Monday, July 16, 2007
Ike Skelton - the End of Moderation?
Isaac Newton "Ike" Skelton is as old-school as they get. He's been involved in public life since the President was known as Ike, and he's been in Congress for three decades. He's a Democrat, but opposes abortion and gun control. As a conservative Democrat, he is a throw-back to pre-Kos, "silent majority" days, when liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats overlapped in the spectrum of American political thought.
Lately, though, Ike Skelton has emerged from the sleepy world of quiet moderation and started to make a few waves. Recently, his press office contacted a gaggle of Missouri bloggers and started to send us press releases. He's been getting his voice heard more often, and is even showing his dry sense of humor. Note the book he is featuring in his National Library Day promotion - a poster that could otherwise be taken off the set of Pleasantville, except for the presence of Fiasco. a book which chronicles the blunders of the Bush Administration's mishandling of the Iraq war.
Last week, Ike Skelton found himself at the forefront of the debate over Iraq when his bill requiring U.S. forces to begin a troop withdrawal within 120 days and move to a "limited presence" by April 1 passed by a margin of 223-201 in the US House of Representatives.
When I first noted Ike Skelton's increased visibility and assertiveness, I thought for a second he might be setting himself up for some larger role in government. Perhaps he could be going after the seat Kit Bond is unlikely to retain in 2010? Perhaps he's positioning himself for a vice presidential nomination? Either Clinton or Obama could benefit from having a swing-state, moderately conservative, unabashedly pro-military, anti-war voice on the ticket.
A look at his bio, though, shows that such speculation is unlikely. Ike Skelton is 75 years old, and is unlikely to be seeking such long-term commitments.
Instead, I see two reasons for Ike's recent higher profile. First, I note that in 2005, he lost his wife of 44 years, and, later in that same year, was injured during an official visit to Iraq. What I know of aging and what I've seen of it suggests that Ike has seen the eternal footman hold his coat, and doesn't want to hear him snicker.
Less dramatically, but just as likely, Ike Skelton hasn't changed, but the world has changed around him. He has always supported the military, but this is a time when supporting them does not mean supporting their misguided and unwinnable mission. Supporting them means bringing them home and making college affordable for them.
In times like these, even traditional voices of moderation and conservatism are finding it necessary to oppose this administration's policies. Whatever his reasons, I am glad to see Ike Skelton letting himself be heard.