Ken Burns “Vietnam” Disturbing Lessons for our Time by Rob Ketcham

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I was 17 when I signed up for ROTC as a college freshman in 1955. In my immediate family, no one had served in uniform since the Civil War; they were either too old or too young. I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the US Army in 1959. I was obligated to serve for six months. However, I deferred serving in order to go to law school which got me to 1962, and a tour of duty for three years. I finally got my orders in December, 1962. I was now a First Lieutenant, MP corps, and received my first assignment to serve in Paris, France, assigned to the 175th MP Company.

The Vietnam war was getting underway and new MP officers like myself were just starting to be sent to places where integration required the deployment of federal troops like Oxford, Mississippi (where every single jeep windshield was broken and helmets dented by rock-throwing locals as their columns passed under overpasses coming into town); we went mostly to other places like Germany and Korea; a few to Vietnam.

The recently aired Ken Burns documentary, “Vietnam,” offers a valuable take on how the US got involved in Vietnam. In the series, Burns included never seen footage about the French involvement in Indochina and about their failure to appreciate the kind of war that was being fought. Somehow our leaders were equally blinded by the reality of what the U.S. would be up against. Many readers my age will remember that no movie started in a theatre until after the news clips showing the map of Eastern Europe and the Near and Far East with the ever creeping “spread of communism” depicted as the map became redder and redder. The words “communist” and/or “spread of communism” seemed to cause our leaders to lose any ability to reason and to appreciate that not only were we not refighting World War II, but that we were getting caught up in a civil war where we only saw labels, not reality.

We didn’t appreciate (or perceive) that the South Vietnamese leaders—the ones we were supporting— were corrupt and ineffective, quite a combination. In addition, our military leadership—William S. Westmoreland comes to mind—were like the British generals during the American Revolution, ready and willing to fight to the last man even when they were being shot at by farmers and civilian marksman hidden from view rather than in ranks across the battlefield. Burns repeatedly showed the sad footage of the battles and deaths on both sides for hills named by a number, hills that were won, then abandoned, and were the scene of yet another battle to take the same numbered hill at the loss of even more life.

Ken Burns and his co-producer Lynn Novick, deserve much credit for bringing to the screen a period of our recent history that had such an impact on our nation as it evolved following World War II. The use of narrators from the US, South and North Vietnam traced the steps from “advising”, to engagement, to war, to escalation, to a never-ending conflagration and mindless slaughter, until finally, both sides came to realize somehow it all had to end.

The documentary’s endless firefight footage taken from archives of all sides, starting with the French in the “50’s and then with the growing American presence and the larger and larger numbers of Vietnamese soldiers from the south and from the north was informative at one level, but could have used much more careful editing and still made its point about the slaughter.

As the war continued, both Johnson and Nixon engaged in massive escalation of troop strength and material, ordering more and more bombing, then adding the use of napalm and Agent Orange to what was already the use of more ordinance then for all of WWII. It was Secretary Robert McNamara’s obsession with numbers and measurement, so successful in producing and selling Fords, that led to using body counts as a way of measuring success in battle. This fact was well known in the anti-war movement, and it was indeed used to determine how success was gauged. We learn from the film that those in the field started using any dead person as a criteria for “winning” a battle even if the dead were farmers or women or children. It was reported that towards the end of the war in the Mekong Delta some battalions in the 9th Division were faking the numbers in order to validate their operations—one more step removed from reality.

What is particularly striking to me is the mendacity of those Presidents involved, starting with President Kennedy. Just recalling that he lied to the American people in several instances and squandered opportunities to work with Ho Chi Min (who in the early days was a student of American history and of our own successful war against the British) is another unpleasant memory. Kennedy’s advisors, venerated at the time by many—McNamara, Bundy, Westmoreland, and brother Bobby Kennedy, didn’t help matters.

Presidential integrity, which had been part of the makeup of the Roosevelts, of President Hoover, President Truman, and President Eisenhower began to give way to lies and duplicity. Lyndon Johnson, catapulted to the Presidency in 1963 actually looked good as he was getting started as President, but he too got caught up in lying, the body counts, the inhumane bombings, and the seeming willingness to ignore what was right in front of him—that we were supporting the wrong side, the side that was devious, corrupt, and not even backed by the South Vietnamese people. All of this is carefully documented in “Vietnam.”

