Friday, September 18, 2009

Vietnam veterans: Thank you

By Jeff Martin - The Examiner

Independence, MO — Congressman Emanuel Cleaver sounded more like a preacher on Saturday afternoon than a representative, calling on the hundreds of people sitting on the front lawn of the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum to honor Vietnam Veterans because they deserve it.

"This is the perfect event to honor those who should have been honored five decades ago," Cleaver said to a roaring applause.

While it's difficult to say with certainty when the Vietnam War began, most agree it was on Sept. 27, 1959, when the United States established the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Saigon to aid the French military. By the end, 58,000 American troops would lose their lives.

Cleaver, who organizers acknowledged Saturday has devoted his life to public service, expressed his disappointment that those who risked and gave their lives for public safety were treaty so poorly."These are the Americans who fought for the United States," he said, his voice sometimes booming over the loudspeaker. "These are the Americans who fought, who did not demonstrate."

Cleaver acknowledged that many of those gathered at the event carry difficult memories, but that those same memories could be forged into a sense of pride.

"You carried the memories of fighting and suffering," he said, "but you also carry with you a sense of courage and pride. If you look into the eyes of these warriors, you'll see pain, but you'll also see a sense of pride."

Cleaver was joined by several local and state officials, including Independence Mayor Don Reimal and his wife; members of City Council; Raytown Mayor David Bower and Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders; others in attendance included state Rep. Paul LeVota and state Rep. Gary Dusenberg.

The event was organized by Cleaver, and he said there was no better place to celebrate such sacrifice than at the Truman Library. He recognized Truman's service: serving in World War I and, as president, commanding the largest United States active military in history in World War II.

Many family members of those who served in the Vietnam conflict were honored with a certificate and special coin minted for the occasion. Siblings and mothers and fathers stepped up to the podium and, with cracking voice, offered a brief description of their lost loved one(s).

"My two brothers both served and died in Vietnam," one woman said, adding they graduated from Oak Park High School in 1966 and 1968 and gave their lives for their country.

Another man's son was killed in 1970 while leading an infantry patrol. He volunteered for the United States Army after graduating from Rockhurst College.

To demonstrate the military's might, Cleaver directed everyone's eye to the sky, where a B-2 bomber sailed over the crowd.

Speakers following Cleaver told of more and more veterans signing up for benefits and recognizing their worth. Approximately 25 percent more veterans, one speaker said, were treated last year because of increased awareness of veterans programs and services, as well as an increase and expansion in veteran service offices and treatment centers.

Trial by YouTube

I would like to make a point about my vote not to end federal funding of the group ACORN. We are starting down a slippery slope into a culture where we react in knee jerk fashion to the daily whims of Fox News and its cast of characters. I would have been willing to vote for a suspension of ACORN’s funding pending an investigation. I would have liked to have been able to vote on that measure in a stand alone bill that addressed concerns and put in place a plan to evaluate the complaints. But instead, ACORN was tried on YouTube, convicted n Fox News and sentenced by the Congress. The same purveyors of truth, justice and the American way that continue to promote the myth of “death panels”, delivered the death knell to a national non-profit organization that serves the urban poor. I am not saying ACORN is innocent of wrong doing. I am saying YouTube is not the proper venue in which the Congress should decide guilt or innocence. It seems there are many who promote process and transparency when it suits their needs and then promptly abandon those noble needs when it’s convenient to a vendetta.

Even in our own community, the paper of record one day will boldly shout for transparency and a proper public process and the very next day criticize those who thought an amendment to the Student Aid bill, which had zero funding for ACORN, was not the place to address these YouTube concerns.

We have seen this pattern before. In 1950 Joe McCarthy stepped to the microphone in Wheeling, West Virginia and held up a piece of paper that he claimed listed 205 card-carrying communists in the US State Department.

There was no trial. There were no hearings prior to that accusation, just a Senator at a microphone making a claim to grab headlines. The same day, the Senator sent a telegram to President Truman, revising his figure to 57 known communists and demanding that Secretary Acheson dismiss these enemies within. The telegram to the President concluded, “Failure on your part will label the Democratic Party of being the bedfellow of international communism. Certainly this label is not deserved by the hundreds of thousands of loyal American Democrats throughout the Nation, and by the sizable number of able loyal Democrats in both the Senate and the House.”

