Shimkus Promises, Neglected District Personified
For someone that the Democratic Party should NEVER allow to cruise though elections, Rep. John Shimkus (IL-19) seems to get a free ride too many times. He does not deserve it. His constituents know this. They are tired of it. They are fighting back -- in every way possible.
D.R. Brown, a Maryville resident, submitted an editorial entitled Shimkus has broken promises, neglected district to the local print media. It appears in the Collinsville Herald, on Wednesday, September 13, 2006.
When people think about John Shimkus, especially in Madison County, several things often come first to mind: He's a nice guy, he once considered becoming a Lutheran minister, he's a Republican, and a graduate of West Point.True. True. Every word.
And they're fine attributes. It's easy to get the feeling he'd be a great next-door neighbor.
These first thoughts might be changing, though.
During the Collinsville High School commencement this past May, a school official spoke of how Shimkus is a CHS graduate. Behind me, I immediately overheard a man whisper, "He broke his promise." Of course, the man was referring to how Shimkus has broken his original campaign pledge to run for Congress no more than six times.
In 1996, when Shimkus first ran for Congress, the Republicans were making a big deal out of their Contract With America platform. They badly wanted to win control of Congress, and described (accurately, in many cases) the Democrats as entrenched Washington fat cats.
The cure they proposed was to promise the enactment of term limit laws, so that neither Democrats nor republicans could become the dreaded fat cats. It sounded like a fine idea.
In addition to the platform, Shimkus promised to run no more than six times. But, once the GOP gained congressional majority, they conveniently did not enact the promised term limit laws, and Shimkus announced last year that he feels free to run more than six times.
Shimkus has not only turned his back on the platform, which helped elect him, he's broken his personal promise to the 19th District. He says George Bush and GOP leaders want him to run again. So, has John Shimkus himself become an entrenched Washington fat cat who no longer effectively represents the citizens of his own district?
For the record, I'm neither Democrat nor Republican, neither "conservative" nor "liberal." I'm independent, middle-of-the-road, and that's how I like it. But I've never voted for a Democrat for office of president -- not until the last election, that is. I'm appalled and saddened at how far the Republican party has fallen, nationally and in Illinois.
Fortunes have changed since Shimkus was first elected. His campaign fund has grown and grown. Official records put it at $1,170,500 cash on hand. (It's hard to imagine how much cash that is, so I did the math, and it'll buy, free and clear, 58 brand new 2007 family sedans at $20,000 a pop.)
That's a lot of clout for a politician to walk away from. Incumbents with that much money tend to beat the pants off anyone who puts up a challenge. And if Shimkus kept his promise, a Democratic candidate might have nothing between he or she and a seat in Congress but blue sky and sunshine.
That thought must scare George Bush silly. Is it any wonder Bush encouraged Shimkus to abandon ship on the promise?
So what about his record in Congress? Shimkus tells us in weekly e-mail newsletters about lots of pork he's brought home. That's what politicians do, isn't it?
There's almost nothing in his newsletters, or his congressional Web site, explaining where he stands and what he's doing about major pressing issues of the day. Other legislators of both parties have taken the lead on crucial issues such as immigration, congressional corruption, global warming and conflict in the Middle East.
You'll find hardly any reference to our troops, who are doing difficult, dangerous duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you'd like to have some dialogue with Shimkus, through an open forum town hall meeting, you're out of luck. He doesn't have them. (Sen. Barack Obama has held 50 of them across the state in less than two years in office, and plenty of Republicans have them regularly, too).
And, I figure it's unlikely Shimkus will ever debate his Democratic challenger, Danny Stover; Shimkus has nothing to gain by public debate, only a lot to lose. You can't hide behind a pile of cash in a debate.
It sure looks as if Shimkus wants to stay in office, yet wants to avoid anything that puts him, and his record, front and center for public view.
About the only way to get a sense of what Shimkus thinks is to look at his voting record, and it's consistent and predictable as it can be. He votes for whatever George Bush wants, even for HR 5970, also known as the Paris Hilton Estate Tax Relief Act. If Shimkus can't find the nerve to vote against even that, is there anything, at all, ever, that he wouldn't fetch and carry for Bush?
