Vulgar Word Usage From Madison Statehouse To Washington

Our politics in both Wisconsin and the nation has roughened considerably over the past decade. While political discourse starting with the Founding Fathers moving forward has always been sharp and at times personal, I have noticed that in recent times it can also be just plain vulgar. Part of the blame, obviously, gets placed on those who use language that is low-brow, but we also must place news reporting when conveying certain phrases responsible for the slide downwards in our political discourse.

The shared revenue bill in Wisconsin has generated much heat in the state capitol.  Not only about the dollar amounts to be placed into the hands of local governing officials, but the attempt by Republicans who control the majority of power in the chambers to place a laundry list of conditions on the money to be spent. Some of the most onerous whims in the bill are directed at Milwaukee, a city with challenges to be faced, but when one of their state representatives spoke to a reporter about the harshness of the proposed legislation his words got in front of the justified outrage working its way through the statehouse.

On WISC TV on May 16th during the 6:00 P.M. local news Democratic Assemblyman Ryan Clancy said the GOP was “polishing a ****” when speaking to a reporter about the shared revenue bill. I was taken aback, I guess in equal proportions, by the manner in which the freshman legislator felt he needed to express himself and to the news reporter who felt that snippet of a sound bite was worthy of being added to the story about this pressing issue in our state.

I woke one morning this week to a story in my news feed from Semafor Principles which reported that Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene wanted more goodies in the debt limit bill that would encourage her to vote for what she described as a “ **** sandwich”.  While that language is on par for defining her character in general it was the coverage she gained from such vulgarity that astounded me.  The much-revered news outlet, The Hill not only reported it but used her expletive in a headline.

Reporters must report the news and newsrooms are professionally required to inform the citizenry about the workings of their government and its officials.  In no way should we want any less than that foundation in journalism.  But it was not so long ago when the language used in the examples above would not have been allowed on the airwaves or in print. After all, in neither case was there news content in their choice of phrases.  That is a key point to make. Coverage could have stressed the issues just as clearly and both elected officials would have been quoted strenuously advocating their positions in language that met a certain standard.  And standards in broadcasting and news reporting matter.

At a time when social media is awash in crude discourse and it is all but impossible to walk in a mall or down a busy street and not hear the F word it then underscores why journalism should at least be one place where proper word usage, style, and professionalism is showcased. Within my arm’s reach of where I write is a reference shelf that contains, among other books, The New York Times Manuel of Style and Usage. It literally examines everything from “A, an, the” to Zoom.  That it does not list how to deal with scatological terms, in and of itself, notes that there are words that are just simply not permitted in news reporting.

Those who wish for unlimited word usage on the airwaves and in newsprint will label this attitude of mine (and others who share such views) likely in some fashion akin to having ‘delicate sensibilities’.  While that Jane Austen-type description is their right, I would counter that having worked in both radio broadcasting and later in a legislator’s office where in each case conduct was always viewed or heard by someone, that words used do matter.  Yes, I can see where the views expressed in this column are more prescribed than others in society.  But it really should not be so.  We all should care about the use of language by elected officials. I contend it should not be hard to conduct ourselves in society with word choices given we have the entire dictionary from which to use when making a point.  If pols can campaign and ask for votes in polite ways at election time surely they can speak to their constituents in the same fashion.  After all, elected officials are always walking a line on how to frame issues and respond to all sorts of inquiries so word usage to them is as basic as washing hands before dinner.

Simply put I believe in standards of good taste. Such a bottom line is not political or old-fashioned. It is not about censorship. It is simply about a firm belief in what should be regarded as an accepted way of behaving in a polite society.

Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin Helping Save AM Radio In New Car Models

A man who owns property in Madison but lives in Chicago stopped by to chat this week as is his custom over the years, but in minutes had stopped our back-and-forth saying, “Before I forget, have you heard about the problems with AM radio in new cars?”

“I was listening to WIND, and they told listeners to contact their elected officials and urge them to stop car manufacturers from no longer placing AM radio units into new cars off the assembly lines.”