Much like today’s calculus, the goal is to tar all who do not bend to the will of the righteous who make accusations. The current drum beat says I must be with ACORN because I did not vote to end their funding. The truth is no one in the chamber yesterday knew enough about this situation to make a truly informed vote. Most, including many of my Democratic colleagues and friends, voted because they did not want to be associated with ACORN and found themselves in the crosshairs of Beck, O’Reilly or Dobbs.

President Truman wrote a response that was never sent to Senator McCarthy that I found in the Archives. It seems almost naive compared to what we hear from the halls of Congress today. It read:

Dear Senator:

I read your telegram of February eleventh from Reno Nevada with a great deal of interest and this is the first time in my experience, and I was ten years in the Senate, that I ever hear of a Senator trying to discredit his own Government before the world. You know that isn’t done by honest public officials. Your telegram is not only not true and an insolent approach to a situation that should have been worked out between man and man but it shows conclusively that you are not even fit to have a hand in the operation of the Government of the United States.

I am very sure that the people of Wisconsin are extremely sorry that they are represented by a person who has as little sense of responsibility as you have.

Sincerely yours,


On far too many subjects and issues important to our nation, reasoned discussion and passionate debate have been replaced by lies, distortions and a race to the bottom. Why debate, when one Member standing at a microphone can make whatever accusations he/she may like without evidence? Why have a conversation when all the proof one needs can be found on YouTube?

The Congress is letting itself be bullied by the purveyors of partisanship, and truth and fairness are becoming afterthoughts. The immediate satisfaction of a resignation or elimination has become intoxicating to some. It is not healthy for our institution, our democracy or our future.

There was a moment I had hoped the tone of Congress would make a turn for the better, but it seems the old tried and true ways of slash and burn politics prevail. Needless to say, it has been a frustrating week.

House rebukes Rep. Joe Wilson

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House of Representatives voted this afternoon to admonish Rep. Joe Wilson over his “You lie’ comment to President Barack Obama.

The 240-179 vote on the resolution of disapproval reflected the sharp partisan divide over the issue. Democrats insisted that the South Carolina Republican take responsibility for what they said was a serious breach of decorum.

Republicans characterized the vote as a political stunt.

Wilson himself would not back down on his position that he owed the House no apology. Surrounded by Republican supporters, Wilson said Obama had “graciously accepted my apology and the issue is over.”

He’s not happy about it, but Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver intends to vote to ‘disapprove’ of Rep. Joe Wilson, who yelled, “You Lie!” at President Obama last week.

The Missouri Democrat said that he felt bound to do so because he voted last year to condemn the liberal anti-war group,, when it published a newspaper ad referring to Gen. David Petraeus as “General Betray Us.”

Petraeus was the military commander in Iraq at the time.

Cleaver, vice chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said that he feared the resolution would only sharpen the nastiness of the political mood that the debate over health care has unleashed.

“I think this will serve to further push the nation toward a partisan divide and will ultimately prevent the government from dealing with major problems we face,” Cleaver said.

Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, interrupted the president when he was speaking about health care reform before a joint session of Congress last week.

He apologized later to the president. But many Democrats - and a few Republicans – said that he violated the rules of House and needed to apologize to his colleagues.

Speaking metaphorically, Cleaver said, “The nation is in trouble. It is in far more trouble than most people believe. I don’t think there are that many ready to put their guns back in their holsters. I think they're ready to fire. I wish we could get involved in some real civil debates on health care. The nation has not had that yet.”

House passes Animal Corridor Legislation

Tuesday, I was pleased to join a bipartisan cross state effort with my friends Congressman Dennis Moore (KS-3) and Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (KS-2) to achieve passage of a resolution, H.Res. 317, recognizing the region from Manhattan, Kansas, to Columbia, Missouri, as the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor. The resolution passed the House by a vote of 312-108-

The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor is all about leveraging partnerships and the delegation supporting it is a perfect example of the sort of diverse group an idea like this can pull together. I am proud to support the opportunities for high-paying jobs the Corridor represents. This is a great idea done very well. More information about the corridor can be found here >>>