I wish Shimkus' West Point education bettered his service to the citizens of the district and the nation, and, very sadly, it does not. Shimkus, of course, supported the Bush's administration's trumped-up rationale for invading Iraq. So did lots of other Republicans and Democrats.
But there were intelligent, thinking persons of both political parties who saw through the hype. John Hostettler is one. Hostettler is a Republican, Christian, social conservative who represents the neighboring 8th District in
He voted against the invasion of Iraq, and said why on the House floor: Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, I must conclude that Iraq indeed poses a threat, but it does not pose an imminent threat that justifies a preemptive military strike at this time. He cited, among many sources, Saint Augustine, that war should not be conducted without necessity.
There you have it. It took character, courage, and moral integrity for a conservative Republican Christian congressman from the Midwest to stand fast against the tide of hype from the Bush administration, and to push back against Bush's desire to invade Iraq.
Hostettler refused to take the politically easy course of action, and followed good judgment instead. Now, that's what I call real character and integrity when you really need it the most.
Hostettler exemplifies what Theodore Roosevelt meant when he said, Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President.
John Shimkus acts as if he doesn't get it.
And the clinkers arrive in a long line. Hostettler had presence of mind to see through the hype, yet he has no West Point education, and has never served in the Armed Forces. Had John Shimkus (and others) had such judgment and integrity, over 2,600 of our precious troops wouldn't have died, and many more wouldn't have had arms and legs blown off.
Hundreds of billions of dollars would have been conserved for any number of important uses right here at home, or saved for a rainy day or two. How did Hostettler set the call so right, but Shimkus get it so wrong? Where's Shimkus' West Point education, not just when it adorns his resume, but when you'd think
it would benefit our country and our armed forces?
I'm sure Shimkus and Hostettler don't try to figure out which of them has basic grasp of Christianity. I've asked myself, on the question of whether to invade Iraq, "What would Jesus have done?" All I'll say is that Hostettler must have earned himself a very clear conscience.
I'm trying to see how the citizens of this district benefited by Shimkus' support of Bush's Iraq invasion, but the account rings up huge negative balances. Bush had a budget surplus when he entered the White House -- now Bush has borrowed and spent us back into red ink hell, hundreds of billions of it in Iraq.
Troops from our district are sweltering, getting horrible wounds and dying in a place which is one ocean and one sea away.
The Washington Post's Faces of the Fallen Web site shows 106 Illinoisans who have died as a result of the Iraq invasion, of whom eight had hometowns in our district.
Our troops are being placed repeatedly in the crossfire of warring factions of people who just don't think like George Bush. Our troops have done their job very, very well.
Bush hasn't done his job so well, so why are our troops, and their families, paying the heaviest prices of all for Bush's poor job? There's something seriously wrong in this picture, and John Shimkus isn't doing, and won't do, a thing about it.
It'd be justified to send Shimkus packing on Election Day, for no other reason than to enforce the promise he made to us. But there are more reasons to send him packing, chief of which are that he doesn't represent the people of our district any longer and can't say no to Bush, no matter what the cost or how poor the judgement.
He's become the entrenched Washington fat cat he said he wouldn't become. He gives constant and unconditional support to George Bush, whether it gives super-wealthy families of the nation a whopping tax cut, results in the misuse and abuse of our armed forces or breaks his promise to the folks back home.
If you want you voice in Washington to be a hand puppet for George Bush, Shimkus is the man. If that's unacceptable, praise our Founding Fathers and veterans for ensuring your right to say so and vote so.
If, after the next two years, Danny Stover has represented us well, we can give him another term; if not, we should send him packing too.
The word on the street is that the Madison County Democrats are withholding their support this year (just like they did two years ago with Tim Bagwell) because they have a hand-picked self-funded millionaire crony to challenge Rep. Shimkus in 2008. That is the same as telling the voters who they are supposed to elect. It is supposed to be the other way around.
It gives IL-19 voters a choice. They can vote Democratic or Republican for their representative puppet.