Editorial March 4, 2016

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

We will continue to hear from presidential candidates a willingness to engage in foreign military conflicts. It is, of course, a campaign so strong military stances are delivered with much passion, as though it is imminent, as though it is unavoidable, as though it is an easy decision to make. But it is none of those things. It is a serious endeavor  that has results not usually addressed in campaign speeches and perhaps not even considered but results that need to be considered before putting young American lives in harms way. Here are a couple of things to consider when war is so easily suggested…

2 a.m. April 27, 1865

There is book about the mistreatment of Union Civil War prisoners held at the Confederate prison called Andersonville. It tells a story of survival and hope not unlike all stories of prisoners of war.

Mistreatment, worked beyond human capacity, sometimes to death, extreme malnutrition, and unsanitary conditions equaling even the most familiar forced interments at any time in history. Thousands hung on with the hope of eventual release, many died before the release came.

But release came and 2000 survivors from Andersonville and the Cahaba prison camps boarded the USS Steamship SULTANA along with 400 civilians and headed up the Mississippi to home.

There must have been a sense of unreality when those years of freedom as a desperate dream became a reality.  Maybe some feared sleeping in case they would wake up to find their freedom was only a dream. Maybe others were unwilling to sleep for fear of missing even a precious moment of their new freedom.

After years of dealing with the day-to-day misery of surviving imprisonment their image of a free future may not yet have been filled with specific dreams of being united with loved ones or the thousand things their regained freedom would offer. But they would have begun to imagine those things and their hearts would have been lifted

So. perhaps, many were awake at 2 a.m. on April 27, 1865 when the SULTANA blew up. 300 survived.

Only one of the several individuals responsible for the conditions of the steamer or the overloading of the vessel which contributed to the tragedy and large loss of life was ever prosecuted and  the newspapers of the time did not carry the story.

Congress had us remember the SULTANA on the 144th year after the explosion in a resolution. And we should remember them, and all others lost, when we weigh the reasons against the cost of sending our people into harms way.

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Some thoughts as we consider the candidates for President in November 2016

From Washington’s Farewell Address –

This government, the offspring of our own choice uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support.

The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations under whatever plausible character with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle and of fatal tendency.

They serve to organize faction; to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common councils and modified by mutual interests. However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Hamilton on Congress

To Find Hope, Look Around You

“The sense that comes through when you watch Americans at work on public issues is their overwhelming desire to improve their community.”

By Lee H. Hamilton

Hamilton

Hamilton

These are very unhappy times in Washington. Relations between the executive and legislative branches are not just sour, but corrosive. The Republican-led Senate has declared it will simply ignore a presidential nomination to the Supreme Court. Both houses have announced that they will flout a tradition going back to the 1970s, and refuse to hold a hearing for the President’s budget director to present the White House’s federal budget proposal. Partisan paralysis and game-playing on Capitol Hill have become a hallmark of these times, as has the evident distaste our nation’s leaders feel for one another.

It would be understandable to give in to despair, and a lot of Americans have done so. I have not, and for a simple reason: in our system there is always hope. Why? Because our representative democracy rests finally not on what politicians in Washington or in our state capitals do, but on what our citizens do.

The bedrock assumption of representative government is that Americans will make discriminating judgments about politicians and policies, and shoulder their responsibility as citizens to improve their corner of the world. The remarkable thing is, they often do. Over a long career in politics, I’ve seen it happen more times than I can count. At some gathering, people will complain about the schools or the roads or the behavior of a public official or an act of government that galls them. Then, after talking it over, they decide to act. They do something about it.

Even better, the less-than-admirable stumbling blocks that we’ve come to identify with politics – confrontation, obstructionism, divisiveness – are rarely present. Public dialogues may get heated, but they don’t often descend to the level of bitterness and obstinacy we see these days in Washington.

More than anything else, what you see when ordinary Americans decide to get involved in a public issue is their common sense and good judgment, their fundamental decency, and their remarkable sense of fairness. Over and over, as I watch citizens at work trying to fix their communities in ways big and small, I’ve found myself wishing that members of Congress and other officials could take a ringside seat. The people involved almost always want to see that even people they don’t agree with have a chance to say their piece. They recognize there are differences of opinion and that they have to be sorted through. If you ask them to describe what result they want, they will always use the word, “Fair.” They make decisions by and large based on hope, not fear or despair.

