Christopher Shays visited us last week accompanied by his charming wife Betsy. This was his 21st time with the Y’s Men and, it was an opportune time that enabled us to listen to some of his views as he enters the race to be the Republican nominee for senate later this year.
Chris told us 5 stories in 12 minutes. They recalled his experiences as a State representative and Congressman that had helped shape his political views. The stories illustrated what he felt to be the fundamental similarities in values that could be held by people from different social backgrounds, for example, a poor prostitute in Bridgeport and a rich philanthropist in Darien on the question of AIDS prevention and treatment. And he told of the horror of a rape and murder victim that led to his support of victims’ rights and the death penalty and, finally, his undying admiration for our service men and women.
An extensive Q and A session covered such issues as:
- Would he comment on the current Republican nomination process? No – he would not!
- The Wartime Contracting Commission on which he had served had estimated the waste in the Iraqi war to be in the region of $31- 60 bn. dollars. Could he identify where those losses had occurred and would there be consequences? Chris said that the problem resided in the fact that 50% of the war effort was spent on contractors but there was no specific oversight of them or responsibility for them, either on the part of the OMB or the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
- On the balanced budget amendment? He had voted for it, favoring a reduction in entitlements not simply spending.
- Iraq – in retrospect was his support for the war a mistake? Of course. The great error had been that the US as well as all those other countries that had supported the invasion, UK, Israel, Jordan even the French, had based their decision primarily on the same informant who proved to be unreliable.
- Did he support term limits? No. The country needed people with experience and not short timers. He cited Henry Hyde and Dick Lugar as good examples of the former.
- He voted for the repeal of Glass-Steagall because without it he felt US banks could not compete internationally. He felt the chief culprits in the 2008 mortgage debacle were Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
- His opinion of John Boehner? Had a tough job – he likened it to herding cats.
- The role of the media in politics? Newspapers promoted talking heads with the inevitable spin based on their prejudices. CSPAN deserved a Pulitzer prize for disinterested reporting.
- How should we manage lobbyists? Shays felt they had a role, especially in State government, but he objected to lobbyists that supported both parties simply to gain access.
Whatever one’s politics, Christopher Shays comes across as a decent human being with a drive to make a change for good in the world. Time will tell if the voters will return him to center stage.