Maybe it’s policy. Maybe it’s just politics. But retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark has thrown down the gauntlet and wants to debate United States Senator David Vitter. The subject of the debate? Lifeline, the free government cell phone program.
Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana, wants to cut the program to the bone. But Clark, who ran for president back in 2004, and who some think may be working toward a similar run in 2016, toured Vitter’s home state to promote the program. He believes the program is important for needy Americans, including a lot of military veterans. Vitter took exception to Clark’s efforts and wrote him a letter saying so.
“Thank you very much for coming to Louisiana and calling increased attention to Lifeline, the fraud-ridden free government cell phone program for welfare recipients,” Vitter wrote. “I look forward to a public discussion with you about Lifeline and my efforts to end the waste, fraud, and abuse surrounding it.”
Clark accepted the challenge just as you might expect a combat veteran to do.
“You have asked that we debate the merits of this vital program and I am more than happy to do so in both Louisiana and in Washington, D.C. if you would like to bring the subject to a broader audience,” Clark responded. “First as a pre-condition I would ask that you join me in one other activity: a sit down conversation with Louisiana veterans who are Lifeline users to discuss their usage of the program and how it impacts their lives.”
Vitter contends that the what he calls the free cell phone program is plagued with fraud. The FCC admits that fraud is a problem and has proposed more than $14 million in fines on some of the companies they’ve investigated.
Clark accuses Vitter of throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water and believes the program should be improved instead of slashed.
“When I visited Louisiana, I met with people in need who told me the importance of Lifeline to them,” Clark noted. “They explained that access to communications, including having their own telephone number, is vital to seeking and maintaining employment, as well as for health, medical, and community and personal safety issues. I found that more than 300,000 Louisianians, including some 30,000 veterans are using this program for their telephone services.”
We wish General Clark the best of luck. But be careful, General, because Senator Vitter is an intelligent, wily foe and if you’re not careful, this could be your Waterloo.
Source: http://theadvocate.com/home/7594849-125/clark-wants-to-debate-vitter (link now broken)