On the eve of the sequester cuts this week, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon scolded President Obama in a Times Op-Ed article. The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee wrote: “The president is forcing America to indulge him in this dangerous experiment with national security.”
By the score, Times letter writers emailed their reactions, almost all sharply rebuking the Santa Clarita Republican.
Wrote Kyle Laurent from Newhall, echoing a common theme about blame:
“Nowhere in Buck McKeon's partisan rant did he ever point out the Republicans' responsibility for the stalemate on the ‘sequester.’ President Obama, as a way to get conservatives to the bargaining table, agreed to the sequester only after many days of foot-dragging by politicians on the right. After all, House Speaker John Boehner said that his side got 98% of what he wanted.
“There's been a real effort by the right not to govern and to try to place blame on Obama for the fallout. I thought we were in this all together as Americans.”
Stacey Cole of Lancaster agreed:
“Rep. McKeon exhibits nerve in his attempt to blame the president for these disastrous cuts, falling on both defense and very needed domestic programs with no rhyme or reason. Although he focused on defense cuts, he seems to care little for the domestic cuts, which will also take a huge toll on those who need them, as well as jobs that will be lost.
“The primary problem for this is due to the Republicans in the House, of which Rep. McKeon is one. This president won reelection. Work with him. Enough is enough.”
Darlene Phillips of San Luis Obispo pointed to the votes:
“As I read McKeon’s bashing of Obama for ‘dangerous’ cuts to the military resulting from the so-called sequester, I could not overlook his failure to mention … that he voted aye on both bills, which have resulted in the current across-the-board budget cuts.
“Rather than accepting at least partial responsibility, McKeon blindly and hypocritically places the entire blame on the president.”
Caroline Altman of Los Angeles argues that it’s about priorities:
“While I am not happy about the sledgehammer cuts that will be taken in the course of sequestration, I do think that the Pentagon can do with some very large cuts. It is all about to priorities. I still remember the $200 toilet.…
“We should be deploying smaller, lighter and smarter cadres to do the things that in this ongoing era of terrorism by militants would make better sense.”
Irving Aptaker of Pasadena sees a key omission:
“McKeon's diatribe … is filled with a long list of all the scary results. Only once does he deign to state ‘there is no question the Pentagon was long overdue for a housecleaning.’ But he fails to cite a single item or area to bolster that brief paragraph. It's not hard to understand the article if one checks on the considerable sums that [defense contractors] have contributed to his election fund. Don't be misled by the self-serving content in his article.”
And William Yarchin of Huntington Beach has a theory:
“McKeon seems confused. In his piece for The Times, he states plainly what he believes to be the primary role of the U.S. military: ‘to keep this nation out of war.’ Yet in the same essay, McKeon identifies the most obvious current mission of our military as 'fighting terrorism.' But neither McKeon nor any other armchair hawk ever describes what victory in this war would look like in real terms. That’s because McKeon’s war is, as the last decade has demonstrated, not supposed to ever end.
“He may actually believe what he wrote in The Times, but the position McKeon urges is the exact opposite: to keep this nation always at war, and on a war economy.”
And a final word, not on McKeon per se but on the sequester -- but from a defense worker.
David Monk of Elwood, Utah, emailed his perspective as the sequester took effect:
“I am a government defense worker. I am just one of many Americans who work day-in-day-out to support the U.S. military. I am an engineer with schooling and training that qualify me to work on many important and sensitive projects. I haven’t asked for government bailouts, to forgive my student loans or forgive the mortgage on my home.
“On my way to work at my regular time of 4:45 a.m. the other morning I heard a story on the Wall Street Journal report. It talked about the ‘high-paid government jobs’ that the automatic spending cuts will affect and stated that the sequestering ‘will only affect a tiny fraction of the budget. What is the big deal?’
“The big deal is that the furloughs amount to a 20% reduction in our annual salary. Yes, overall, a fraction of the federal budget seems like nothing … however, for the hundreds of thousands of workers in this country who are forced to take a 20% cut in pay, it is massive.
“When politicians and pundits talk about freezing ‘government workers’ pay,’ or sequestering, they are not talking about some faceless entity, and they are not freezing or sequestering their own pay. These politicians are hurting real people who have real families, just like me.”