My lifetime love of radio and broadcasting came to the fore as I replied that WIND was the place where Eddie Schwartz, ‘Chicago Ed’ as he was known to listeners first became a household name. As a teenager in central Wisconsin, Chicago radio provided several stations that alerted me about how broadcasters could sound and make their mark over the airwaves.  As I told my friend while we sat outside in the spring sunshine, that was all thanks to AM radio, which was always heard in our home, and also the car as the family traveled about the roads.

So yes, I was aware of the headlines being made about some manufacturers no longer placing AM radio into new car models, claiming their electric vehicles cause interference from the motors that result in annoying buzzing noises and faded signals.  While I am a strong supporter of EV technology, I also know that NASA figured out to make communications work through issues of space flight to the moon.  I strongly suspect that keen minds could brainstorm a remedy so AM radio could be heard in EV cars, too.

Over the months of following this issue, I have noted the strong desire coming from Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey who is pressing his colleagues in a bipartisan fashion to pass a bill requiring all new vehicles to include AM radio at no additional charge. Among the supporters calling for passage of the measure is Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin. Some car makers such as BMW, Ford, Mazda, Polestar, Rivian, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Volvo have already eliminated AM radio from their vehicles, but under the bill would be required to place units at no charge into the car upon the request from the owner. 

The rationale for AM radio in automobiles was perhaps best summed up with the words from New Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer, who has introduced a House bill.

The importance of AM radio during large-scale emergencies cannot be underestimated, and it has, without a doubt and without interruption, saved lives and kept our communities informed. When the cell phone runs out, the internet gets cut off, or the television doesn’t work because of no electricity or power to your house, you can still turn on your AM radio. I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan AM for Every Vehicle Act in the House to ensure that all auto manufacturers include AM radio in their vehicles to protect public safety.

As a former radio broadcaster, I especially liked the words from Senator Baldwin. She hit on a most valued aspect of AM, that being the connection between listeners and the local community. While emergency news and information are vital ways for AM broadcasts to reach those who need to know of events so as to take the appropriate actions, it is that strong sense of community cohesion that I can speak to as a solid foundation from each broadcast day.

Wisconsinites, particularly those living in our rural and farming communities, rely on AM radio in emergencies, to provide them with their high-quality local news, and to lift up the voices of local businesses, organizations, and people. I am proud to work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to go to bat for the Americans who want and need AM radio to do their jobs, stay safe, and support their local communities.

When the local Jaycees wanted to raise money and encourage new members to join they took over the station for a broadcast day as I worked the board. When a local grocery store had a grand opening the AM live broadcast for several hours connected a business with customers. And when a local child had cancer a radio telethon was provided to aid the family. Such programming serves local people and must not be marginalized by large automakers.

My interest in the topic is not new. A decade ago I called attention to interference with AM broadcasts and used a New York Times story to make the point.

Ajit Pai, the lone Republican on the Federal Communications Commission, is on a personal if quixotic quest to save AM. After a little more than a year in the job, he is urging the F.C.C. to undertake an overhaul of AM radio, which he calls “the audible core of our national culture.” He sees AM — largely the realm of local news, sports, conservative talk and religious broadcasters — as vital in emergencies and in rural areas.       

“AM radio is localism, it is community,” Mr. Pai, 40, said in an interview.       

AM’s longer wavelength means it can be heard at far greater distances and so in crises, he said, “AM radio is always going to be there.” As an example, he cited Fort Yukon, Alaska, where the AM station KZPA broadcasts inquiries about missing hunters and transmits flood alerts during the annual spring ice breakup.       

“When the power goes out, when you can’t get a good cell signal, when the Internet goes down, people turn to battery-powered AM radios to get the information they need,” Mr. Pai said.       

He admits to feelings of nostalgia. As the son of Indian immigrants growing up in small-town Parsons, Kan., he listened to his high school basketball team win a 1987 championship, he said. “I sat in my bedroom with my radio tuned into KLKC 1540,” he recalled. On boyhood family road trips across the the wide Kansas plains, he said, AM radio “was a constant companion.”

I feel compelled to conclude this post with how it felt to be one of those voices that folks turned to on their AM dial.

