s term, has stripped away their compassionate veneer and revealed the true arrogance and ugliness underneath.

That is what we are witnessing in these shrill accusations they are hurling at Sarah Palin, the Tea Party movement, and other political opponents. Somehow, it wasn’t a mentally disturbed young man, whose obsession with Rep. Giffords apparently preceded the emergence of any of the people or institutions they are attacking, that pulled the trigger that sunny Saturday in Tucson.

It was you and me.

As sure as liberty is our God-given right, however, Jared Loughner is the master of his thoughts and actions, however twisted they may be. Ownership of this evil act is his and his alone.

I trust the American people to discern the liberals’ true motives in transferring blame from the actor to the environment -- to suppress dissent and revive their flagging political fortunes.

Please continue to pray for the dead and wounded, and their families and loved ones. Don’t succumb to the temptation to wallow in the mud alongside the liberal elites and their minions. One day they will understand that we are not their children to be hushed into silence on command, although that might be a juvenile assumption on my part.

No Choice Left But to Fight

I’ve reached the sad conclusion that the 21st century liberal is like a virus that is resistant to previously effective medications. A stronger prescription is required.

Most sensible politicians of any ideology would take the drubbing the Democrats endured this past electoral cycle, lick their wounds and absorb the lessons from it, and seek to change in response to the expressed will of the people.

After all, this was not a garden variety mid-term election setback; the breadth and depth of their defeat was historic. One has to go back to 1948 to find a whipping of this magnitude in an election cycle, and the Republicans’ net gain of 63 seats is the highest of any midterm election since 1938. The Democrats’ gains of 2006 and 2008, the voters’ response to Republican missteps, were completely wiped out.

To some extent, the Republicans are taking halting steps toward the people’s wishes as a result of those previous elections, in which the people punished them for essentially promising one thing and doing another.

Incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said, “This is a second chance for us. If we blow it again, we will be in the wilderness for a very long time. We have to deliver." The next Speaker of the House, John Boehner, declared the "new majority will be prepared to do things differently, to take a new approach that hasn't been tried in Washington before by either party." Message sent, delivered and received.

Not so with the Democrats and their liberal allies. They are brushing off their electoral “shellacking”, to use President Obama’s term, with lame excuses about poor messaging or not enough communications, incredible claims that they didn’t go far enough in imposing their radical leftist agenda, or condescending statements about the electorate’s inability to grasp the complexity of their agenda, or their susceptibility to well-funded misinformation campaigns by the opposition.

In fact, I’m drowning in their communications, and I’m tired of hearing from them or seeing their faces peering from every magazine, television set or web site. The notion they weren’t liberal enough makes my head ache, and their continued insults of the American people, challenging their veracity, integrity or intelligence, makes me question how smart they really are. Nowhere in the annuals of human interaction are we advised to win over those opposed to us by calling them names.

We should have known what was coming when the Democrats, in contravention to precedent, reelected the same slate of leaders in Congress who ran the ship aground.

Only in the bizzaro world of liberalism is Nancy Pelosi worthy of continuing as the leader of the Democratic congressional delegation. So determined were she and erstwhile House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to maintain their “Sheriff and Deputy Dawg” roles that they thought it worth the risk of alienating their most loyal constituency, the black community, and the Congressional Black Caucus, by pushing outgoing House Majority Whip James Clyburn out of what would have been the number two position in the Democratic hierarchy. They then created a token position for him so they could still claim they care about black people.

What followed this indefensible retention of failed leadership has been a strident and frantic attack on every principle for which the American people voted on November 2nd – individual liberty, free enterprise and limited constitutional government.

In the process, they are trampling on Thomas Jefferson’s prescription for good government, given at his first inaugural address as president in 1801:

“With all [our] blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens—a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.”

Had Mr. Jefferson spoken those words today, he would have been branded a “hostage-taker” by the sitting President, and accused of “political terrorism” by a state chairman of the political party that claims him as their honorary “father”.

