GEORGE KENNEDY: Hartzler's values don't match those of constituents

Thursday, October 17, 2013 | 6:04 p.m. CDT

Now that the government shutdown is over and default has been averted, at least for 90 days, it’s time to assess costs and responsibility. It’s also time to ask whether those who’ve put the country through this unnecessary trauma will pay any price at the polls next year.

Standard & Poor’s financial rating agency has estimated the cost to the economy as at least $24 billion. Another estimate, including the Republican-induced budget uncertainty of the last three years, came to $700 billion.

At least one distinguished senator has no doubt where to place the blame. You may have seen him, as I did, tell several television interviewers that members of the right-wing fringe of the Republican Party, who hijacked the House of Representatives and held the economy hostage in their doomed desire to defund the Affordable Care Act, were on a "fool’s errand." Their pigheadedness damaged the country and their party, he said.

What you may not have seen, as I did not, was that one of the tea party zealots John McCain called fools was our own Vicky Hartzler.

Ms. Hartzler, who represents the 4th Congressional District, largely escaped the notice of the press, local or national, but she stood unswervingly with her fellow radicals right up to the end. After joining 143 other Republicans in voting against reopening the government Wednesday night, she issued a statement:

"I could not in good faith support a plan that continues to hurt Americans through its unfair health insurance mandates and raises America’s credit card limit while failing to relieve future generations of our enormous burden of debt."

Of course, Rep. Hartzler’s position came as no surprise. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Columbia Daily Tribune published an essay under her name that recited the same exaggerated and distorted version of Obamacare.

Before that, she had long established herself as a member in good standing of what a fair-minded observer might call the wingnut faction of the Republican Party. In her campaign for re-election in 2012, she repeatedly made a Ted Cruz-like promise to repeal the health insurance law. She also expressed doubts about the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate and suggested that China was implanting microchips with tracking capability in the products we import from there.

Once re-elected, she voted for a bill that would cut $39 billion from federal food stamps for the poor. In previous years, the food stamp funds had been part of the same farm bill that has provided her family farm with more than $800,000 in federal subsidies. She voted to increase such subsidies.

And before that, during and after her three terms in the Missouri legislature, she worked assiduously against ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

“I don’t want women used to pass a liberal agenda,” she said.

She has been a vocal opponent of abortion rights. It stands to reason, then, that when Matt Blunt was governor, he appointed her to head the Missouri Women’s Council.

Same-sex marriage, she has said, would lead to marriages of pedophiles and polygamists, and to incest.

So you may be asking how we have managed to elect and re-elect a representative who is so unrepresentative of most Columbians’ values. The answer is that we Columbians didn’t, and we haven’t.

Rep. Hartzler was foisted on us by the Republican-controlled legislature when it realigned congressional districts after the 2010 Census caused Missouri to lose a seat in the national House of Representatives. If you look at the map the legislature created — over Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto — you’ll see that Boone County occupies a sort of peninsula off the northeast corner of the 4th District.

Hartzler, whose farm is near Harrisonville outside Kansas City, was elected in the former 4th District in the tea party wave of 2010. In 2012, the only time we’ve gotten to vote on her, she lost Boone County but carried the more conservative rural areas to our south and west. (Without redistricting, I should note, we’d have been equally misrepresented. Blaine Luetkemeyer, our former congressman, also voted with the radicals Wednesday night.)

At this point in the essay, the author traditionally proposes a solution. Not this time. I haven’t heard of a Democrat willing to challenge our incumbent. Have you?

It looks to me like we’re stuck with a representative who doesn’t really represent us and a government that’s doomed to dysfunction.  

Or am I being overly pessimistic?

George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism. He writes a weekly column for the Missourian.

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Skip Yates October 17, 2013 | 8:02 p.m.

Mrs. Hartzler doesn't just represent Columbia, and you obviously don't like her, as you don't seem to like any Republicans based on my opinion of past comments by you. Fiscal responsibility is and has been in the fore of most all Republican initiatives. No we are not perfect...I thought the Missouri Republican support of Todd Aiken was an absolute disaster and eliminated any chance of beating Claire McCaskill and in fact, may have had significant influence on re-electing President Obama...certainly giving the female vote in mass because of his stupid and unqualified statements. There are three liberal areas of Missouri; STL, Kansas City and Columbia. That you think the rest of the state doesn't count is a fools paradise. It is unfortunate that as an editor of a teaching newspaper, you have such tunnel vision. Accordingly, the young folks learning under MU as journalists are learning one fact: that is jaundiced reporting accomplishes political favortism. And, that is shameful based on your editorial of a few days ago regarding the responsibility of journalism.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 17, 2013 | 10:42 p.m.

Well, geewhiz George.

Maybe Columbia would be better served if it quit pissing off the rest of the State, in particular, rural citizens.

Like you just did.