While I was working at WDOR, a small AM/FM station in Door County, we may not have been cutting edge, but we were local.  Local neighborhood disc-jockeys with the current weather and local fishing conditions, high school sports reports, and even the local obituaries were read on certain long-form newscasts.  No one pretended to be more than what we were. We were happy to work out of a small studio that was too hot in the summer, and too chilly in the winter, but we knew our audience.  Heck, we lived in the community, cared for our friends, and shared many commonalities.  As such we served the community through our daily broadcasting.

I know AM matters to a large swath of radio listeners in their cars. I suspect many of my readers are those listeners. As such, I ask that you contact your senators along with your house member and urge them to support AM radio being required in all new car models.


GOP Hostage Taking With Debt Limit In Washington Costs Diplomatic Efforts By President Biden On World Stage

Beijing’s artificial island bases in the South China Sea

I lamented online Tuesday the loss to international efforts to deal with a growing threat from China due to Republican hostage-taking moves over the debt limit increase. President Joe Biden said he would end his overseas trip early to fly back to tend to the manufactured crisis from Congressional Republicans who think they can defy the rules of acting like grownups on this matter.  Had he stayed with his itinerary meetings with India, Japan, and Australia would have been held and a strong united message would have emerged in regard to threats ranging from shipping lanes to China’s bellicose military maneuvers.

As we know, federal law requires Congress to authorize the government to borrow any money that is needed to pay for the programs that Congress has passed.  Congress has increased or suspended the debt limit 78 times since 1960. We also know that Republicans voted to raise the debt ceiling three times when Donald Trump was in the Oval Office. (As they should have.) Making it now a political football for the basest of reasons is a tactic the GOP has latched onto, and one that must be rejected if one is interested in the process of how government operates.  We do not accept hostage-taking as a means for anyone on the world stage to extract what they wish, and we must not entertain that concept for domestic purposes, either. Raising the debt limit is the only path forward, and anything less is both reckless and irresponsible. 

Not doing so has undermined our nation on the world stage.

As we are aware there has been a strong and consistent theme from the Biden Administration, one that has also been promoted and advocated by key foreign policy hands over the years, of countering China’s growing influence across the western Pacific.  One of the problems from Washington over the years has been not paying attention to the needs and concerns of many countries. Beijing did take notice of that troubling matter and set up a variety of programs and funding to insert themselves into international equations. It is the use of that soft power that has been of great concern in the West to foreign policy thinkers. Rather than have an American president step foot in the next few days, and for the first time on a Pacific Island country, Biden instead needs to head back to Washington to hold Speaker McCarthy’s hands. The world is watching and saying things this family-friendly blog will only infer.

Forget that in Papua New Guinea, the host nation for this meeting scrambled to mobilize 1,000 security officers and invited the leaders of 17 other countries but that was then upended due to conservative members of Congress not understanding what the debt limit is, or the significance of unifying national interests against Chinese desires at usurping supply lines and attempting to expand their territory with the creation of islands. People who deal with these growing issues and confront them in their countries daily wonder what must be wrong with the Republican caucus to not be able to see real-world geo-political threats and not grasp they are of more importance than the whims of raising campaign money from a letter to the base about thwarted efforts at stopping an increase to the debt limit. The theatrics of the debt limit from the GOP is generated to garner campaign cash.

The Republicans play partisan games through their demands about paying for America’s debt.  Meanwhile, the international community looks at this absurd attempt at blustering, undermining a president on a foreign trip, and the damage it does to the actual policy needs requiring Washington’s attention and wonders what has happened to the powerful nation they once knew.  Republicans use their dysfunctional nature to make our nation look unreliable and weak on the world stage.  That must be called out and shut down.

President Biden should invoke his constitutional authority under the 14th Amendment to raise the nation’s debt limit without having to pass legislation through Congress.  There can be no hostage-taking if the would-be-victim refuses to be tied down or forced to kneel. Meanwhile, as this partisan mess spins and spins in D.C. we know there is growing evidence, as reported by U.S. surveillance, that some of China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea are now “fully militarized”.

