Parenting & Life’s Lessons

September 7, 2008

I became a father later in life. I’m 57 years old and have three children under the age of seven. Over the years, I have seen many of my friends change after having children, but I never fully appreciated how much being a father would change me.

Having a child forces you to look long and hard at your own behavior because your children imitate everything you do. I was forced to do exactly that when my oldest son and I were watching the speeches at the Democratic Convention. At one point a speaker said, “these are the values of Democrats… these are our values.” The following dialog ensued:

“Dad, what’s a value?”

“Well, a value is a kind of feeling or an idea that helps people make important decisions. A value teaches us how to behave.”

“So Dad, when you deserve a time-out, does that mean you have bad values?”

My seven-year-old son is a little too young to be going existential on me, but he did force me to think about my own life, my values and my behavior. How do you explain to yourself, let alone your child, that the values we profess to have are not always the values we show by our behavior? How many of us would dare ask our children what they thought of our values based on our behavior at home?

Maybe I should have said that values are more of an ideal. Or maybe I should have said that values are not often discussed and examined—except during political campaigns.

Aren’t my son’s questions something we should be routinely asking ourselves? It is an important question for so many aspects of our lives and the decisions we make. The answers aren’t so simple for me. I spend most of my life in the courtroom or at my law office. Does that mean I don’t value my family as much as my career? Does it mean that I value helping victims or helping myself? I am not talking about motives here; by what measure can we tell what our own REAL values are?

When I’m in trial, I guarantee you that the jurors base their decision as much on credibility as they do on the evidence. Credibility is established in court, and out, by the consistency between what we say and what we do. Values become the only true evidence. If you don’t believe me, ask a child.

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Monday Moanin’

August 25, 2008

It was 40 years ago this week that kids were getting their asses kicked by Mayor Daley & the Chicago police at the DNC for trying to stop a war. Déjà vu all over again… Except this time we are being beaten down by focus groups, excuses and Fox News.

As a former Democratic Party candidate for Governor of Michigan I am often asked questions about politics and the Democratic Party in particular. Running for Governor was the very first time I ever ran for any political office and while I won the nomination by defeating two establishment Democrats, I couldn’t beat the Democratic Establishment. Obama is an establishment candidate, which explains how he can be in a dead heat with McCain. As Will Rogers once said “I don’t belong to an organized political party. I’m a Democrat. So as the Democratic Convention begins this week, this is what I wish the Democrats would say at some point:

Obama has been criticized for saying that as President he would talk with our adversaries under the right conditions and use diplomacy to avoid conflicts. What is McCain’s foreign policy? Dancing around on stage singing “Bomb, bomb, bomb. Bomb, bomb Iran.” to the Beach Boys tune of “Barbara Ann”?

Obama has been criticized for not being “American” enough, but he was raised by a single mom, lived with his grandparents, attended Public Schools, paid for his education with loans, has been married to the same woman, chose to help his community rather than go to Wall Street and has never been involved in any political scandals. McCain was raised in privilege, attended private schools, left his first wife and children and do we really need to talk about the “Keating Five”?

Obama has been criticized for being “elitist” and not understanding the situation of working class Americans. McCain believes the economy has made great progress and that the definition of rich is being worth $5 million or more.

Obama has been criticized for not approving of off-shore drilling to help ease the energy crisis. McCain helped create the energy crisis by supporting the Bush plan of allowing the oil industry to create our policy in secret. The same advisors who created the Bush plan are now advising McCain.

Obama has been criticized for being naïve about foreign policy because he would rely on diplomacy. McCain confuses the difference between Shia and Sunni, believes Afghanistan borders Iraq, Czechoslovakia still exists… well, this could go on for a while.

Obama has been criticized for not going to Iraq as often as McCain to talk to the “boots on the ground”. McCain stages a walk through an Iraqi market to show its safe, shakes hands with wounded soldiers on camera and votes against giving them increased V.A. benefits.

In other words, attack, attack, attack. Forget the focus-group crafted “end the war, rebuild the economy and energy independence”, which I am sure we will hear until we are sick. Democrats seem to be better at attacking each other than defending the working class or defending themselves from the Republican sleaze machine. One thing I have learned is that if you want to take on a bully, you have to go right at him. This how you win in the courtroom and how you win in politics.