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Back at home, national officials confident of security

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Uncategorized

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Published on January 19, 2011 with No Comments

by Mike Siroky

Our elected officials feel as safe as ever despite the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona.

Rep. Pete Visclosky made his annual tour of the First District this past week with no security changes. U.S. Sens. Dick Lugar and Dan Coats similarly have no plans for added security.

Mark Helmke is the longtime press aide to Lugar. He said, from Washington, that Lugar feels confident that all that can be done to protect elected officials in office or in the field has been done.

Like the Secret Service, which protects President Barack Obama, the Capitol Police do not release any specifics on how they provide protection. So the shrill stories on CNN and other networks about increased surveillance is just so much chatter.

Coatsí spokesman, still adapting to their new digs in the Capitol office building, said Coats also feels comfortable that all that can be done for security is being done.

His spokesman, Matt Lahr, said from Washington, ìSenator Coats has been in contact with the Sergeant at Arms to ensure his offices have appropriate security measures in place. To effectively represent Indiana, Senator Coats believes it is important to continue meeting with Hoosiers where they live and work.

Incidentally, Lugar is the longest-serving elected official from the sate, and Coats is once again a newbie, so Indiana presents both ends of the experience spectrum in the U.S. Senate.

Visclosky toured throughout Lake and Porter counties at the end of this past week.

One of his first stops was Hobart, where the congressman visited the library. Officials there did not seem to care that a U.S. Congressman was shivering on the sidewalk with the two dozen constituents who came to see him, keeping all waiting until precisely 10 a.m. ñ the libraryís usual opening time.

Mayor Brian Snedecor joked that he would ask them to schedule the next meeting at Hobartís new community center.

ìWeíll open early and have hot coffee besides,î he said with a smile.

As Visclosky easily mingled at the end of the line, there was no apparent security ñ or even staff ñ standing by. Staff was already inside, setting up for the meeting. One policeman did walk past the congressman and through the crowd, but he was there as an elected official and not as security.

Once inside, with all the folding chairs occupied and the side and back walls lined with listeners, Visclosky operated this Town Forum with no diversion from standard operating procedures. The view of him was unobstructed, he spoke without a microphone for amplification and he leaned forward when answering questions.

Except for an overextended opening question from a member of the public, he worked quickly through a series of questions written by attendees on the back of note cards, and then fielded more interrogations from audience members as most of the questions were follow-ups from previous answers.

ìThe tragic events of Tucson leaves all the victims in our thoughts and prayers.î Visclosky said.

“I have never been concerned about my personal safety. I have led a public life my entire adult life and do not intend to make any changes in security precautions today or in the future.”

But he quickly distanced himself from personal thoughts of his own security.

ìWe must remember we are a nation at war,î he said. ìWe have sons and daughters in harmís way every day.î

He started with the first set of what became a display of remarkable recalling of statistics.

ìIndiana is the 14th largest state in terms of population. But we have the fourth largest National Guard,î he said.

ìWe have had 18,200 serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those are the people we need to be concerned about.î

Visclosky noted that he voted against the wars and later said the terrible budget deficit is partly because of not budgeting them. He also mentioned that he voted in favor of President Obamaís appeal for to send more troops to Afghanistan.

But he made it clear he does not automatically vote with any administration. He was against extending tax cuts because, among other things, it allows no money to go to Social Security fundings this calendar year.

ìWill it bankrupt Social Security? No,î he said. ìBut it doesnít help fund it this year at all.î

He is a big advocate of health care for veterans, pointing to a 65 percent increase in funding. He said expansion of the veteransí medical center in Crown Point, named after his predecessor and Hobart native, Adam Benjamin, Jr., is almost complete. The renovations increased its size by 75 percent, with a good portion of that dedicated to issues from women veterans, who make up 14 percent of all veterans.

Visclosky is now focused on resurrecting the economy, and hopes to make spending and incoming taxes once again meet each other, which is the definition of a balanced budget.

The return of jobs will mean the natural return of more tax money, which is how the government is financed. He said if the national government were silenced with no spending, the national debt would still not be retired in two years.

Visclosky also mentioned that he voted against the bailout of Wall Street firms three times, and that he voted in favor of the national health care bill. While not perfect, he stressed a big improvement is that children with pre-existing conditions will now be covered.

ìThe bill is not perfect, but I donít want to turn that clock back,î he said, adding that he will not vote to repeal it.

ìI am not a tool,î Visclosky stressed in conclusion. ìI represent the First District of Indiana. And I am proud of that.î

For more information on Visclosky, Lugar or Coats, visit www.in.gov.

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About Mike Siroky

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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