King must focus on big trees to win seat
By JEFF WEBB, Editor of Editorials
Published January 9, 2008
By JEFF WEBB, Editor of Editorial
Some unsolicited advice for Jim King: The next
time you want to discredit U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, don't let the
trees block your view of the forest.
Or, at least stay focused on the big trees.
King, a Land O' Lakes Republican, is the
underdog candidate running against Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, in the
5th Congressional District. King filed a complaint last week alleging
the federal law aimed at keeping patients' medical information
confidential, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of
1996, was violated during the preparation and presentation of an
informational hearing about veterans' health care at the James A. Haley
VA Medical Center in Tampa.
Specifically, King alleges that members of the
U.S. House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, of which Brown-Waite is the
ranking member, did not obtain a signed release from patients whose
records were reviewed to determine if their psychological care was
Technically speaking, it very well may have
been a violation of the patient privacy law, commonly known as HIPPA.
One subcommittee staffer even said so. But if King is looking for ways
to trip up Brown-Waite, he ought to skip the petty stuff and find more
meaningful issues. There certainly are more chinks in Brown-Waite's
political armor than the seemingly careless handling of records at a
much-needed forum she organized. In fact,
she and other members of Congress should do more of that type of grass
roots information gathering.
Don't get me wrong: Patient privacy is an
important issue, especially for veterans who are forced to seek care
from a federal agency that has had a recent history of not adequately
safeguarding records. But let's acknowledge that violations of patients'
privacy, including HIPPA, are a daily occurrence.
I have to grin every time I go for routine
blood work and the desk clerk makes a big deal about making sure the
people behind me stay several feet back so as to protect my identity and
paperwork, and so my name can be blacked out on the sign-in sheet before
anyone else approaches the counter. Then, a lady in a lab coat pops into
the waiting room 15-or-so minutes later and yells my full name.
At any rate, as we return our gaze to the
forest, there are plenty of bigger trees King could use to cut down
Brown-Waite, who is seeking her fourth term in the House.
For instance, he could ask her about her
strident views on immigration, or her reasons for opposing a bill that
would have increased funding for a health insurance program for children
from low-income families who cannot afford private coverage.
Or, King might call into question Brown-Waite's
support of the so-called fair tax, more funding for national security,
and her continued support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He could even claim that Brown-Waite should do
more to help veterans.
But wait. There's a problem with King attacking
her on any of those issues. It seems his platform is even more
conservative than Brown-Waite's. Other than billing himself as the
"true" conservative," his issues are her issues.
So, perhaps it will be up to King to point out
where Brown-Waite has not toed the party's conservative line. In that
case, he'll have to bring up her support of embryonic stem cell research
and her opposition to the House's intervention in the Terri Schiavo
controversy. Heck, he even might need to pin her down on abortion, an
issue that has been a moving target for her over the years.
But, if all else fails, King can clobber her on
being one of the biggest users of the Congressional franking privilege.
The Times recently reported that in 2007 taxpayers spent $129,428 for
Brown-Waite to mail 657,951 pieces of mail, making her one of the top
users - make that abusers - of that perk in the House.
That's a lot of free advertising - and more
than a few trees.
Jeff Webb, editor of editorials for the
Hernando Times, can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 352
[Last modified January 8, 2008, 20:52:59]