Memorial Day Weekend is strangely appropriate for this post... a post that provides us with an insight as to where Veterans fit in on our Congressman's list of legislative priorities... and that is...
.... no where.
I've known Brian Baird professionally, that is to say, politically; since he ran for Congress in '98. He has fantastic political instincts, votes his district reasonably well (with few exceptions) and uses his knowledge of human psychology (He is, after all, a Ph.D in psychology... not unlike arguably one of the worst members of congress today, Baghdad Jimmy McDermott out of Seattle's 7th) extremely well. He has shown political courage (His changed stance on Iraq last August flipped out the ultra-fringe left base of the more communist left) along with political cowardice (What's his position on that criminal enterprise known as the Barnett/Paskenta/Mohegan/Cowlitz mega-casino) and political arrogance by failing to demand a vote on this massive, multi-billion dollar money waste known as the I-5 bridge replacement and forgetting all about the simple but eloquent Article One, Section One of the Washington State Constitution:
SECTION 1 POLITICAL POWER. All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.While quoting Madison from the Federalist Papers as some sort of excuse to ignore us.
Altogether a puzzling, totally political creature.
So... rewind the video tape 5 or 6 years or so. There were hearings underway to determine if our VA facilities should be reduced or closed... it was something of a road show. Patty Murray, our US Senator and number 4 in the democrat leadership (also one of the really big idiots in elective office... ranked "4th dumbest" by Progressive Magazine) who is a pathological liar about how she, personally kept any facilities from closing (If she had that kind of power, none of our facilities would have been even considered for closure)
But there is a red flag here. What kind of power or position has our Congressman amassed during his 6 term tenure? His power ranking is... wait for it... 212th. He's managing to chair the subcommittee on Energy and Environment as a back-bencher of the House Science and Technology Committee.
Now, what that has to do with the 3rd Congressional District and how that helps us is beyond me. His lack of throw weight and gravitas has caused our district to become congressional backwash... which brings me to the point of this post.
As a part of the VA hearings, we held a rally next to the VA facilities across the street from Clark College. Democrats were buried in the minority at the time. I was in the American Legion... holding the District Commander position for this area.
Baird made his pitch about keeping the facilities open (and, in fact, pointing out the obvious; our facilities actually needed to be expanded due to our explosive populatiopn mand veteran growth.) and then came around to shake everyone's hand (Always... ALWAYS.... work the whole room) and when he shook my hand, I looked him in the eye and said, "Brian, it isn't always going to be this way. At some point, you're going to be in power. And when you do... don't forget us."
So, all these years, I've been waiting for him to do something for Veterans. During that time, as a disabled veteran, I've been getting treatment from the VA. I have no complaints at all concerning the treatment. But for the past 2 or 3 years now, many retailers have been selling drugs for $4 worth per month, or $10 per quarter. Not all drugs, mind you, but many of them.
So, I've wondered how it is that drugs the VA charges $24 for 3 months worth can cost $10 at, say, WalMart.
Why is that?
So, last MARCH, I went to Baird's office to find out. There was a rather clueless young man behind the counter, and I gave him my basic information and the following question, to be asked of our congressman:
"Why do drugs cost more at the VA and what are YOU going to do about it?"
He gave me a sob story about Baird's office getting 3000 letters a month (So what, if true) and he told me that it would take 30 days for a response.
In and of itself, that's a terrible standard for a response. When I was on staff in the Legislature, the standard was to reply THAT day if possible, and certainly no latter than the next day.
So I waited. And waited. And waited. I waited 40 days... and no response.
I called AGAIN. I was given a song and dance about how a "mistake" had been made... but they WOULD be getting back with me... IN A ANOTHER 30 DAYS.
Well, guess what: I'm at least SEVENTY days into this... and STILL no response.
This is the worst constituent service I've ever seen. It's bad enough to set the bar so low at 30 days for a response... but SEVENTY days?
Why doesn't Baird care? Why didn't he keep his promise about "not forgetting" about Veterans?
Why doesn't he give a damn about us? Why haven't you answered, Mr. Baird?