That long nose with your eyes looking down it is quite noticeable to rural folks. I know many, including moi, that deliberately avoid spending money in this city where possible, this coming from a Boone County citizen of 42 years who made that decision about 2 decades ago. But, it's ok with me if you wish to deny there ever really was an iceberg while you bask in your intellectual glory and superiority. Heck, based upon your disdain for those living outside KCMO, STL and here, I could even argue that citizens in the rest of the state are in such bad intellectual shape because our education system hereabouts is doing a really crappy job. How else could all those folks be so stupid?

Or maybe those disdained, but educated, citizens recognize Columbia manure when they smell it.

Skip is spot on....your missive a few days ago on the role of journalism mocks what you wrote today. How are you any different from Limbaugh, Hannity, or Beck?

You're not, except in the direction of your bias.

But, carry will we. Hard lines are being drawn...and extended by editorials like yours. You are not above the fray; indeed, you are stirring the same pot.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 18, 2013 | 7:23 a.m.

During the years (23) I lived in Columbia I had the opportunity to rub elbows with both university "intellectuals" and citizens of rural Boone County. There IS a "discontinuity" between the two groups.

Some years ago, in the other local (Columbia) newspaper, I noted this and voiced my preference for one group over the other.

My preference didn't set well with some people. However, keep in mind that I hold two degrees from the only campus in the University of Missouri System located in a "rural area."

Whatcha chewin' thar, "Skoal" or "Red Man"?

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger October 18, 2013 | 8:42 a.m.

To address Mr. Kennedy's question, no, I haven't heard of a Democrat willing to challenge Ms. Hartzler, but perhaps there's a rational, moderate Republican out there who could garner Democratic support and thus, one might hope, lead to her ouster.

(Report Comment)
George Kennedy October 18, 2013 | 10:46 a.m.

Allow me to respond to Mr. Yates and Mr. Williams. Both seem to have confused me with Tom Warhover, who actually leads the Missourian newsroom. My role in the newsroom ended in 2001.

Actually, the idea for this column came to me as I was driving my pickup back from a few hours of running my tractor and brush hog over my farm in Saline County. It occurred to me that I hadn't read or heard anything about our congressperson in all the shutdown coverage. So I dug into her record a bit, and wrote what I found. It ain't bias if it's based on the facts.

And to Hank Ottinger: Moderate Republicans are thin on the ground these days, aren't they? Even our state senator, Kurt Schaefer, who used to look like one, has changed his stripes considerably since he decided to run for statewide office. That, he must calculate, will require him to appeal to the folks who elected Ms. Hartzler.

Thanks for reading and for responding.


(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 18, 2013 | 11:22 a.m.

Mr Kennedy:

"It ain't bias if it's based on the facts."

Absolutely wrong, and you know it.

Let's look at some of the verbiage you used in your article:

"this unnecessary trauma", "will pay any price", "right-wing fringe", "hijacked", "held the economy hostage", "doomed desire", "fool’s errand", "pigheadedness", "damaged the country", "zealots", "radicals", "exaggerated and distorted", "wingnut", "radicals" again, "doomed to dysfunction".

So, I say bull hockey to your comment: "It ain't bias if it's based on the facts." You know the power of words just like I do. My "stirring the same pot" comment still stands.

I congratulate you for not using "teabagger", tho. I hope it wasn't a close call for you.......

Sorry I confused you with Tom.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 18, 2013 | 12:05 p.m.

Sigh! So many things seem to be "doomed to dysfunction" these days.

Michael, it WAS Tom. I'd direct your attention (yours and George's) to my response to Tom, that the first consideration for all professions (real or imaginary) should be the one currently used by the medical profession: FIRST, DO NO WRONG. :)

PS: We had a chairman of the Physics Department who also farmed. He would arrive at campus always in an old pickup, missing much of its original psint, wearing a suit with a VEST and carrying a brief case (which was rumored to contain his lunch) - and then march purposefully into Norwood Hall. He was also one of the nicest persons I have ever met.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 18, 2013 | 2:43 p.m.

Ellis: Sounds like a great truck.

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates October 18, 2013 | 4:39 p.m.

Mr. Kennedy: My comment "your" was really referring to the general editorial content and leadership direction of the Missourian. I think you are a cornerstone in that. I should have been more specific and separated the Siamese twins of Missourian liberal journalism.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 18, 2013 | 9:56 p.m.


I believe the pickup truck was surely one of a kind. You may not be old enough to have known this, but at one time all farm pickup trucks registered in Missouri were required to have the owner's name (or the farm's name), rural route address, and GW painted on them. This was to appear on the side of the truck, behind the door (on the outside of the bed). It only had to appear on one side, but I've forotten which side that was.

Some truck owners had the information professionally painted on them (with great care); others "freehanded" it. Dr. Fuller's information was very obviously freehanded.

Also, loaded pickups in that era were subject to having to weigh if they passed by state weigh scales. I'd never heard of such a thing.

(Report Comment)

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