Regarding freedom of the press, Mr. Jefferson said:

It is so difficult to draw a clear line of separation between the abuse and the wholesome use of the press, that as yet we have found it better to trust the public judgment, rather than the magistrate, with the discrimination between truth and falsehood.

In today’s America, he would have been dismissed by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who believes “The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has the responsibility to set standards to say the public cannot be offended” over the public airwaves, his definition of offense being anything uttered by Rush Limbaugh or anyone with whom he disagrees.

Unfortunately, he appears to have an ally in FCC commissioner Michael Copps, who thinks it’s the government’s job to ensure the media is “producing the body of news and information that democracy needs to conduct its civic dialogue.”

Those of us who take offense at race-baiting purveyors of false theology, however, can’t kick Rev. Sharpton off the air and, frankly, wouldn’t push for it because our remedy doesn’t require government fiat, just the manual dexterity to turn off or change the channel on the radio or television set. Perhaps, as a public service, we need to teach the reverend and the commissioner how to use their remotes, rather than trying to force people to listen to or watch only what they think is important or right.

Mr. Jefferson was an advocate of legal immigration, saying:

Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in society, conforming, as I doubt not you will do, to our established rules.

Yet the House of Representatives, ostensibly the people’s house, this week passed the Orwellian-named DREAM Act to reward illegal aliens, who did not conform “to our established rules”, to remain legally and permanently in the United States. Had Mr. Jefferson stood in the well of the House to denounce this legislation and advocate the rule of law, he would probably have been branded a nativist, a racist and “un-American”.

The offenses against liberty have been numerous and frequent in the month since they were rejected at the polls:

- A child-nutrition bill that gives the government the power to ban bake sales, pizza and doughnut fundraisers, and other fundraisers selling unhealthy food during school lunch hours.

- A resolution allowing the House to rapidly bring any bill without normal procedural delays until Dec. 18 so they can rush their legislation through before they are officially out of power.

- Their use of regulatory agencies like the FCC and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to bypass Congress and advance initiatives like net neutrality and card check, despite the fact that all 95 net neutrality proponents were defeated in November, and most Americans, including 1972 Democratic presidential nominee and liberal icon George McGovern, are against card check votes for unionization as an infringement on workers’ rights to free expression through the secret ballot.

- Their continued insistence on pursuing special interest issues like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, despite the voters’ clear message that the economy and jobs should be their first and highest priority.

- Their defense of the “death tax”, a fundamentally immoral levy on already-taxed income, exemplified by a tempestuous rant by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), who said the deceased citizen isn’t affected by the tax because “They’ll be dead. No, they’ll be dead. Those people will be dead”, and their heirs aren’t deserving of the inherited wealth because it’s “unearned income.” He obviously never read Ezekiel 46:18, or has forgotten his religious training:

The prince shall not take from the people's inheritance, thrusting them out of their possession; he shall give his sons inheritance from his own possession so that My people will not be scattered, anyone from his possession.

Rep. Weiner’s comments essentially sum up the attitude of most liberal elected and appointed officials, and the people who voted for them. Scrape away the pretense of patriotism and do-gooding, and this is their message to the American people:

You do not have exclusive or even primary rights to the money you earned, nor do you have the right to determine its disposition after you’re gone. The more you make, the less you deserve, even if you earned it legally and ethically, because the wealthier you are, the greedier you are, unless you agree with us. Only the government has the wisdom, altruism and moral character to decide what to do with the money you earned. Therefore, even though we had nothing to do with you earning the money, it is ours to take and dispose of as we see fit. It’s for your own good, even though you are not intelligent or moral enough to discern that fact.

If that is your vision of how we are to be served by our elected officials, then I have nothing further to say to you.

If, on the other hand, you believe a free society does not begrudge its citizens their “sweat equity”, nor does it “take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned”, that the people freely saving, spending, or investing their money, or paying down personal indebtedness, does more for the economy than government ever can or will, that a free society creates the opportunity for all to prosper and celebrates success and the risk-taking, toil and sacrifice that lead to it, and that government serves the people best by governing least, then I have a message for you.