As Americans began to understand that our leaders had taken us into a war being waged in a far off place with no clear purpose and where our soldiers were dying, in alarming numbers, they became increasingly aroused to find ways to challenge government policy in order to stop the war. Using the same tactics as those who were fighting for civil rights—marches, and generally peaceful demonstrations to show opposition to the war, their voices became insistent and the country and the Congress began to wake up.

The numbers of people in the streets in 1967 were almost beyond belief. I know, I was there with my wife and two young children. I had helped in the planning of the march on October 21, 1967, that started at the Lincoln Memorial and ended at the Pentagon. One night we lit candles to honor those who had died, and marched with the lit candle and the soldier’s name across Memorial Bridge to Arlington Cemetery, the most meaningful gesture I ever participated in. And ultimately, the Congress was forced to listen. When there are enough people in the streets that the White House is protected by City buses parked bumper to bumper, or garbage trucks parked bumper to bumper you know, you’ve got someone’s attention.

Congress woke up slowly and reluctantly. “Vietnam” really skims over this part of the story with very little mention of any of the goings-on in the Congress and very sketchy footage of the Fulbright hearings. At the outset, and for far too long, the leadership in the House and Senate was almost totally supportive of President Kennedy, President Johnson, President Nixon and President Ford. The establishment was for the war, the American Legion was for the war and both the Republican and Democratic parties were for the war. It took several years for Senators McCarthy and McGovern and Congressman John Anderson to find their voices. There was tacit support for the war as the huge increases in the military budgets were agreed to with little Congressional debate or discussion.
Some Congressional districts located in areas such as those in Rockland and Sullivan County, New York, and Lowell and Lawrence Mass, were anti-war, but very very few congressman took a lead against the war until the protest movement was well underway.
It is depressing to witness on film what happens when the politicians and generals, desperate for a solution to the situation they had created start using napalm, even on populated areas, after already using Agent Orange to defoliate the countryside. It was brutal and senseless. It demonstrates over and over again what happens when diplomacy fails and how war can so easily escalate into an inhuman enterprise of slaughter.

The war gradually staggered toward its end. The bombing didn’t stop. the North Vietnamese continued to send troops south; the South Vietnamese army continued to fight despite the withdrawal of American troops from the war zone. And Henry Kissinger, a holdover from the Johnson years, had successfully jockeyed for a continuing role in the Nixon Administration to determine how to end the war using secret diplomacy with the North Vietnamese leader, Le Duc Tho. The North Vietnamese leader had decided after the spring offensive failed to deliver a decisive blow, coupled with the near-certain re-election of Nixon, that it was time to make a deal. Finally, in 1975 it ended.

Although I did not serve in Vietnam, I came way too close due to the expanding war in Vietnam. When the time came in 1966 for me to get out, after my three years on active duty, my service was extended, and I was reassigned stateside to the 9th Division, a new Division being formed to go to Vietnam. I was assigned as the Company Commander of the 9th MP Company and deployed to Fort Riley KN. It took almost a year to get the division ready, and I learned to speak some Vietnamese.

One evening about three months before deployment I was in the officer’s club with the MP offer who was running the Post Stockade. He informed me how lucky I was to be going to Vietnam. After overcoming my surprise I learned he was serious, and I asked him if he wanted to go in my place if I could get the orders changed since he was regular Army ( I was reserve); he was eager to go. So the next morning I called a couple of my buddies who were in the Office of Personnel Operations at the Pentagon, and I was able to effect the change. The other MP Captain took my company to Vietnam, and I became the Stockade Commander. I was responsible for about 350 prisoners who were in my custody at a stockade built to handle about 150. Many of the young men who ended up in the stockade were just ordinary guys who did not want to go to Vietnam (this was 1967). They came from all over the midwest, and, generally, if they were sent back to their units they would go AWOL again since they figured that life in the stockade was better than going to Vietnam.

The last episode of the Burns documentary brought the reader up to date about how things are in Vietnam since the war ended. My wife Caroline and I spent a couple of weeks biking in Vietnam in 2009 and were there when President Obama was inaugurated. We found the Vietnamese people to be most friendly at all levels, and the children to be very engaging and warm. We were there during Tet (a Vietnamese holiday) and so the kids were out of school. Time after time, when they found out we Americans were coming by on our bikes in our colorful lycra gear and helmets they would line up along the side of the road and hold out their hands: “What’s your name?” “Where’re you from?” They laughed and they smiled when we passed and we exchanged high fives.

