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 maligning them.”
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.”
Visclosky opened 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,” Visclosky said.
- 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 said.
- 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.
Visclosky then 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.”
isclosky 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.
Introducing 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.