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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
Cracking the Code of Campaign-Speak

"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

30 Jan 2016
Is There Only One True Progressive?

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

23 Jan 2016
The Man Who Drowned Democracy With 'Sewer Money'

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. This week marked the anniversary of … Read More.

One Congressman Who Means It!


Whenever you get fed up listening to some gasbag run on and on about how everybody in Congress is a faker or a hypocrite or both, tell the gasbag to call me so I can introduce him to Rep. Walter Jones, the North Carolina Republican now serving his eighth term.

I admit that I get awfully tired of listening to politicians in both parties give the same speech over and over about how much these politicians value the men and women now serving in the U.S. military: "These are the very best America produces" ... "the quiet heroes whose priceless sacrifices we treasure" ... and how "we stand in awe of their patriotism," etc., etc., etc.

The big problem is that, with rare exception, senators and congressmen do not know personally anybody in the enlisted ranks of the U.S. military. Sure, they have visited them here and overseas and, no doubt, been sincerely impressed by the commitment and the professionalism of the men and women in uniform.

But you have to understand: Soldiers and Marines' families cannot and do not write four- or five-figure checks to anybody's political campaign. Nor do they get invited to White House dinners or Kennedy Center openings. They do not ski Vail. They do not summer in the Hamptons or Jackson Hole.

People in power in Washington love the PFCs and lance corporals and staff sergeants. They just don't happen to know — personally — any of them or their families. Absent the military draft, the sons of advantage and privilege and official Washington are overwhelmingly spared from harm's way.

This is what makes Rep. Walter Jones, Republican of North Carolina, so different and so special. American warriors are not cardboard cutouts to Walter Jones.

They are not some popular object upon which to lavish public praise and purple prose.

No, every one of them to him is an individual with hopes and dreams and plans for the future — just like every congressman's son or daughter.

Walter Jones is not the only member of Congress who visits wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center or Bethesda Naval Hospital. I am sure that other members, too, have gone as Walter Jones has gone, to the funerals of American service members killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. But nobody else I know has personally written a letter of condolence to the families of those who have fallen in those distant battlefields.

At the current count, Jones has written 7,933 letters to the relatives and loved ones of U.S. troops who have lost their lives. The letters are respectful, personal and sympathetic. They tell the grieving survivors that somebody in power understands the pain they are enduring and knows the name of the child, parent, partner or sibling they lost.

If you're in Washington, please by all means visit the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill. There on the second floor, on the walls outside Room 2333, Walter Jones' office, you will see the "Faces of the Fallen," images of some of the 4,962 American military personnel who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their likenesses force us to remember that casualties are not numbers — they are our brothers and our sisters.

The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq is now in its 88th month — almost twice as long as the United States fought in World War II. The next time any public figure begins rhapsodizing about how much he values, respects and, even, reveres those valiant volunteers who wear the U.S. uniform, ask him — or her — one question: Could you tell me the name and hometown and next of kin of one of those service members whom you so much value, respect and revere?

Walter Jones could. Because when he talks about caring for those who serve, he really means it.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




1 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;...I am certain that my Representative, Mike Rogers, of Michigan goes to every funeral of every soldier in his district...The problem is that he openly embraced the wars that brought about their deaths...He ought to go there with ashes on his face and admit his responsibility, and his failure as a human being that made those deaths possible...This he will not do, and not ever do...I had the opportunity after 911 to tell that man that this is where our support of Israel has led us, and that we should follow that path no longer...I remember his many glowing reports of progress in Iraq after the invasion until I could take no more...They all had the air about them of Autumn in Stalingrad...But if we think for a moment, if we consider the relative differences between the house, and the Senate, we can see in your story how valuable the house is to our government, and how good it is to have at least one part of our government in touch with the people, and responsive to them...But this war is a failure of the house, and every failure of government is a failure of the house...This house of Representatives was meant to be our House of Commons, and as much as it was possible those people have made it a House of Lords...There was no upper limit on the size of the house set by the constitution....No state could have less than one... But we began with districts of 30,000 people, and now have districts of over 600 K...How does anyone meet that many???How does anyone faithfully represent so many???. As much as it is possible, every district is divided to give victory to a certain party with votes to spare even if it means occasionaly giving a district away overwhelmingly to the other party...The house limited its number to make the house managable...As the house has become more tame, our situation has become more wild, more feral, and more deparate... The government, which should give us a measure of control over our economy, and our affairs and our foreign policy does not give us any protection...It is not a source of our liberty, but of our division... It does not empower the people as it was meant to, and to do our will, but it excuses government, our represenatives for doing exactly as they desire...Do you think it would be a zoo if thousands of representatives descended upon Washington to replace the hundreds now not working there??? Why not have the state representatives do double duty???How about ever single one of them asking how this bill or that serves their districts!!!..Get rid of the staff, the aids, the secretaries, the lawyers, and the power brokers, and just have a lot of representatives from small districts representing their own... You can look high and low, but this change, this extraconstitutional change accounts better than any single event for the failure of our democracy... We are not less than our forefathers... We are not at fault... No man once elected to power ever concedes power to another...They will point the finger of blame to every direction on the compass, but to where it belongs...It was choice that made the house so unrepresentative, and it is choice that keeps it unrepresentative...It would take no more than an act of congress to make the house work...Will that ever be the object so long as some power remains on the table for those people????They want to be some bodies...My representative wants to be some body...He used to be an FBI Agent...That should qualify him to find a brain...Thanks...Sweeney.
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Jun 6, 2009 8:07 AM
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