The sense that comes through when you watch Americans at work on public issues is their overwhelming desire to improve their community. Often this is reflected in concrete projects – a new bridge, a better school, a badly needed sewer system. But you can also see it in many people’s cry for candidates who will set narrow interests and excessive partisanship aside, and work to improve the quality of life for all Americans.

While ordinary citizens may not know all there is to know about a given public policy issue, I was constantly impressed while in office at how much I learned from my constituents. We often think of representative government as a process in which the elected official educates constituents, but the reverse is usually even more the case. Americans may think that politics is filled with messiness and noise, but at the end of the day they understand the need for deal-making, compromise, and negotiation – and that to achieve change, they have to work through the system we have, which means educating and pushing political leaders. As a constituent put it to me, “What’s the alternative?”

This is why I have an underlying confidence in representative government. Americans are pragmatic. They recognize the complexity of the challenges we face, understand there are no simple answers to complex problems, and do not expect to get everything they want. They see that what unites us – a common desire to improve our communities and create better opportunities for families and individuals – is stronger than what divides us. My confidence in the system is built on citizens exercising their right to make this a stronger, fairer country.

Lee Hamilton is a Distinguished Scholar, Indiana University School of Global and International Studies; and a Professor of Practice, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.


 Quotes on the Issues

The Budget

Out with the Old Budget – In With an Older Budget

““Leaders of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) voted Thursday to oppose last year’s spending bill…Some members of the RSC had already urged Ryan to break last fall’s unpopular accord…Ryan said as recently as Thursday that the party did not have to pass a budget.” – The Hill

HR 3716

Terminating Providers to Improve Medicaid

“This commonsense legislation will help to streamline the Medicaid and CHIP programs which will make them more patient and provider friendly and will help states and providers meet requirements set in place by the ACA.” House Minority Whip

The Supreme Court Vacancy

The Senate’s Responsibility

“When the President nominates a candidate to the Court, the Senate…has a responsibility under the Constitution to give that nominee every due consideration. They do not have a Constitutional responsibility to approve it…But they have a responsibility to consider it. House Minority Whip Hoyer during Special Orders Speeches.


Foreign Affairs

 

ISIS

Delta Force Dispatched to Deal with ISIS

“The plan: Gather enough intelligence to stage raids on terror compounds and hideouts. Then from intelligence gathered at those sites, such as laptops and cellphones, forces will try to rapidly learn more about ISIS networks and quickly attack additional related targets.” CNN

*****

Cyber War Against ISIS Ramps Up

Senior Pentagon leaders on Monday revealed the military’s first use of cyber warfare operations against the Islamic State terrorist group they said are aimed at disrupting its military communications and operations. – The Free Beacon .com

IRAN

Moderates Gain in Iran Elections

“TEHRAN, Iran — Finally, Iran’s long-awaited parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections have been held, and the results suggest that moderate President Hassan Rouhani and the Reformists have once again outmaneuvered the hard-liners.” – Al Monitor

*****

Balance Shifts After Iran Elections

Those hard-liners won just 68 seats — down from the 112 seats they currently hold in the 290-seat Majlis, or parliament, and the results so far for the Majlis elections indicate that reformists and moderates won the most seats, with 85 and 73 respectively. – Washington Post

SYRIA

Assad / Russia Strategy – Warning to Congress

“Speaking of Russia’s six-month air campaign in support of Assad, and the Syrian leader’s use of barrel bombs in civilian areas, Breedlove said Moscow and Damascus are deliberately fueling the mass displacement of Syrians” – Yahoo News

*****

Cease Fire Not in Some Areas of Syria

“Syrian government forces launched an attack on Wednesday to capture a rebel-held hill in north-western Syria, a rebel official and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, an expansion of operations that have continued in that area despite a deal to cease fighting.” – Yahoo News


 

Magic Mondays

with Rep. Marc Pocan


It’s not just liberals vs conservatives

From Political Junkie News (YouTube)