The Burns documentary raises serious and current issues that are before the American people today. Should the US be fighting wars that are not authorized by the Congress, such as the sixteen-year war the U.S. is supporting today with men and materials in Afghanistan? Recently, an NYT headline was, “U.S. Military To Conceal Afghan War Statistics.” The article points out that the Afghans know what’s going on, the U.S Military knows what’s going on, “The only people who don’t know what’s going on are the people paying for it.” Shades of Vietnam!

And what is our doctrine for dealing with places as diverse as North Korea, the Middle East, and Niger? It would seem, based on reports coming out of Africa, that there many more soldiers stationed abroad than Congress or the American people know about. One lesson that must be learned from the Ken Burns documentary is that small events can escalate and escalate.

I am grateful for the documentary and what it can teach and remind us. I hope it will contribute to a thoughtful review so that its lessons are assimilated as we struggle to find our way into the 21st century.

Rob Ketcham served as the chief of staff of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology and staff director of the Fossil and Nuclear Energy Subcommittee during the 1980s and 1990s. Prior to those positions, he was Special Counsel to the House Select Committee on Committees chaired by Richard Bolling (D-MO).  He holds a BA and JD from Washington and Lee University as well as a SG from Harvard University’s Senior Managers in Government Program. He has lived on the Eastern Shore since 1999 with his wife, Caroline.

Not Learning from Experience: The Dangerous Path for Tax Reform by Rob Ketcham

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Are we going to witness the Republicans mounting another policy blitzkrieg, only to fall on their face as they ignore lessons that should have been learned?

As I write this, national attention is being directed by the President and Congressional leaders about a “tax overhaul”, a proposal for a sweeping rewrite of the tax code to reduce tax rates for corporations and individuals and eliminate some popular deductions.

The last major federal tax upgrade was enacted in 1986 and was years in the making. The process followed the path of what is referred to as “regular order”; legislative activities that involve the tax writing committees in the House and Senate, hearings, gathering information on impacts of the propositions being proposed, debating the propositions in the committees, ultimately reaching agreement on a legislative proposition to take to the floor where it may be debated further and amended, passage in both chambers and then, finally, a Conference Committee to settle the differences before the final agreement can be voted on in order to become law.

This process is almost never easy or speedy. A legislative history I am intimately familiar with, The Space Act, was signed into law on July 29, 1958, eight months after the Soviet launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. The Select Committee formed to write the bill was said to have “performed its tasks with both amazing speed and skill.” Players included the House Majority Leader John McCormack, Senate Majority leader Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, a future President, and Les Arends, the Republican Whip. The give and take between the Democratic Congress and the Republican Administration (which had its own strongly held ideas about what the Space Act should look like) became a healthy exchange involving Bryce Harlow, Deputy Assistant for Congressional Affairs, and Ed McCabe, Administrative Assistant to President Eisenhower. This arrangement evolved into a daily exchange under “…the stress of time requirements and pride of authorship”so that everyone was kept in the loop, White House, House, and Senate. In other words, everyone worked together.

I wonder if today’s elected Republican leaders truly understand the enormous legislative effort they have pledged to take on this September. It is, in a word, daunting. The simple facts are that this is: (1) a new Administration which came to power rather unexpectedly, and (2) a Congress with a Republican Majority that has not legislated in the tax area for more than twenty years, I’d guess that very few Republican members have ever served as an advocate for any such a massive legislative undertaking— their chosen role for most of their careers has been to be opposed to whatever proposition was being forwarded for their consideration. As a further complication: the key players, the President, and legislative neophytes Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Chief Economic Adviser Cohn are not familiar with the give and take involved in the legislative process, and continue to behave as though the Congress is a forum to make demands and power through until the other side caves.

The Administration’s tax overhaul proposal contains very little detail about the impact of the legislation on anticipated revenues gained and lost and the impact on the deficit in the short and long term. But facts still matter, and when taxes are being discussed and changes being made that affect most everyone in the country, individuals and businesses alike, legislative changes must be made in a fiscally responsible way based on the best information and analysis available.

The current lack of information and specificity appears to be an attempt at obfuscation and is drawing much commentary in the media. It is true that looking at something such as the tax overhaul proposal which has such potential large economic consequences does offer the real possibility to come to different conclusions based on the assumptions being made. A debate in the tax committees, hearings and testimony would help the legislators. For example, today’s news about inflation and the interest rate and the Federal Reserve Governors differing views illustrates this.