Wisconsin Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher Stands Up For Human Rights In Our Foreign Policy

Congressman Mike Gallagher at a rally for Tibet

Though the news story about Wisconsin Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher did not make waves in media broadcasts Wednesday evening, the fact he stood up for human rights in our foreign policy-making as a nation is most important.  The statement about a fundamental value for shaping such policies was made following a Washington event where the British son of jailed Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai criticized Britain and the Vatican for failing to speak out strongly against the crackdown on dissent in the Chinese territory.  Gallagher was equally solid in his remarks about the human rights situation in the former British colony.

Sebastien Lai said self-censorship in Hong Kong was the anticipated result of the national security crackdown there, but the “hypocrisy” of some governments trying to trade with China was unexpected.

“We are incredibly grateful that the Americans have been a lot stronger on these values that we all share … than the UK government. The UK government has been incredibly weak,” said Lai, who like his father is a British citizen.

Lai said Britain had not called for the release of his 75-year-old father, who founded the now shut pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and faces charges under Hong Kong’s security law and a colonial-era sedition law.

“It’s very sad to see a democratic government being afraid – or asking permission even – to speak on behalf of one of its citizens that is in prison for freedom of speech,” said Lai. “It’s just ridiculous.

U.S. Congressman Mike Gallagher, chair of the House of Representatives select committee on China’s Communist Party, slammed the Vatican for not standing up for Jimmy Lai, who, like him, is a Catholic.

“The silence from the Vatican on China’s human rights abuses and Jimmy’s case, in particular, is deafening,” he said.

As a high school freshman in 1976, I recall being drawn to the argument made by presidential candidate Jimmy Carter that human rights had to be a central feature of our foreign policy.  Now decades later I am still a staunch believer in that point of view.  If anything, recent history has proved the correctness of the ‘Carter Doctrine.’

The American people and our courts have rejected the proposition that some people’s rights can be suspended arbitrarily; to do so violates the very core of our democracy. Hopefully, those working to establish democratic practices and institutions worldwide will seize upon this development and convince their own fellow citizens that democracy and human rights are worth the struggle.

The human rights component of President Carter’s international policy must be a centrality to how we continue to view international affairs. With the same focus, President Biden understands the role that human rights and human dignity plays as a part of what constitutes a democracy. I cringed and was highly embarrassed for our nation when Donald Trump proved to be nothing more than an enabler or apologist for thugs. How the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was handled was a very dark period for our country as the world watched.

It offended me to high heaven to have Trump and his administration demonstrate a flippant attitude regarding foreign policy. It was continuously conducted in a transactional manner. Great for the tyrants and autocrats who have favors to trade, and deals to strike for their own ends. But woe are the ones sitting in jails in Saudi Arabia and China and Turkey. Human rights never were going to fare well in that administration, one dominated by a transactional view of foreign policy.

That is why it is refreshing to have strong forceful voices from the GOP standing up against repression and brute force from tyrants on the national stage. Earlier this year, Gallagher did that very thing in recognizing the courage of Tibetans in fighting for their freedom and culture. He described Tibetans as victims of a “cultural genocide” by the Chinese Communist Party.

These expressions of solidarity with those who are suffering and need to have their concerns lifted up so the world can be better aware of what is happening is vital. Human rights must be a cornerstone of our foreign policy. On both counts, Congressman Gallagher has placed himself on the correct side of history.

Why My Dad, Royce Humphrey, Did Not Vote In 1944 Presidential Election

I am not able to pick up a book alongside the bed and read ‘a few pages and fall asleep’.  I often hear people say they often do such quick reading before being lulled into slumber, but last night again demonstrates why that never works for me.  I was reading the next chapter of Robert Cutler’s life, as told in Ike’s Mystery Man by Peter Shinkle and instead of slowing down my thought process it reversed my plans to end the day. It was not long before the book had me doing a bit of research on my iPad. The story told was one I had not known before, and since it dealt with members of the military voting in WWII, a war where my Dad served in the Pacific Theater, I was most interested to learn more.

