Visclosky: Lies, name-calling 'soil the public debate'

Chicago Post-Tribune

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky addressed the political discourse in Washington among other issues to a standing-room-only crowd Saturday at the Valparaiso Public Library.

The public appearance was part of the series of town hall meetings Visclosky holds throughout the region each January.

After a brief overview on legislative issues, Visclosky, D-Merillville, dug into a thick stack of index cards full of questions before heading to his next meeting in Chesterton, sometimes drawing applause from the audience of more than 100 people.

"There's a lot of sharp language in the public debate," he said. "The way everybody in this room was raised, you ought to respect everybody and we do in Northwest Indiana without name-calling and lies. It soils the public debate and gets nothing done."

Visclosky noted that there are four investigations now ongoing into the conduct of President Donald Trump and his associates, including one by special counsel Robert Mueller. He added later that there was "no question" there was Russian interference with the election, and that should never happen again.

"I'm disgusted by many pronouncements of the president of the United States," he said, adding that includes how Trump refers to women and people who don't look like him, and his separation of immigrants based on their country of origin. "It has no place in a good country, which I consider the United States."

He declined to say whether he would vote to impeach or censure Trump until the investigations are over.

"I have faith that Mr. Mueller is going to seek the truth and tell us what it is, and then I can make a decision," Visclosky said.

Despite the discord in the nation's capital, Visclosky remains committed to working on issues for the region and its residents, from fighting foreign steel imports to bringing the South Shore extension to fruition.

"Just because one person is president, I'm not going to get out my hanky and say I can't get anything done for four years," he said.

On local issues, Visclosky said he is hopeful Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore will be renamed as Indiana Dunes National Park, creating the 60th national park and the first in Indiana. The measure passed Congress in November and now must be approved by the Senate.

"It would only change one word of federal law but I think it's important from an economic standpoint," Visclosky said before noting the library where the town hall meeting was being held had books on national parks that wouldn't include the dunes. "I want it in that book."

He is concerned about the chemical spills into Burns Harbor Waterway reported by U.S. Steel's Midwest Plant in Portage in April and again in October.

"I'm particularly concerned about the delay in reporting of the spills by USX" to environmental authorities in October, he said. "There should be punitive action taken."