If the Republican Congress and the White House try to come up with a rewrite of the tax code and then attempt to ram through their proposition without consensus it is doomed to failure. Probably even more than with health care, everyone is affected in their pocket or on their ledger, from the highly paid Washington lobbyist to the tax payer just barely making ends meet, and every business in the economy, from Goldman Sachs executives to the small businessmen and women who are aware of how every tax affects their bottom line.

So, to close a loophole for one person is to create an additional tax liability for someone else. If the mortgage deduction is reduced, as an example, then the individual deduction would, all things being equal, be raised proportionally. Lowering statutory tax rates on businesses requires closing “loopholes” which means that someone who presently has the loophole will lose. Since tax cuts must be offset by revenue-raising measures, it matters greatly how the tax cut is paid for. Merely holding the line on increasing a deficit could mean there would be cuts in basic programs such as those for low and middle-income wage earners.

Two sacred cows that bring in considerable revenue are marked for extinction: the A.M.T. (alternative minimum tax) and the Estate Tax. Both proposals give more than a hint of who the beneficiaries will be. It was reported by the NYT on Sept 28, 2017, that the alternative minimum tax forced Mr. Trump to pay $31 million in additional taxes in 2005. The Estate Tax affects only the wealthy these days— estates worth more than $5.49 million ($10.98 million for a couple). Proposals for these sacred cows, if agreed to be eliminated, loom large because of the lost revenue which must then be made up in some other way. In other words, to benefit a few of the wealthy, there is a real possibility that the middle class and the poor would lose as the balance is tilted against them.

The dearth of information at this beginning stage about the effect of the tax reduction proposal could be deliberate, or it could reflect a lack of appreciation of how to propose legislation. For example: tax policy in America has contained an unwritten principle as reflected in the present code; progressivity—which means that the lowest tax rate which is for lower-income workers ranges from 10 percent, to the highest bracket for the very wealthy which is presently 39.6 percent. Nothing I have read so far pays any lip service or provides helpful information on this important point.

At some point in the legislative process, in order for a bill is taken seriously, the Congressional Budget Office undertakes the task of scoring the proposal, which simply means it is charged to put numbers to the proposal so the legislators will know the financial impact of what is being proposed, such as revenue gains or revenue losses. Doing the scoring came up during the health care debate and seemed an anathema to the Senate Majority Leader at least during its consideration.

All persons who are following the proposed rewrite of the tax code will need to be quite vigilant that the estimates are made by those reliable to make them. Trying to skirt this requirement and projecting positive economics because of the old saw that reducing revenue to business expands economic output just should not be allowed to happen. A good example follows of some of the hype used by proponents in the recent past. In an article in the NYTimes of 9/27/17 entitled Will Tax Holiday Generate Jobs? It Didn’t take a Decade Ago, Eduardo Porter writes that the tax break approved by a bipartisan majority in Congress in order to repatriate billions of dollars stashed overseas at 5.25 percent (instead of the corporate rate of 35 percent) was supposed to create more than 500,000 jobs in the US over the next two years. In point of fact, the jobs did not come in. The corporations who took advantage of the tax break did flow $299 billion in corporate earnings back, “but it did not result in an increase in domestic investment, domestic employment or R&D” the article states. “Promises, promises… ”

And just a word on bipartisanship. President Trump had dinner recently with “Chuck and Nancy” (the Senate and House Minority Leaders) at a time when things were unraveling over the debt ceiling: surprise! The President and Chuck and Nancy reached a deal that got everyone past the immediate crisis. As I write this there is news that a bipartisan group of legislators in the Senate who serve on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee have held hearings on stabilizing Obamacare insurance marketplaces, and have gathered input from some of their colleagues and are bargaining over the outlines of a deal which could stabilize the insurance marketplaces. Some reforms are being discussed, states would be given more freedom design and experiment, and even a lower level “copper” health insurance plan is being talked about. These events give me some hope—since if I learned one thing on the Hill it is when the members finally decide to do something and work together they find a way to do it.

I can only hope that today the Joint Committee on Taxation is as professional and competent as it was when I served on the Hill. At that time the committee had a deep bench of very able non-partisan staff headed by a Staff Director of impeccable credentials. Such experience and institutional memory are invaluable when taking on a task like tax reform or overhaul.