The fight isn’t over.

Rest and rejuvenate yourself this holiday season, and reconnect with your faith, family and friends to remind yourself of what’s important in this life. Then come back in 2011, mindful of who and what you’re fighting for, and leap back into the fray. Let’s make 2010 look like a tea party – pardon the pun – compared to what will happen to these petty autocrats in 2012.

Parent’s Choice

Several years ago, Adrian Fenty, at the time a member of the Washington, DC City Council, promised the public he would send his twin sons to public school once they reached fourth grade. He wanted to demonstrate his support for public schools in both his political and personal life. He kept his promise and enrolled his sons in public school this fall, but the manner in which he did it has the District of Columbia in a minor uproar.

Rather than enroll his sons in their Crestwood neighborhood school, West Elementary, he enrolled them in the much more coveted Lafayette Elementary School in Chevy Chase. This action isn’t without precedent; former Mayor Marion Barry, the last D.C. mayor to have school-age children, went outside his neighborhood boundaries to enroll his son in northwest D.C. public schools as well.

Moreover, Michelle Rhee, D.C.’s Schools Chancellor, assured the public there are several protocols in place to allow parents to send their children to out-of-boundary schools and that they were followed.

Still, many parents believe the mayor must have circumvented the process to enroll his sons at Lafayette, which according to the Washington Post, “is 72 percent white and 28 percent minority, [and] has a more affluent student body and higher standardized test scores than West, which is 71 percent black.” Lafayette has a waiting list and many are wondering how Fenty’s boys moved ahead of others on the list. The mayor isn’t talking, citing privacy for his family, and Rhee isn’t saying much more than what I indicated above.

This episode strikes me in a couple of ways. First of all, I never condemn parents for making decisions they believe are in their children’s best interests. Just as Barack Obama, an avowed supporter of public schools and the teachers unions, has every right to enroll his girls at Sidwell Friends School, as did his Democratic predecessors in the White House, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, Mayor Fenty should do everything in his power to secure for his boys the best possible education.

Moreover, his children are not social engineering subjects or campaign props to be used to advance a public agenda. Like any parent, Mayor Fenty doesn’t want to place his children in substandard public schools in the hope the schools will get better someday. He wants the best for his children today, not at some unspecified point in the future.

When we moved to Calvert County, we purchased a home in Huntingtown because we did our research prior to our move and determined that the elementary and middle school at Plum Point would be excellent schools for our three children. In fact, school quality is the number one criteria for most parents in deciding where to live.

That said, a public official’s personal decisions are usually scrutinized and evaluated against their public pronouncements. Not all parents have the mobility or income to choose where their children attend school, so when politicians exercise their options to ensure their children are placed in the best schools while impeding citizens from making similar choices for themselves, they become annoyed.

Democrats like Fenty are typically hostile to school choice, especially when it comes to vouchers for poor families to send their children to private schools.

Former mayor Anthony Williams, however, took the unprecedented step of establishing the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program so poor families could send their children to private or parochial schools. More than 1,700 D.C. students have taken advantage of the program, and the parents are pleased and the children performing better than their peers in D.C. public schools.

When the Democrats in the U.S. Congress did the bidding of the teachers unions and took steps earlier in the year to eliminate the program, some Democrats, Senator Joe Lieberman most notably, spoke up in its defense. Even the D.C. City Council voted to petition Congress to continue the program. Mayor Fenty, however, has been silent, issuing short statements through his spokesperson offering tepid support for the program.

It is against this backdrop that parents and other observers are viewing with some cynicism Fenty’s placement of his sons, who previously attended a private Montessori school, into a highly desired public school. School choice is an issue where Democrats have adopted a not-so-subtle “do as I say, not as I do” approach, as noted by former Bush administration speechwriter Marc Thiessen:

The hypocrisy is palpable. A 2003 Heritage Foundation survey found that, while only 10 percent of American students attend private schools, 41 percent of congressmen and 46 percent of senators responded that they had sent children to private school.

