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How We Got What We Deserve

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Our level of discourse is so poor, is it any surprise that Congress is too polarized to be effective?

Before I get into what some have called my ‘political diatribes’—others have used stronger language—I’ve some information to pass along. Social Security has a program specifically for those veterans who have been wounded/injured while in service after 10/1/2001. This program is not related to a VA Disability Claim. More information can be found online at www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors/

Also, any veteran who has been awarded a Purple Heart should contact Ross Jackman at [email protected] for more information. Buck Knives has 100 commemorative knives to give away to these veterans.      

Another note that came my way is the dates that Darryl L. Heisey, the State Veterans Service Officer from the Idaho Division Of Veterans Services, will be in North Idaho in March. He will be in Sandpoint on March 13, 20 and 27 and in Bonners Ferry on March 21. Anyone needing times and locations should call the VFW Hall in Sandpoint. Now, on to my monthly diatribe.

Many years ago, when I was proudly wearing the uniform of this country, we had two expressions in common usage. One was SNAFU; the other was FUBAR. For those who served you need no explanation. For those who haven’t no explanation is possible. These two acronyms define the normal daily life of service men and women. Any one who has been following the news over the past month will readily understand the application of either of these terms to our governmental branches’ recent activities.

Between the houses of Congress I’m unsure which is the most dysfunctional. The GOP in the House is now warring with itself in an attempt to see, apparently, just which sect of GOP ideology can cause the most grief for the nation. And, since they are in the majority, nothing can get done for the good of the country without at least some consensus among them and a few of the minority party joining in to pass something on to the Senate. We have very serious problems facing us and those in power seem to be solely intent on thumping their chests and throwing scat at anyone who disagrees with them. Every voter who routinely checks the box next to those candidates who survived the primaries is largely to blame. 

Idaho’s CD1 Representative is a case in point. Last year he voted to significantly reduce funding for IEL—a major employer in southeastern Idaho—and cosponsored various bills that infringed on women’s rights to have control over their own bodies. Was he ousted for this crass display of chauvinism and failure to consider the needs of working Idahoans? No, he was re-elected by a landslide. And he is just one of many examples I could list. A brief peek at Cathy McMorris-Rogers over in Washington reveals that she appears to be the token woman in a GOP leadership dominated by old white men. One has to wonder how much they listen to any counsel she offers. But she sure looks good in those group shots behind Boehner and Cantor.

The House was designed to be the “People’s House.” It was to be the place where many ideas got heard; the best would be incorporated into bills and sent to the Senate for consideration by this supposedly more deliberative body. Somewhere over the past 35 years the House lost that honor, and it is our own fault. The primary system was supposed to winnow out the fringe candidates and ensure a strong candidate who would represent the majority of constituents in their district. Instead, the average voter ignores the primaries and dutifully puts their ‘X’ by whoever wins the primary when they do go to the polls for the general election. The inevitable result is that, usually, the most radical, narrow-based candidate gets their base to the polls during the primary and sails into office in November. We have gotten exactly what we deserve: a Congress so polarized they cannot function.

In the Senate it is almost worse than in the House. In what has been called the most exclusive club in America the level of civility has sunk even lower. Thanks to the arcane rules of the Senate, any one of its members can obstruct any action just by saying they don’t like something. They don’t even have to call it a filibuster anymore. Now, for the first time in our history, we have a former enlisted man who served, was wounded, and won a chest full of medals in Viet Nam being nominated to serve as Secretary of Defense. He’s also a former Senator and lifelong Republican. One might assume he would sail through his confirmation hearings, but one would be wrong. 

Why is Senator Hagel having such a hard time being confirmed? Well, for one thing he had the audacity to question the wisdom of the putting tens of thousands more troops into Iraq back in 2007. He was a strong, vociferous critic of the rationale the Bush Administration used for going to war in Iraq. At one time he called Bush (truthfully in my opinion) the “worst President since Hoover.” The Hawks who remain in the Senate like McCain and Graham made it very clear they hold a personal grudge for these past transgressions. Now, if that hasn’t reduced the level of debate in the Senate to elementary schoolyard fights, I don’t know what would. So much for the wiser, mature deliberations in that august body. I’ve had more reasoned and rational discussions with my children over bedtimes than I’ve seen in Congress over the past four plus years.

As I write this the Senate is in recess and no votes will be taken to confirm Senator Hagel until the 25th at the soonest. I fully expect he’ll be confirmed before the end of February (Ed. note: Hagel was confirmed Feb. 25), after the GOP has pouted and stomped their feet long enough. Until that happens our Defense Department is leaderless while entering into a period of conferences and discussions with our allies over such really pressing issues as ending the war in Afghanistan properly and prudently and presenting a united front to Iran and other trouble spots around the world. The actions of the Senate—especially on the part of the GOP—are detrimental to the security and well-being of this nation and I think it is way past time that Congress stopped playing petty politics and started taking their responsibilities to their constituents and the nation seriously.

I’ll end this on a somewhat lighter note. On Valentine’s Day evening the cruise ship Carnival Triumph finally reached Mobile after being towed for several days from a point about 150 miles off the Yucatan coast. This ‘cruise’ turned a vacation into something like a trip across the River Styx, complete with bad food, water and overflowing toilets. If one were watching CNN on that day you would have thought that nothing else was happening anywhere in the world. One uncovered piece of news was the first ever Senate’s blocking of a Presidential Cabinet nominee. One must wonder just how CNN prioritizes its coverage of news events. 

Until next month – ‘Hasta luego’.

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Author info

Gil  Beyer Gil Beyer A 21 year Navy veteran, lived in Bonner County for over 30 years, Past Commander of the Priest River DAV Chapter and admitted news junkie.

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Congress, Veterans News

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