by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist

My hat’s off to Tribune Publisher Hank Waters for writing the weakest endorsement of a congressional candidate I have ever read.

After providing a long laundry list of the bad policy decisions that Congressman Kenny Hulshof has made, Waters endorsed him in his Oct. 16 column using the best argument he could summon: “He is a good guy.”

I am less concerned about whether my representative is a good guy than about whether he will provide good representation and be a good decision maker. I want a good congressman! I want a representative in Congress who will not be a rubber stamp for his political party’s policies without thinking about the effect on the people he represents. I want a congressman who will provide oversight when the executive branch reaches too far and who will respect the independence of the judiciary. I want my congressman to respect the rule of law. I frankly don’t care whether he is a “good guy,” just whether he is a good representative.

But let’s just assume for a minute that being a “good guy” is the main quality you want in a congressman. Is Hulshof really a good guy? Based on his record, I don’t think so.

Does a good guy support a “stay the course” war policy when it is clear that the current course is leading to disaster? Does a good guy endorse illegal wiretaps? Does a good guy vote to support torture? Does a good guy vote to create the biggest deficit in national history? Would a good guy be obsessed with giving the richest of the rich more tax breaks while the middle class is socked with more tax burden?

Affable guy? Maybe. Good guy? No.

Hank says, “If they” – the voters – “vote with their hearts, they will stick with Hulshof. My heart wins.” Well Hank, you must have some thick skin if Hulshof’s actions aren’t breaking your heart! Perhaps Hulshof’s charm and good looks have left Hank in such a besotted state that he can’t think clearly. I just don’t understand what there is for the citizens of the Ninth District to love about Congressman Hulshof.

When asked why voters in the Ninth District should like him, Hulshof often points to the millions of dollars that he has brought to the Ninth District. But where did that money come from in the first place? It came from our tax dollars! In the past six years, it has been coming from the national debt, which we taxpayers will have to pay back with interest. Hulshof is showing us a good time on our own credit card and expecting us to gratefully give him our votes in return. That is not my idea of a fun date.

While he professes his love for the citizens of the Ninth District, Hulshof’s real love is for the policies of the Bush administration. When confronted with his rubber-stamp record for the Bush/Cheney administration, Congressman Hulshof can only point to his differences with Bush on immigration policy. In this case, Hulshof differs with the president because Bush’s policy is too moderate! It is because of representatives like Hulshof that the debates in Congress are now dominated by two schools of political thought – right wing and ultra right wing.

Congressman Hulshof has supported every failed policy that Bush, Cheney and Rove have pushed forward, from tax policy to Iraq policy. On Iraq, Hulshof seems at a loss to offer any serious criticism. He has been to Iraq and seems to think it is all going fine. He would like to see the administration set some benchmarks for success so we would know when our troops can come home. It seems to me that the time to set benchmarks and goals was before voting to allow the president to deploy our troops.

Every night, the News Hour program shows the names and faces of the American soldiers who were recently killed. Tonight the faces of 24 more soldiers were shown. It breaks my heart to know that my congressman – a man I voted for in the past – didn’t have the political courage to stand up and ask the tough questions when they needed to be asked and still doesn’t.

Congressman Hulshof’s actions have broken my heart. But unlike Hank, I’ll be looking for a new love this November.