By Stephen Webster
For The News Connection
, Sept. 29, 2006 edition
Make no bones about it; Tim Barnwell faces an uphill battle.
Barnwell, holder of an MBA from the University of Dallas and a former educator, is running against incumbent Congressman Michael Burgess to represent Texas’ 26th district in Washington D.C. Since he kicked off his campaign this past March, his financial contributions have paled in comparison to his opponent, who has spent over $1 million this campaign season, but very little on actual campaigning.
Photo by Stephen Webster
Barnwell speaks with a voter at the Bartonville Spirit Festival on Sept. 23.
“Congressman Burgess is really moving a lot of dollars,” said Barnwell during an interview on Sept. 23. “What he is doing is perfectly legal, but in my opinion, rather disingenuous. He is taking in a lot of campaign dollars from corporate interests like the oil industry and the pharmaceutical industry, TXU and Exxon and Pfizer specifically, then moving it all back out to other Republican candidates, like Katherine Harris in Florida, or Tom DeLay’s legal defense fund.”
Barnwell’s campaign slogan, “Not for Sale”, is a message he hopes to drive home right through Election Day on Nov. 7.
“[Burgess] even gave money to Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham, the Republican Congressman from California who admitted to being a crook,” added Barnwell. “That guy is in jail now, you know. He took $2.5 million in bribes, and our representative is giving him money? What could he possibly need that for?”
Financial data from The Center for Responsive Politics confirms Barnwell’s claims.
War: the most important issue
Barnwell sees the most important issue to the voters of District 26 as being the war in Iraq, and his opinion on the war is gives voters a true differentiation to current policy.
“To ensure the peace, we must pull our troops back, across the horizon,” said Barnwell. “We must keep them in the region so they can be called upon when they are needed, but it is necessary to bring in the international community. We cannot and will not abandon Iraq. But in order to decrease the violence, we must get the troops off the streets and provide the Iraqi people more humanitarian aid.”
Barnwell’s biggest problem with the current Congress is the Republicans’ reluctance to exercise their constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the administration. He also takes issue with placing loyalty to political parties over loyalty to the nation.
“Congress alone has the right to declare war,” he said. “The President can say war all he wants, but until the Congress declares war, it ain’t there. From what I understand, there are already military operations going forward in Iran, and this is similar to what happened in Iraq. Way before the President announced the invasion, we had Special Forces in country, and we were carpet bombing. This is a problem. We have a Congress that has abdicated its constitutional duty of oversight. Congressman Burgess is simply telling the people what the administration told him to say. That is what his entire career has sounded like to me. It is one thing to be loyal to your president and party. But we have to put our country first.”
“We’ve got a lot to do in this nation,” continued Barnwell. “Our foreign relations have suffered dramatically over the last six years. It has been oft’ said, the day after 9/11, everybody was on our side throughout the world. Out of the tragedy came a moment of hope we have not seen since the closing days of World War II. But it was squandered by the President and his zealots; shamelessly squandered. It may take a generation for the world to regain trust in our nation. It is really that serious. We are but a member of this planet. We have to remember that power used wisely is a boon for human kind. Power not used wisely makes us just another bully on the playground.”
No gray area on torture
Barnwell also takes issue with the practice of torture during interrogations. “With a lot of issues, there are vast gray areas,” he said. “Torture, I do not believe, is one of them … What the president ordered is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, which was signed by the United States many years ago and is the supreme law of the land according to the Constitution. Now the President and the Republican Congress wish to go back and retroactively change the law to exempt the President from being held accountable breaking the law.”
He compared this to being given a speeding ticket, then having it rescinded six months later because the speed limit had changed.
“The President can say until he’s blue in the face that his Attorney General thought he was within the law,” said Barnwell. “But the Attorney General is not the law. The Supreme Court and our Constitution is. The lower courts disagree with the president. Top brass in the armed forces and politicians, including Republicans, who have experience in the military disagree with the president. It is a disaster for our troops. Every time we lower the bar, it makes it much easier for our enemies to justify their cruel and inhumane treatment of our troops and non-combatants.”
“During World War II, many of the Germans we captured were treated so well that they fought to stay in the United States and become citizens at the end of the war,” continued Barnwell. “We can’t say that now. Not with people being arrested and drug off to secret locations in third-world countries where God knows what is being done to them. Besides, most military leaders claim that torture doesn’t work. Why are the President and his Attorney General so obsessed with inhuman treatment? And why does so much of it focus on sexual degradation? It is deeply troubling, the almost child-like emphasis on cruelty toward people who have not been convicted of a crime. It is reprehensible behavior, and I deeply chastise my opponent for supporting this lawlessness.”
Health care a moral issue
Barnwell also offered his adamant support to a national health care program.
“Every time I talk to a doctor or a nurse, they say that they know that a national health care program is coming,” he said. “My philosophy is, we need to get as many health care experts as possible together in Washington and argue it out. We must get not just a good national health care program, but the best national health care plan in the world. For 40 or 50 years, we’ve abdicated this responsibility by putting it on our corporations. Now, our corporations are suffering. One area where we can help the business community is by lifting the burden of supplying health care for their employees.”
Photo by Stephen Webster
Barnwell finds another couple in Bartonville curious about his candidacy.
“Understand, this must be a national effort,” he continued. “One out of every four children in the state of Texas does not have health insurance. Even in our very wealthy district, you can bet your bottom dollar that average is the same here. I tell people, politicians for decades have been touting the small business as the backbone of our economy. Small business cannot compete with major corporations in offering health care. It is just not financially possible. Now, my greatest joy will be to announce the beginning of a national health care program, that way the man or woman operating the small business down the street, be it a software company or a windshield replacement company, will be able to hire the person who wants to work there, not just the person who can work there because they don’t worry about health insurance, or their spouse has health insurance.”
“Now the reporter can go to work for the small paper in the small community and not have to go to the corporate paper in the large community, just because he or she can get health care benefits there,” said Barnwell. “Teachers, who in our state have suffered under poor health care benefit programs, will be alleviated of that stress. The list is endless. The reason someone goes to work for a company will be more because the work is something they want to do, not because a different company offers good benefits, regardless of whether or not they are interested in doing that kind of work. Our companies will benefit. Our people will benefit. The nation will benefit.”
Election presents a real choice
“With all their bluster and might, the Republican lead Congress has done very poorly for the state of Texas,” concluded Barnwell. “We are a mighty state with an enormous population. For years now, we’ve contributed more to the federal funds packages than we’ve received back. During the 70’s, we were able to build the LBJ Freeway without toll roads. We were even able to enlarge the state highway, known as Central Expressway, without tolls. As I like to point out, we have a true choice this November. You can either go for the LBJ Freeway, or you can go for the George Bush Tollway.”
“When - not if, but when - the good people of District 26 elect me to office, I swear an oath not to the president, and I swear an oath not to the party,” said Barnwell. “I swear an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States of America. My job in the House of Representatives will be to maintain oversight of the executive branch, and over our finances, to see that our money is spent wisely, and to see that our troops are deployed wisely. I will fulfill that charge to the best of my ability, and will not be servant to the administration or party leadership.”