There was a desire among some pols leading up to 1944, as the war raged and President Franklin Roosevelt sought a fourth unprecedented term in the White House, for soldiers overseas to be able to cast a ballot.  With roughly 10 million soldiers deployed the outcome of races from the Senate to the Oval Office could be decided by these offshore ballots. As such, two Democratic Senators, Scott Lucas of Illinois and Teddy Green of Rhode Island introduced a bill to have ballots sent to the ones fighting in the war.  That was when the fireworks started as Southern Democrats were livid thinking Black voters could bypass the poll tax and cast a ballot, and then they would surely wish to keep voting once they returned to the Deep South upon leaving the military. Northern Republicans feared that the military vote would further aid in the re-election of FDR.

While elections are in the hands of each state, Cutler who served in the War Department as the planning coordinator for this voting concept and then as executive director once the War Ballot Commission was authorized by Congress, proved in hearings why a federal bill was needed.  Here is one paragraph dealing with the pitfalls of absentee voting and how soldiers from Springfield, Illinois would be unable to vote in 1944 unless a new law was passed. 

The bill that passed after twists and turns due to the most unreasonable of political maneuvers was weak and only partly functioned. It required that the home state of the soldier had to first approve the use of the federal ballot.  Of the 48 states, only 20 of them approved the federal ballot. But which ones, I asked silently to the author, thinking how informative it would have been to include one more sentence with those states listed.

It took me a mite longer online than I had wished to find the listing. The states with federal ballots sent abroad were CA, CT, FL, GA, ME, MD, MA, MI, NE, NH, NJ, NC, OK, OR, RI, TX, UT, VT, and WA. Dad, being a Wisconsin ‘boy’, did not get to vote. One does have to wonder if it seemed odd for some soldiers to have a ballot for president in 1944 while buddies alongside the one voting did not. Dad did not often talk of the war itself, as the military aspect of the fighting was not a topic he engaged in with our family. But he often spoke of the larger context of WWII, and I know this would be one matter he either would have known something about or have thought interesting to learn.

As to what works best for falling asleep I do a crossword puzzle. Repose, one’s own time, seven letters…..

Immigration Rhetoric Needs To Be Tempered With Policy And Understanding Our History

With all the news about the spring offensive of brave and determined Ukrainian soldiers striking back at Russian aggressors, the almost daily occurrences of innocent people being shot and killed for no reason other than a gun was in easy reach of being fired, and the attempted hostage-taking by Republicans over the debt ceiling it might seem near impossible to add another top-of-the-fold story to the mix.  Nonetheless, immigrants at the southern border are making its usual series of articles and talking points across the nation.

There is merit to some of the news about the border, as the scheduled court-ordered lifting of Title 42, a public health rule issued during the pandemic that gives U.S. officials unusual powers to quickly expel migrants who cross the border without permission is soon to occur. But as is usual when this topic is elevated comes the partisan rage about immigration that also connects too easily with racism.  At a time when Wisconsin Republicans say the worker shortage is so dire, they need to pass legislation so fourteen-year-olds can serve patrons their drinks, alerts us all to the need for more people desiring to live and make wages in the nation. (I trust some creative editorial cartoonist is drawing a kid in northern Wisconsin studying the whiskey rebellion on the bar counter as he is getting ready to serve table seven their cocktails.) There is clearly a need in every sector of our economy that is screaming out for workers on the one hand as there are clearly many people who wish to reside and work in our nation at the border on the other. Of course, a nation must have control of its borders but we also must have a comprehensive immigration policy passed by Congress to react to both ends of the issue.

For the record, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 passed in the Senate on May 25, 2006, with a 62-36 vote. (I very much approved of the measure.) The bill included provisions to strengthen border security with fencing, vehicle barriers, surveillance technology, and more personnel; a new temporary worker visa category; and a path to legal status for immigrants in the country illegally if they met specific criteria.  Then-President George W. Bush commended the Senate “for passing bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform” and said he looked forward to working with both chambers.

But the bill was never taken up by the House.

Then in 2013, a bill backed by Democrats and 14 Republicans, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act passed the Senate on a 68-32 vote on June 27, 2013. Another measure many found grounded in the policy principles that our nation needed to strive at implementing.

