Face to Face with
U.S. Representative Brian Baird
[Aberdeen] DAILY WORLD / DAVID SANDLER
Arthur Ruger of Bay Center talks about his
views of the Iraq war with Congressman
Brian Baird at a town hall meeting at
Raymond High School on Saturday. Ruger
and his wife, Lietta, have a nephew and
a son-in-law currently serving in the military.
This started out as a short piece until I let my emotions have free reign.
Reference Today's Aberdeen Daily World:
Baird faces his constituents in Raymond
I like the article cause obviously they couldn't find a picture of some handsomer guy and were afraid to put
up a picture of Lietta as a mother/grandmother being uppity and rude to a U.S. Congressman.
Actually, being uppity and rude was not at all what Lietta said and did. Within minutes after she started
her first question you could sense how most of the audience was sitting up and paying attention rather than attempting to
shush her or insist that she keep quiet so others could speak.
Furthermore, Brian Baird - as he answered most questions - kept returning and making eye contact
with Lietta while speaking. That is what usually happens when a speaker comes to understand what constitutes the most serious
concern of the audience.
It's not surprising that even in rural Pacific County, Iraq and flub-a-dub Republican presidents and politicians
are on everyone's mind. Out here in the boondocks some thought the audience would be more willing to talk about Spartina grass
in the Willapa Bay or road construction on State Highway 6.
Cross posted to Willapa Magazine and Daily Kos
Bottom line is that the result of the first of our more personal moments with Rep. Baird is our flat-out
disagreement with each other about the surge, broken pottery barns, general Petraeus, and the blood of our children and grandchildren.
Brian addressed most of my arguments and contentions about his his surge-supporting credibility before I ever
had the opportunity to challenge him. His pre-emptive strike derailed what would have been my slam-dunk challenge items.
You know, the slogan stuff:
"military dog-and-pony show",
"I talked to one or two soldiers from our district,"
even one of my
more cherished talking points: "an abstract war unless you have skin in the game."
I had promised Lietta that I would keep my curmudgeon mouth quiet until later in the meeting - perhaps when
folks stopped worrying about Iraq and were ready to go mow Spartina grass or whine about time delays on Highway 6.
After Lietta got his attention (and perhaps the audience got an opportunity to put faces to their neighbor's
names about which they'd only read in the newspapers or online) my chance arrived.
I managed to somewhat govern the rage inside after listening to Brian present what I perceived as talking
points typical of all Democrats who've caved to their fear of an electorate stampeded by lying republican sensationalized
I did so by projecting an image of my two military family members sitting between Lietta and me - tied to
their seats and unable to move out of them and with duct tape over their mouths.
I asked Brian to give me the sort of thing we should expect from all our elected officials;
I know I've never seen nor heard from any republican and few Democrats.
Our Democratic politicians must stop hiding behind form-letter responses and talking-point corn-flake answers.
We need them to speak with us face to face with honesty.
To my best recollection, I said to Brian Baird,
"I've listened to what sounds like talking-point answers from you. These are the very answers and logic we've
heard from the republican president and his party supporters.
Brian, you're sounding like Republican partisans who have talked to us voters for years as if we were stupid
and gullible. It is personally insulting to be talked to that way and you're doing it once again today.
I'm asking you to look us directly in the eye and flat out tell us why my soldier-son's blood is worth the
supposed six-month outcome you've described - which even you admit to be a house of cards.
Tell us right here and right now with no allusion to American foreign policy and nonsense about broken pottery
barns and social chaos in Iraq.
What should I tell my soldiers about what their blood means to Brian Baird?"
I'll get to his answer in a moment, but first I think we need to talk civics.
For those of you who can't find America on a map because drinking liberally, watching sports, amateur entertainers
and survivor contestants are far more interesting, you can go read somewhere else if you're bored.
As for you liberal orthodoxists for whom absolute adherence to pretend liberal doctrine means that any elected
official who commits ANY act of heresy is immediately excommunicated, you need to grow up here and now!
Think about what Baird is doing and what he has been subjecting himself too in the name of genuine citizen
civic duty, patriotism and his conscience.
Think about what Murray, Cantwell, Pelosi, Reid, and all the Democratic cave-in cowards have not done.
I watched one fellow stand up and wail on and on at the Congressman (not TO him, but AT him) about elected
officials expected to merely vote the will of the people who sent him to Congress.
He insisted that Baird be our voice but not think for himself.
I've always mostly agreed with that notion - mostly, but not totally. Cause I'm willing to concede that
if my elected representative gets access to information affecting an upcoming vote and has no time to poll his constituents,
he must used his wisdom.
I may not agree with his choices but how can I dispute his conscience and best effort?
Why would I fire him for doing what he thought he should? As a union shop steward I would go after management
full bore for firing my co-worker based on such logic.
We don't always elect the smartest person to represent us. But not being the smartest isn't a representative's
problem, it's ours for assuming we should elect smart robots. Our challenge is to elect representatives with integrity who
don't place lobbyists and cash above the needs of those they represents.
