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On Congressional Empathy, Or, Can You Feel The War Now? September 26, 2007

In a comment on the BlueNC site to one of my postings, Icloud aptly points out that Mr. Bush does not personally suffer the consequences of this war-that is, neither his family or personal fortune are at stake here.

The same can also be said of many of the Members of Congress. Jim Webb is an example of a Member who does feel that personal connection, and the passion he brings to this issue is clearly a result of that experience.

So how might we make the Members and the President more personally engaged in the daily lives of the military community…and more empathetic to the needs of the average military family?

The purpose of today’s discussion is to offer a suggestion that would do exactly that.

We can’t force the children of Members to serve personally in the Services, but we can bring a touch of the experience home fairly easily.

All we have to do is require Members and their families to obtain their medical care exclusively at VA and military facilities, and to encourage-by shame, if need be-those families to shop at military Exchange and Commissary stores.

For those not familiar, the Services operate two chains of official stores that provide the same kinds of things you might expect in a Target store (with a similar atmosphere, although not always as large) on bases and ships worldwide.

There are items unique to the military such as uniforms that are also available, which adds an interesting fashion atmosphere to the place, but that’s another story.

One chain is operated by the Navy (the Navy Exchange Service), the other by the Army Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES).

If Members had to see families in the grocery line trying to stretch the money they have; if they saw all the single parents who don’t have partners 15 months at a time…well, that might help to transcend the polics of why something as simple as the Webb amendment makes sense.

But for real impact, we should make it our business to insist that all Members, and their families, from now on, share the same medical care that our Servicemembers and their families receive-no better, no worse.

And to take it one step further, if there are billing disputes or customer care issues related to the health care needs of the Members and their families; send those issues to the same dispute resolution apparatus that serves the military community today.

Of course we can expect the usual objections:
“It will be inconvenient…”
“We would have to mingle with ordinary citizens…”
“Our time is too valuable to be spent waiting in lines like veterans have to…”

Guess what?
That’s the idea.

If it’s inconvenient enough to irritate the Members, it should become much more convenient for the military community in very short order.

If it’s perceived by the public as another example of how Rs disrespect the troops while Ds support them, so much the better.

Now admittedly, none of this goes to the core of Iclouds original point; but by forcing every single Member to deal with this on a most personal level, it should force Congress to deal with a whole series of issues-or face the personal consequences.

How can this be accomplished?

Through the public choice of accepting the challenge, for the good of the troops-or accepting the shame of refusing.

Force Members to publicly answer the question of whether they feel they are too important to accept the same kind of care America’s troops volunteer for.

Force them to publicly admit they find the care our troops get is inadequate for their families.

Congressional Democrats-want to force the Republicans back on the defensive? Walter Reed, the issues of how Republicans take care of our troops, and the inadequate case management they receive when they return left the Rs rocking on their heels.

This is a tremendous issue for us-why not run with it and force the Rs to either agree or threaten a filibuster to fight you.

Candidates-why not now challenge the R candidates by coming out with the statement that as you run for President you will make every effort you can to devote yourself to this cause-and ask them why they won’t take a stand on what should be a bi-partisan issue?

Now I know this is an unlikely, long shot proposal, but long shots do happen.
Consider that today the Seattle Mariners are playing a game in Seattle, at Safeco Field, their own stadium-and they are the visiting team.

If that can happen, why not this?
Jim Webb, Harry Reid, John Murtha, Nancy Pelosi…whaddaya think?
Want to try a different tack?
I promise the public will support you-and it will raise public approval of Democratic Members.

Helping Servicemembers, helping vets, helping raise Congressional approval…and it’ll scare the hell out of Congressional Republicans.

What’s not to love?