Strange days these
are, when a sitting president is the occasion for a congressman’s defense of
civility and common decency.
Twice during his
annual town forum in Chesterton on Saturday, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky,
D-1st, addressed himself to the presidential culture.
This is how
Visclosky concluded his opening remarks prior to the usual Q/A from the
audience, without specifically referring to Trump: “All of us are raised to
respect each other, to show the dignity that each human being should be
accorded, and to understand that calling people names, lying, using vulgar
language, soils the public debate. It destroys the ability of people to come
together, to have positive results.”
And this is what
Visclosky said when asked to comment on President Trump’s reported use of
the term “shithole countries” to describe underdeveloped nations: “Let me be
very clear. The President’s many statements on Howard Stern were so abusive
to women, his language about people from certain countries who happen to
have a particular religion, or the most recent statements, these words are
unbecoming, they are uncivil, they are unprofessional, and from my
perspective they are absolutely unacceptable. It is hard enough to get
people to come together and agree on things without jabbing them and
Visclosky then took
a moment to remember his father, a former Golden Glove boxer, who used to
tell his son this: “It takes a tough guy to be a polite man.”
the forum with his view on several national and regional issues.
* The tax cut
enacted late last year by Congress. Visclosky voted against it, on the
ground that it will “make the tax code more inequitable,” and offered this
example: folks with incomes between $49,000 and $86,000 will see a temporary
cut of 1.6 percent, while corporations will see a permanent cut of 40
percent. And Visclosky objects in particular to the $1.1 trillion in debt
which will accrue over the next 10 years and fall on the heads of today’s
children, “who will be paying interest on it for the rest of their lives.”
* The 2018 budget.
Saturday was the 105th day of fiscal year 2018 and still Congress has failed
to approve a budget, while in less than a month federal departments will be
required to submit their fiscal year 2019 budgets. “It is unconscionable,”
* Foreign steel
imports. Visclosky observed that he’s testified before the U.S.
International Trade Commission fully a dozen times since the beginning of
2016 on unfairly traded steel imports. And while Visclosky said that he
supports the Trump Administration’s investigation of the impact of steel
imports on national security, he and other members of the Congressional
Steel Caucus will press Trump to release the report on the results of that
investigation, which is due today.
* His bill to
re-designate Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore a national park. That bill,
which has already been approved by the House, would have a significant
impact on Northwest Indiana’s economy, by making the park more visible and
prominent and thereby attracting more visitors to the region, Visclosky
* The South Shore
commuter line’s West Lake Corridor extension and its double-tracking
initiative. Visclosky called both projects “transformative” and said that by
increasing connectivity to Chicago and reducing travel times they would make
the region an even more attractive place to live and do business.
answered questions which attendees had previously penciled on index cards.
On the issue of
climate change, Visclosky called Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. from the
Paris Accord “amazing,” all the more so in light of the fact that the
Department of Defense has called attention to the threat which climate
change poses to national security. “I believe we’re changing the climate,
that we have to reduce carbon emissions, and that public leaders and
officials have a responsibility not to deny scientific evidence to the
detriment of the younger generation.”
In response to a
question about pending legislation which would restrict this country’s first
use of nuclear weapons unless authorized by Congress, Visclosky acknowledged
the gravity of the issue. “If something happens untoward on the Korean
Peninsula, it will be catastrophic, even if someone declares we won,” he
said. But Visclosky also urged folks not to take counsel of their fears.
“Keep in mind an entire apparatus exists in the Administration and
Department of Defense whose first responsibility is to keep the country safe
and not brag that somebody’s button is bigger than somebody else’s.”
Visclosky added that he’s had dealings with the Secretary of Defense and
knows him to be “very rational, calm, and tempered,” and that the military
does fully “understand the consequences” of nuclear war.
Finally, asked his
view of the Electoral College, Visclosky said--as he said at last year’s
town forum--that “elections have consequences.” Trump won for the simple
reason that “a very few people did not vote,” and while noting that he’s had
“discussions that are very reasonable with people on both sides of the
issue,” that fact of the matter is this: there’s no likelihood that Congress
between now and the end of 2018 will take any action to begin the lengthy
and complicated process of amending the Constitution, and that even if it
did the Constitution would remain unamended in 2020. “Whatever the rules
are, those are the rules we have to play by,” Visclosky offered.
Visclosky and leading attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance was Chesterton
Middle School eighth-grader Natalie Nunez.
Nunez is not only a
high academic achiever, Visclosky noted, but also serves on the Student
Council and is active in drama.