It seems almost inconceivable to me that the Republican Congressional leaders and the Administration would try yet again to legislate on a partisan basis. While I am very much in favor of improving the tax code and think it is long overdue, I just hate to think that so much effort could just be squandered by a group of Congressmen and the White House who appear not to have learned anything from their past failures, and who have not yet assumed the mantle of true leadership which requires working with everyone in order to achieve a result worthy of everyone’s best efforts.


Bob Ketcham served as the chief of staff of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology and staff director of the Fossil and Nuclear Energy Subcommittee during the 1980s and 1990s. Prior to those positions, he was Special Counsel to the House Select Committee on Committees chaired by Richard Bolling (D-MO).  He holds a BA and JD from Washington and Lee University as well as a SG from Harvard University’s Senior Managers in Government Program. He has lived on the Eastern Shore since 1999 with his wife, Caroline.

Op-Ed: Is there Hope for the Dysfunctional Republican Congress by Rob Ketcham

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Our Republican Congress is essentially dysfunctional, is there any hope for improvement?

With its new President and a Republican Congress the United States itself in an unsettled place. I am hoping that with my background working as senior committee staff in the US Congress, I may be able to shed some light on what is or is not going on with our leaders and our government. Despite the fact that there has been a considerable gap between now and when I was immersed in the legislative branch, the principles of how to legislate well and produce a quality product (law) haven’t changed.

It is my belief that Congress and its modus operandi are not well understood by our citizens or by the media, and worse, by the legislators themselves, in part because the legislative process itself requires very hard work to do well. Generally, it comes across as the blind men viewing the elephant; it depends on what you are touching, not what you are seeing.

The Republican party has a majority in both the House and the Senate, and historically, since the President was also elected as a Republican, the development and passage of a Republican agenda should be quite feasible. But we live in interesting times, and it is my view that the Republicans in the House and Senate, by and large, are demonstrating that they either do not understand the legislative process or they have deliberately chosen to stay on their narrow, partisan path, no matter the consequences. Until Donald Trump’s election they were able to operate in a mode of opposition, seldom in the mode of cooperation. In addition, many of them have managed to tie themselves in knots by signing single-minded pledges demanded by this or that constituency which serve to reduce their policy options by placing blinders on their thinking about the topic under consideration.

In 2012 a book was published by two political scientists I had rubbed shoulders with some years ago. Their book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, by Thomas E. Mann and Norman Ornstein examines the polarization that has shaped the Republican party. The book portrays

the party “….. as an outlier, using unusual and unprecedented parliamentary tactics and tools to delegitimize outcomes and acts from the other party and promote mass obstruction and nullification.” I was also interested to read their observations from an earlier book written in 2006, The Broken Branch, which documented the demise of regular order, describing the bending of rules to marginalize committees and hamstring the minority party, and probably even more important, discussing the decline of deliberation in the lawmaking process, and the loss of what they identified as “institutional patriotism” among members.

The legislative process requires considerable effort, a consensus ahead of time about the objective, an identification of the persons and policies affected, a careful plan to hold open hearings about the policy being legislated, and, at some stage, drafting the policy in legislative form which can be introduced and sent to the appropriate committee or committees. All of these legislative activities are designed to build support for the proposition being legislated and to hear and learn about the reactions to the propositions by those who favor them and those who oppose them. All these legislative steps provide checks and balances for the system.

The NYT of July 11, 2017, contains an article, “Which Party Was More Secretive in Working on Its Health Care Plan? “ It notes that eight years ago, Senator Mitch McConnell complained that the Affordable Care Act was “being written behind closed doors, without input from anyone.” The authors compare what happened eight years ago during the first six months of public activity on health legislation in Obama’s first term with what has happened on health legislation this year in Trump’s first term. So far the number of days of public activity this year on the GOP bill in the House and Senate is nine days, compared with 43 days for what became known as Obamacare, during the same six-month period. During its Obama care deliberations in 2009, the House Committees held four days of hearings, and the Senate committees held one on related health care changes, all before the bill was drafted. That same year the Senate health committee spent a total of 13 days marking up the bill, seven of them during the first six months.