Our challenge is to elect representatives who won't take talking-point orders from party officials who are
not supposed to be party leaders FIRST and elected officials SECOND;
and who won't threaten independent thinkers with party reprisals, retaliation or party discipline for not
going along with official partisan-dictated policy.
And of course ... we elect representatives with courage - not only courage to vote their conscience with their
best wisdom - but also courage to take responsibility and accountability for that vote; to go back to the people and stand
in front of them.
I am in major disagreement with Brian Baird on his on his position on the surge and his confidence in General
Petraeus. But in all honesty, I am in major agreement with Brian Baird on his ability to be a real elected representative
of his people.
When you come down to it, Baird is the only politician I've seen in my lifetime who displayed the courage
to willingly take an unpopular decision and then leap out of the frying pan from which his opinion was given and straight
into the fire to take the heat.
That's what those of us who CAN find the United States on a map ought to be able to understand.
So what did Baird say when I asked him what I could share with our family soldiers about their blood?
Baird did not hesitate when he replied that "You probably won't like it, but ... " [and I have to paraphrase
the rest of his lengthy response.]
Baird described himself as not only our elected representative but also a patriotic and civic-minded American
citizen. Now all talk can be cheap talk. Any time any of us self-describe we run the risk of spouting cheap talk.
However, in this case, I saw nothing cheap in what Brian Baird said nor how he said it. Whether you agree
or not, that's what we want in our officials.
Baird believes that contrary to my apparent assumption that he himself wants us to expend our most precious
blood to pay the price of stupid Bush/Republican/Neocon policies, we must understand that leaving our blood in harm's way
is a necessary support of America's core values and to our being part of a global community and not the superpower that
fools make us out to be.
It's as much a support of American core values as is advocating for the restoration of habeas corpus and the
end of unlawful and unnecessary wire tapping.
We are part of a community where we may not like the price we are paying, but where in fact we have created
a situation we have no right to reasonably ask other countries to clean up for us. We cannot expect other countries to willingly
send their own blood into harm's way for something our fools-for-leaders did in our name.
He looked me in the eye and told me that yes, he felt that risking my soldiers' blood is worth it ... and
that yes, if he had grown children and it meant sending his own children into harm's way he would not change his position.
I then felt challenged to look him back in the eye and without relying on my own political talking-points,
tell him why and in what effective manner I would ask the leadership of any other nation to clean up the pile of crap we left
laying in the world's living room.
I couldn't come up with any useful nor justifiable notion with which I could suggest that some other
family replace my family's solder.
Those rationales inside our anti-occupation repertoire were impotent and mindless rehashing of arguments that
only go so far toward solving the problem.
Baird came over to Lietta and me after the meeting and agreed to Lietta's request for an on-going update exchange
regarding our military family members in harm's way.
Another citizen who was talking with us at that moment turned to Brian and said, "When your children are 18,
you'll think differently about sending them to war."
Lietta and I spoke about this on the way home. Our military son-in-law re-enlisted a few years ago.
In preparation for his impending redeployment to Iraq within 3 weeks, he is not talking panic-talk nor shouting
"Please Mr. Custer, I don't wanna go!"
No, he is quietly and bravely preparing himself for another 18-month tour.
THAT is the kind of soldier most military families have been sending to Iraq.
THAT is the kind of soldier even Brian Baird recognizes as coming from only a very small group of citizens
who man this war for the rest of us;
a vast national majority of us who make up a not-to-be-bothered non-patriotic society worried about hard-ons,
super bowls and spending money.
OUR soldier has also authorized us to keep at our government.
"Mom, you're the only voice we have," he said to her when Lietta first overcame her own reluctance to speak
out and got involved.
So he's there taking responsibility for his enlistment contract. He's doing his duty while hoping and needing
that we do ours - and you do yours.
Are we continuing our effots to go after Brian Baird and all those elected officials who are in a greater
position to stop the crooks and liars who are the real villains?
However, that confrontation in which I was a participant yesterday turned out to be much more clearly perceived
than online videos or sensationalized news and internet accounts of angry constituents threatening and demeaning a U.S. Congressman
for his position.
We absolutely must stay real with this stuff.
I only speak for me, and in spite of what I believe is Brian Baird's wrong-headed trust of General Betrayus's
surge promises and his inappropriate criticism of Moveon.org, I saw the kind of elected official we need more of.
By insisting on some sort of pretend orthodoxy falsely perceived as connected to an anti-war position, we
ask Brian and others to flip-flop;
to subject themselves to our own narrow manipulations rather than the manipulations of others.
We expect them to be threat-driven, but only to OUR threats and not the mindless threats of some other
Being anti-war is but a small part of how I feel in my role as a responsible civic-minded citizen.
In my own larger context as a veteran, as the father of soldiers and probable grandfather of soldiers, I must
stand with each of you and we must be genuine patriots who will make wise decisions when called upon.
We are a military family opposed to war in the abstract but understanding that crap happens;
that despite our highest ideals of peace and global harmony, our warrior blood is what Americans need
when it's time to be grown-ups;
when our maturity recognizes the need take the gloves off.