It rotted in the GOP House. 

The Dreamers have been held hostage to partisan politics so long that they will likely have grandkids before our nation can find a will to resolve the issue. Though our nation is awash in political dysfunction which results in not passing legislation dealing with immigration the partisan anger is high and too often just mean and cruel. Sometimes, as we know, cruelty itself is the reason for such outbursts. Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott this week labeled the dead family from a mass shooting as “illegal immigrants” and in so doing removed any sense of humanity from the horror. On display was the foghorn of racism that comes too easily to our politics.

One of the best columns I read about immigration in many months landed in newspapers across the nation a couple weeks ago. I clipped James Rosen’s words from my local daily paper and post a section of it below. Yes, we have issues at the border requiring a national policy response, but the vitriol and outright racism that often lands on those who simply wish to make for a better life with a job and some hope on their shoulders must be called out. One way to address the current headlines is to shake hands with our past.

There was a “border crisis” in the 1840s when the Irish flooded into the country in huge numbers; they made up half of all immigrants. Yet they would come to dominate politics in Boston, New York and other cities while seeing one of their own elected as president in 1960.

There was a “border crisis” in the 1850s when waves of Chinese immigrants arrived, drawn by the California gold rush and fleeing economic turmoil at home. Yet they almost single-handedly built the first transcontinental railroad and opened many popular businesses.

There was a “border crisis” in the early 1900s when millions of Jews came to escape pogroms and other persecutions in Eastern Europe. Yet they would come to dominate fields from filmmaking to academia, earning a volatile mix of admiration and contempt in their new homeland.

There was a border crisis in the 1940s when Japanese immigrants were rounded up and held in internment camps during World War II. Yet today, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Suburu employ tens of thousands of Americans at factories in eight states; hundreds of thousands more work for firms that supply them or sell their cars.

There was a “border crisis” after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks when FBI agents began to question the large Arab community in Dearborn, Michigan, and question Muslim immigrants elsewhere. Yet, Arab Americans today head major universities and make major contributions in every field, from science and computer engineering to business, journalism, entertainment and politics. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was born in San Francisco to a Syrian father … and a German-American mother.

The original “border crisis” started long before Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. The immigrants who arrived in the early 1600s went on to found a great nation after slaughtering the Native Americans who preceded them, a tragic tale of conquest that illustrates the morally murky precept, famously repurposed by Winston Churchill, “History is written by the victors.”

House Republicans Can Show Leadership With Defense Spending For Pacific Forces

The most memorable Christmas for many of us occurred in 1991 when the Soviet flag that had for decades flown over the Kremlin came down. I suspect every living room in the nation had a television set turned on and though muted with folks all about as the holiday unfolded, watched as the world changed. It was far more than symbolism as the flag slipped away.  It was further confirmation of the continuance of massive changes that would move faster and reshape a once superpower where millions of people were caught up in the darkness of totalitarianism. Many have looked at the collapse of the USSR and asked with hindsight what we missed when thinking long-term about the next global challenges to be faced after the collective emphasis on fighting the Cold War was removed.  We should have focused on China.

9/11 shook the foundations of the American psyche, it was obvious we were not an insulated nation from the storms of the world.  But then with recklessness, we misapplied our outrage with the absurdity of an invasion of Iraq. Terrorism was a real and thorny issue to deal with, but there must always be pragmatism built into the construction of foreign policy.  After all, there were many reasons that President Bush (41) did not remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein following his ouster from Kuwait.  Some argued that it would have run counter to UN agreements, others that the Arab allies would have left the coalition, but Bush and his advisors knew a vacuum of power in Iraq would prove highly troubling. What Bush knew then is what we all would come to agree with in the decades that followed. We spent so much time chasing the wrong goals for eight years under President Bush (43). We should have focused on China.

