Congressman speaks to Advanced Constitutional Law students

Fifteen Lakeridge High School students got a crash course in political science from Rep. Kurt Schrader who visited the school Tuesday DREW DAKESSIAN  - Congressman Kurt Schrader explains the pitfalls of low federal income tax revenues to Advanced Constitutional Law students at Lakeridge High School.

The congressman, who represents Oregon’s 5th District, spent nearly an hour with Janell Cinquini’s Advanced Constitutional Law class, providing candid answers to questions on a variety of topics, including congressional spending and reform.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the first questions Schrader was asked was whether he had met Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican candidate for vice president. Schrader replied that he had served on the budget committee with him and called him a “very smart guy, and nice guy, too. He’s one of those guys that’s not going to be one of those bomb-throwers; he’s not going to poke you in the eye or say something outrageous. And his colleagues on the Republican side look up to him a lot for his leadership on the budget issues ... in my opinion he needs to be a little less rigid. He has a very strong point of view and so far he’s not shown that he wants to compromise a whole lot, and that’s a concern.

“For me, the only way to be effective in any legislative body ... is you’ve got to show you’re willing to listen to the other’s point of view, and find out how can you, without breaking your own principles, get to where he or she needs to be, and at the same time that person’s got to recognize your point of view, and that’s how you end up solving problems at the end of the day. But Paul’s smart; he’s going to go a long way,” Schrader said.

When one student asked him how much of an issue it is that senators and representatives are indeed unwilling to compromise, Schrader said, “That’s the problem with Congress.”

In the future, he said, “I’m hoping that Democrats gain a few seats in the House and the Democrats in the Senate will lose one or two; in other words, the numbers get close and that way the extremes have less influence and moderates, like I think I am, will have more influence. That way, leaderships won’t be forced to play to the fringes; they’ll actually be forced to play to the problem solvers and get something done.”

After 20 minutes of being asked questions mostly by male students, Schrader paused for a moment to say, “Where are the girls? I want to see some women!”

When asked if he thought that third parties would be playing a more prominent role in politics, Schrader replied with an opinion that he said is probably controversial: “You’re wasting your vote if you vote for the current third parties because you’re voting for even more extreme. You’re voting for a Green party on the left that has no chance in hell of winning, which means you’re destroying the Democrat. If you vote for the Constitutional or Libertarian, you’re destroying the Republican candidate because those two guys have no chance of winning.”

But, he added, “Most of you all are registering as Independents now ... interesting enough, most young people today are registering as Independents. So I think the Independent block, even though it’s not a party ... will have a big difference, I hope. But that will only make a difference if we do redistricting differently. If you do it by a Legislature, there’s all sorts of opportunities for gerrymandering.”

On the topic of the two major parties, one student asked Schrader what he thinks is the defining quality that makes him a Democrat.

“The simple answer was probably Richard Nixon,” he replied. “Back in the day, he did some things that were very shady that I didn’t think was a good thing for the country; it kind of pushed me ... I would say that from my perspective, the social issues keep me as a Democrat. I’m socially progressive; I’m very fiscally conservative, much more so than a lot of moderate Republicans.”

He added: “I have three basic values — I’ve tried to figure out who I am, you know, like all you guys are at an age where you’re definitely trying to figure out who the heck you are — so if I was to define Kurt Schrader I would say that he’s a guy who believes in creating opportunities for everybody, not necessarily a bunch of entitlements. I’m big on personal responsibility; I don’t care who you are, where you come from, what hardship you’ve had in your life. I think everyone should have some personal responsibility for your own destiny at the end of the day and thirdly I believe like in Oregon, there’s such as a thing as community, where you give back to your community. It’s not all about me and if it was based on all about me, I’d be a Republican.”

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