The New Frontiers
With Assemblyman Rory Lancman running for Congress, it is increasingly likely that Bob Turner will not be redistricted out of office. Instead, we have a chance to defeat him, and we should embrace that challenge wholeheartedly. An examination of Turner’s record on foreign policy, energy issues, and community outreach proves just how unfit he is to represent the 9th District
One of the ways Turner won election to Congress was by pandering to the ‘Israel, right or wrong’ crowd, offering only brickbats for President Barack Obama’s level-headed approach to the conflict in the Middle East. Comprised of Orthodox Jews and neo-conservatives, this group only enables the Jewish State’s reckless and self-destructive policy of settlement-building and encourages the growth of far-right parties, which undermine Israel’s liberal democracy and attack the most basic rights of the Palestinians.
Kissing the ring of these radical elements, in November, Turner had the temerity to release a statement calling on Obama to apologize to Benjamin Netanyahu, after the American president and his French counterpart were caught on microphone expressing their exasperation over the Israeli premier’s duplicitousness.
If that were not enough, Turner seems eager to launch the United States into a war with Iran. Among Congress’s jingoistic drum-beaters, he is perhaps the loudest, writing in a recent press release that the Islamic Republic’s nuclear weapons program “threaten[s] our very existence” and that the military option must be on the table, though the current policy of sabotage and targeted assassination is proving successful in slowing the Iranians’ progress.
All this, however, pales in comparison to the self-serving, environmentally unsound positions the Congressman has taken on energy issues. During the campaign, Turner criss-crossed the district pledging his support for fracking in upstate New York’s Marcellus Shale. Such a project, he assured us, would kickstart billions of dollars in economic development and bring us cheap gas. What he failed to mention, however, were the pitfalls of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, a dangerous process that could taint our city’s reservoirs, pollute millions of acres of land, create cancer clusters, and irreparably ravage countless ecosystems.
In the same vein, he has attacked President Obama’s sage decision to kill TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, which would have pumped dirty oil from Alberta over the Great Plains’s sprawling Ogalalla Aquifer to the Gulf Coast for refinement and export. The project, Turner said, “would not only have put thousands of Americans back to work, but it would have also provided the United States with a steady supply of oil.” Both these claims have been thoroughly discredited – most of that gasoline was destined for China and, according to a TransCanada official, the pipeline would have only created hundreds of permanent positions.
This gets to a larger point: Turner’s fealty to the oil and gas lobby is not just a matter of principle, but also one of profit. On a financial disclosure form dated to July 28, 2011, his holdings in companies such as Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Royal Dutch Shell added up to $724,166, a sum that had grown by $80,000 over the previous year, surely an investment worth protecting.
Beyond being ideologically unsuited for the district, Turner is incompetent, as I have seen on numerous occasions. In August, when he came in for his endorsement interview with The Wave, he seemed to forget the definition of supply side economics. At the press conferences I have attended, he has proved to be quite the lackluster public speaker, looking as if he would rather be sitting at home on his sofa.
Turner lacks the vigor of his predecessor, Anthony Weiner, who embraced the chain of office energetically, engaging in spirited town hall debates with his constituents and running a formidable casework operation. Weiner was adept at making sure we received our share of federal money, bringing a bike trail to Broad Channel and a ferry to the Rockaways.
The current congressman’s office, if you read the papers, appears to ride back seat to more effective outfits, like that of Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. But I guess that is bound to happen when Turner does not even maintain a satellite office on the peninsula, choosing instead to hold events where residents can interact with his representatives.
Turner is not good for Rockaway, not good for New York, not good for America or Israel. Let’s make an example of him in November.
Shortly after I finished penning this piece, I saw Congressman Turner’s column on the current contraception controversy, and dissecting that article seems to be a great way to top off this week’s “New Frontiers.”
To just point out the factual errors, let’s explore this doozy. “Our Founding Fathers so valued religion in public life that the first enumerated right in the Constitution is that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.” In fact, the Free Exercise Clause comes right after the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Secondly, the representative mixes up the Founders and the Framers – the Founders signed the Declaration of Independence; the Framers approved the Constitution. While there was a lot of overlap between those two groups, there were notable exceptions. For example, John Adams was at the Continental Congress but in England during the Constitutional Convention; James Madison was the father of the Constitution, though he was too young to participate in politics when the Declaration was adopted. Thirdly, the Founders and Framers did not believe religion belonged in the public square. Most of them were Deists, rejecting the doctrines of Saint Augustine and John Calvin in favor of the writings of more enlightened thinkers such as William Penn and Roger Williams. How ironic it is that conservatives claim to be the upholders of our heritage when they so reliably flub basic historical questions.
Moving on, the issue of contraception is not about religious liberty, it is one of women’s health.
Catholic institutions employ and serve people of many faiths, with government money I might add, and these persons need access to basic reproductive care as part of their health coverage.
Additionally, the Supreme Court has ruled in three cases, Reynolds v. United States, Jacobsen v. Massachusetts, and Oregon v. Smith, that free exercise of religion may be restricted when it contravenes secular law.
Perhaps this last statement is gratuitous, but I feel obliged to make it. The Catholic Church’s attitude toward contraception is positively medieval. At Vatican
II, it should have been abandoned along with the Tridentine Mass and attempts to convert us Jews.
Thanks to the Church’s years of reactionary leadership, under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, however, this relic has been preserved.
Indeed, the Church has paralyzed family-planning efforts in the developing world by telling believers to eschew condoms in favor of the rhythm method, allowing HIV and other STDs to be spread much more easily and paradoxically resulting in more abortions.
American Catholics know the policy is dumb and damaging, which is why 98 percent of them use contraception.
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