Mayor Fenty is putting the well-being of his children above politics when it comes to their choice of schools. Millions of other parents whose children are trapped in poor public schools want to do the right thing by their children as well, if only the politicians would allow for others what they have for themselves – real choice.

D.C. Vote Veto A Bad Idea

Dear Mr. President: Will you accept some unsolicited advice from a friend? No, you don't remember me; I'm one of thousands of people who have crossed paths with you over the years. You invited me to become a volunteer for your first political campaign "back in the day," as the kids say today. I was on your payroll for three years; I even got to visit you in the Oval Office along with a few of my colleagues. You were very generous with your time, respectful of the office and humbled by the charge you've been given. I like you, so please hear me out when I tell you your threat to veto a bill giving the residents of the District of Columbia their own representative in the U.S. Congress is not helping you or the Republican Party.

I've heard all the arguments against giving D.C. their own voting representative in Congress, but they don't amount to a hill of beans when compared to the goodwill you would earn for yourself and the GOP within the black community. "It gives the Democrats a guaranteed seat in the Congress," they'll tell you. The current legislation gives you a safe Republican seat in Utah in exchange, so it's a wash. "The Constitution says representation in Congress is for the states," they'll say. The Constitution also says the laws governing D.C. are set by Congress, which has delegated their authority to the city in a number of areas, so it appears that Congress has the constitutional authority to change the law. "They'll want two Senators next," they'll harrumph. Maybe, but we're fretting about a problem that hasn't presented itself yet.

The advice you're getting is all about short-term appeasement, not long-term gain. What's needed here, Mr. President, is the long view. This bill has great meaning to the black majority in Washington, D.C. and the black community as a whole, and you would be giving them a significant victory.

So will blacks come rushing to the Republican camp if you support this bill? No - in their eyes the GOP has a lot of work to do, and I know it isn't entirely fair. They say you're a racist, even though you're the first President to appoint a black man and subsequently a black woman as our nation's Secretary of State, making them easily the most powerful black people ever to serve in the U.S. government. Condoleeza Rice has been your trusted advisor and confidante on the most consequential matters in U.S. foreign policy for seven years. Personally, I haven't forgotten how you noticed a young black student in the back of a crowded politcal science class at Texas Tech and invited him on the spot to come work for you simply based on the substance of the questions he asked. A racist wouldn't do that - but I digress.

They think the Republican Party is anti-black despite the fact that from 1854 to 1964, every major civil rights law in the country, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act itself, was either sponsored by the GOP or wouldn't have passed without the GOP's support. Meanwhile, the Democrats either looked the other way, obstructed progress or were actively involved in the horrors of institutionalized racism and discrimination. Heck, it was a Republican congressman, Tom Davis of Virginia, who introduced the D.C. bill when Congress was still in Republican hands, and he is still a passionate advocate for its passage. The Democrats are the beneficiaries of short memories and clouded history, which is why their 43 years of belated enlightenment trumps 110 years of oppression - but again, I digress.

So if supporting this legislation won't bring immediate positive results to the GOP at the ballot box, why should you support it? Confucius said "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," and anything you can do to begin mending fences with the black community while still being true to the party's principles is a step forward. Saying "yes" may not yield instant results, but saying "no" will reinforce entrenched mindsets about the GOP and make it just a little harder for future Republicans to reach out to the next generation of black Americans.

The other reason is rooted in your deep passion for democracy. You believe that America has a moral obligation to be a force for democratic change around the world, and that people should have the right to determine their own destinies through the ballot box. Because of your beliefs, I think you'll understand the most important reason for supporting this bill - it gives the more than 580,000 people in the District the right to govern themselves. Our men and women in uniform are fighting and dying in faraway places to give others that right, and you can extend it to the citizens of our nation's capital with a stroke of a pen and without bloodshed. It's the right thing to do, Mr. President, and while it won't win you many friends overnight in the black community, it makes life a little easier for the Republican leaders who follow you. As a friend, I'd certainly appreciate it.