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Friday, December 19, 2014

Now, some would say, all I need to do is take my own damn advice!

I had intended to make this a far longer post, but in retrospect, even though it meant a lot to me at the time, and seemed like it would take a lot to explain, in retrospect, it was not very earth-shattering and will probably be fairly simple to summarize.

A month or so ago, with prodding from my friend Mike Rellahan, I requested a meeting with Republican Congressman-elect, Ryan Costello. And somewhat to my surprise, within a few days, I received a response from his aide, accepting my request and suggesting a time and date to meet.

So a few weeks ago, after a great deal of thought, and not a little angst, I went to his office in downtown West Chester and met. I can't say I was entirely surprised, but I was certainly encouraged, that I not only liked him but more importantly, liked his approach, and there were very few things on which we disagreed. On the other hand, I made a point of keeping my 3 topics, the 3rd of which we agreed to keep off-the-record, which I understand means that I can eventually include it when I write my book, but not before, fairly non-partisan.

My first issue was to ask for his support in taking up one of Jim Gerlach's top issues, which is to make the Conservation Easement enhanced tax incentive permanent. (Scares me to think that might make me a lobbyist!). Gerlach is the person he is replacing in Congress and from what I understand, he holds him in high regard. Costello seemed very open to listening and understanding the issue and seemed to say that he was generally in favor of it.

My second issue was to give him some advice. When I told him I had some for advice him I immediately started off apologetic for thinking he would be interested in what I had to say but he quickly made it clear he wanted to hear whatever I had to say. And my advice was this: Give the other side some credit once in while and it will only make people want to listen to his arguments more clearly. Sadly, I can't think of a single politician who does this.

More specifically, I suggested a way that he could make his own point of view seem stronger without the standard vitriolic lambasting of his opponent. If, say, he was speaking about Universal Healthcare, he might say: "I know this is an issue that is very important to President Obama. And we both have the same goal to improve on an already great healthcare system, maybe the best in the world. He has his approach to it, and it has some merit, but I have some other ideas that I think can even improve on his approach." And then, hard as it might be, find a few things Obama has supported in his proposal that he agrees with, surely there is something, and then say, but to make the overall bill really strong, here's what I think should be a component or should be replaced: _________.

Maybe I'm na├»ve, but I think way more people will listen to his plan after he starts that way than if he starts out by saying that Obama just wants to socialize healthcare and impose his Kenyan Marxist racist hate on this great country and do all he can to tear it down. Sadly, I'm sure that even though I'm exaggerating the point, one doesn't have to look hard to see how many people think that is exactly what Obama wants to do, which of course only proves what a terrible President he is, because all he keeps doing is rescuing this country from the disaster he inherited from the previous administration, instead of destroying it, which is his only clear goal.

As I say, Costello was very open to my thoughts and as far as I could tell, already felt the same way, wanting to use that very approach when possible. He even pulled out a copy of an article he had recently cut out from the Wall Street Journal, titled: Persuasion as the Cure for Incivility.

My favorite excerpt: "Civility is sometimes derided in the modern world, where bluntness and even coarseness have somehow come to be celebrated in many quarters. But civility is not a minor virtue. It is not an attempt to impose someone's notion of courtesy, and it is certainly not an attempt to suppress speech. Civility is what allows speech to be heard. It is an appeal to citizens never to express or incite hatred, which is more dangerous to the country than any external enemy."

As I say, the third issue was confidential, but had to do with some very local politics. And he was somewhat helpful and open-minded with that as well.

So, thanks, Congressman-elect. I'll take it easy on you as long as I can.

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