From the Cold War to the terrorism that consumed much of the bandwidth of some pols and state department staff there simply was not enough thinking about the next large global approach that needed to be considered.  The last (roughly) 500 years of Atlantic-dominated power from Western Europe to the Americas was giving way in varying ways and at varying speeds to the energetic and highly competitive nations and people of Southeast Asia. Over the years trade routes and supply lines and military threats have increased.  The interconnected nature of the world has increased, and with it has the threats to world economic stability should military strife occur. While President Obama was pivoting his administration to a new reality in that region, he was followed in the White House by a failure of monumental proportions in international relations at every turn starting in 2017. 

Over the past weeks, reports of a new emphasis on preparations for military assets and requirements designated for the Pacific forces have been coming from the Defense Department.  More of the details of what is being sought regarding defense funding caught my attention with a news report from Politico.

Alongside President Joe Biden’s budget request for next year, the Pentagon will submit a new $15.3 billion plan to fund Pacific forces, according to an unclassified version of the report obtained by POLITICO. That’s more than twice what DoD asked for last year, $6.1 billion, and a significant boost from what Congress authorized, $11.5 billion. The money will go toward buying missile defense systems, radars and space sensors, as well as increasing exercises and training.

The report warns of China’s rapid military buildup, and the increasing pressure on countries in the region to bend to its will. It follows a concerted push by the Pentagon in recent weeks to expand American military influence in the region, including a flurry of new deals with regional partners. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently traveled to Manila to announce an agreement with the Philippines giving the U.S. increased access to bases there, and the Marine Corps in January activated a new base on Guam.

The need for more defense funding is never a popular issue on my side of the political aisle. But alongside the correctness of trade agreements with other nations in the region (which also gins up misplaced angst from my side) and the strengthening of resolve from the US by aligning with nations for security deals we can and must send the correct message about the needs of the international community.  At a time when many scholars are asking if the mindset of the American Century is passing away it could be argued that with this new test of commitment and purpose, the US can renew its centrality to a world that needs a democratic-based adult on the world stage.

The question that will be answered, in part, by House Republicans who are blustering and threatening all sorts of things relating to our federal budget is if they will demonstrate our understanding of this global moment in Southeast East by placing our resources behind what we should have focused on since the Soviet flag came down from over the Kremlin. Last fall in the midterms, House Republicans had outlined a number of policy aims, with one being about investing in an efficient, effective military. What that meant was not outlined, but now might be the time for the House GOP leadership to commit to standing alongside liberal democracies and committing themselves to international law and rules of conduct.

John Fetterman Showing Nation What Quiet Leadership Looks Like

Earlier today I heard the news about Pennsylvania freshman Senator John Fetterman’s medical situation.  Last week he was feeling weak and sought out treatment which resulted in hospitalization, but today we learned he has now checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to deal with clinical depression.   First and foremost, I wish him well, and second, I strongly support and applaud his candor and willingness to share his journey with his constituents and the nation at large.

As I heard the news my mind thought at once about First Lady Rosalynn Carter who worked from a White House platform to talk candidly about the need for better mental health programming throughout the country.  It is no small thing what she did as it was an essential reason Congress passed the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980.  Throughout her decades of leadership, she has strived to work against the stigma that is all too often associated with anyone who seeks out medical help with depression. Today, when Fetterman was able to put forth a public statement about his needs and the medical assistance he is seeking it is clear what strides we have made in this nation regarding mental health issues.

Though I have never felt depression nor can truly understand the pull it has on a person I can speak to months of grief counseling and strong support following the death of my Mom so as to come out on the other side of sadness, a kind I had never before had to deal. The one thing I know to be true with any such issue is to confront it head-on, and honestly.  Fetterman has taken, with my limited ability to make such a statement, a powerfully positive step by seeking help and not being ashamed to be upfront about it.  That is a strength that makes him the type of man any father in the nation should like to see his own son possess as an adult.

Fetterman is demonstrating a form of leadership that will allow for more open dialogue about depression and other mental health issues. He can do for this issue as what First Lady Betty Ford did for the candor needed to address breast cancer. His open acceptance of these services can aid in furthering our discourse as to why mental health programming needs additional governmental funding.  He has now become one with tens of millions of Americans suffering from mental health issues and if he so chooses can show leadership of a kind that makes politics ring hollow.