The Republican 2017 legislative health care activities are de minimis. Republican lawmakers spent two days debating policies related to their bill on the House floor. The Senate, thus far, has not debated at all. Two other items of comparison jump out: 1) 200 witnesses were heard during consideration of the Affordable Care Act in 2009, while so far this year, 18 witnesses have been heard by the Republican Congress, and 2) There were five Senate bipartisan meetings in 2009, while none have been held so far in this legislative cycle.

The Republican party and its machinations related to Health care this year are a great ongoing case study. For years, the Republican party line was that Obamacare should be repealed, and anything calling for a legislative fix should be opposed. No positive alternative was supported, considered or proposed. We are now learning that since the Republican leaders did not think Trump would win the election, they were not positioning themselves to have to come up with anything new or substantive, just a continuing opposition. With their election success in November, the spotlight shifted the legislative onus to the new Republican Congress and to the new Republican President. It is increasingly clear that no one was ready with a well thought out proposal that had been developed and tested. The shift from being against Obamacare and Obama policies, to being in favor of something positive has not yet been demonstrated. Ignoring the legislative process, and essentially remaining in the negative role, the House proceeded to darken the windows, offer homilies and generally inaccurate or misleading assessments about how awful Obamacare is, and without hearings or an Congressional Budget Office report (which is a requirement in the legislative process) rammed a bill through the House. This poorly thought out strategy put the Republican House members on record as voting for something that will most surely come back to haunt them.

Then the Senate, whose vaulted leader who is often billed as a legislative genius and strategist is in July, 2017, attempting to build support for a Senate Republican version of Health Care produced outside the legislative process by some 13 hand-picked Senators. This attempt gives new meaning to the book title previously cited; It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.

So where do we go from here? The Trump Administration appears at this juncture to have very little understanding or appreciation of the legislative process, and seems to think of the Congress as just a rubber stamp for whatever it wants. It is not clear after more than six months in office that the President understands that his political role vis-a-vis legislation requires far more than simply making demands or threats (which can often be counterproductive, and not at all helpful).

As a result, Congress is pretty much on its own and is camped out in the open field all by itself. Right now the Senate is in the headlights and beginning to face considerable pressure because of its unfinished legislative business with October 1 coming up fast. The media is beginning to hone in on these coming deadlines, in part because some of the same topics have wreaked havoc in the past, including agreeing on a new budget before the fiscal year begins on October 1. Another factor is the debt limit: Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has asked Congress to increase the debt limit by the end of July! Good luck with that!

Over the past few days, it has been reported that Mitch McConnell, has twice mentioned the possibility of now working with Democrats. It is also being reported that efforts are underway by opponents to the Senate’s health proposal to involve Republican Governors whose states and citizens are affected. Now that the Republicans are in charge there is no place for them to hide, the American people are watching, and so far it is not a pretty sight. The amazing confluence of national issues, health, taxes, and budget deadlines and legislation to reauthorize important program areas like the Children’s Health Insurance Program all are demanding legislative attention. Every day there is another story about what some of the Republican proposals will do to many many of our most vulnerable citizens, and almost none of it is good.

Therefore, my deepest hope for our country in 2017 is that Congress finally decides to get down to work, to take the time to meet and discuss what can be agreed on, and what can be put off. Bipartisan discussions should begin. The Chinese symbol for “conflict” depicts both danger and opportunity. For whatever its worth, all the members are in this together. Although most legislators, almost by definition, are conflict adverse, not dealing with these issues before them is much worse. The heat under the legislative pot is being turned up and up, and the issues are now out in the open, no longer behind closed doors where they can be “controlled.” As a result, by not following some type of regular legislative order those issues not raised and discussed publicly in the orderly process of legislating are now being raised by each affected interest group.

So stay tuned. It is my hope, which the Senate will decide to slow down health care legislation with some bipartisan agreement, and then find some agreement on how to proceed on the other critical issues that must be addressed, hopefully again, with bipartisan cooperation. I am also hopeful that Democrats will become a positive force, rather than starting to act like obstructionist Republicans.

Robert Ketcham served as the chief of staff of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology and staff director of the Fossil and Nuclear Energy Subcommittee during the 1980s and 1990s. Prior to those positions, he was Special Counsel to the House Select Committee on Committees chaired by Richard Bolling (D-MO).  He holds a BA and JD from Washington and Lee University as well as a SG from Harvard University’s Senior Managers in Government Program. He has lived in Easton since 1999 with his wife, Caroline.