Wednesday, November 14, 2007



frustrated trombone player

When Senator Tester addressed a roomful of progressives in a friend's home the other night he mostly talked about weighty matters before the Congress-- war and peace in the Middle East, the Farm Bill, Americans' right to privacy. But at one point the conversation strayed to music. He spoke with great enthusiasm about learning to play the trumpet as a kid and how he almost became a professional musician. Before I could ask him if he was more a Dizzy fan or a Miles fan or what he thinks about Arturo Sandoval and Maynard Ferguson, he began talking about the tragedy of how No Child Left Behind has ruined obliterated music programs in public schools and how that could backfire because of the debilitating impact on future physicists, mathameticians, and engineers. When a group of Montana school superintendents and principals met with Margaret Spelling, Bush's Secretary of Education and the Grand Dame of NCLB, and voiced widely held opinions that cutting back on programs like music was damaging students she asked if they wanted her to start testing for music too. It's not why they requested the meeting.

John Cornyn (R-TX) has a very different point of view regarding public education and regarding music than Senator Tester. According Dana Milbank's column in today's Washington Post Cornyn took Lyle Lovett's appearance at the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday as an opportunity to talk about his own musical background. He complained that his parents "forced upon me trombone lessons" and that he was bitter because "the opposite sex was not attracted to trombone." I won't comment on the attraction of any particular trombone players.
The star-struck lawmakers competed to display their musical savvy.

"Texas has produced a large number of our nation's most famous musicians," Cornyn announced, and then proceeded to misidentify the father of Texas swing, the late Bob Wills of the Texas Playboys, as "Bob Willis." Murmurs spread through the crowd. "Excuse me! I don't know why I said Bob Willis," the embarrassed lawmaker apologized, before recovering enough to ask Lovett whether the singer Robert Earl Keen "was your housemate at Texas A&M?"

"We lived down the street from one another," Lovett testified. Without objection, this salient fact was entered into the record.

..."There hasn't been [a hearing] I've enjoyed personally as much in a long time," Cornyn, who singled out singer Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, sitting in the first row and wearing a white cowboy hat."

At dinner the other night I asked Senator Tester if he thought that Republicans really want to destroy public education. He looked me straight in the eyes and said yes. We didn't discuss Cornyn per se but I might add that Cornyn has a perfect and unblemished voting record when it comes to funding public education-- a perfect zero. Since 2003 there are been 16 roll call votes involving public education and Cornyn has voted against education every single time. Although mainstream conservatives like Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Robert Bennett (R-UT), Kit Bond (R-MO), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Chuck Grassley (R-KS), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Richard Shelby (R-AL) have on occassion put aside their fanatic partisanship to join with Democrats for the sake of children, Cornyn never has-- not even one time. He really does want to do away with public education and return America to a feudal society which, at the bottom line, is what contemporary Republicanism is all about. Bush's veto of the education and healthcare bill yesterday should be seen in this context

I don't know off-hand if Rick Noriega plays a trombone or any other instruments, but I spoke with him in August and I can tell you he's a huge music fan and that he has an outstanding record in support of public education. There is a clear and stark difference between Rick Noriega and John Cornyn and they will face off in a race for the U.S. Senate next year. Teaxs voters will get a chance to decide if they would like to move forward or backward. If you've already made up your mind and you want to go forward, surf over to Rick's Blue America page and give him a hand.

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