Billy, My Hero

Below I am posting a video of my congressman, the much-esteemed, well-liked, and fast-rising Ozark Billy Long (you’ll know what I mean if you watch it). It’s almost 30 minutes long. It is in the form of an interview by Oklahoma congressman Tom Cole, who, I guess, is auditioning for a job on PBS, after his congressional career comes to an end. You can watch it if you want, but only for your convenience have I picked out a few highlights that I can, uh, celebrate with you.

First up is Billy’s conception of the kind of person who ought to be in Washington representing the folks back home:

I think the Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, people that have run businesses and signed the front of a check, to come up here and serve in Congress instead of people who’ve just been in Congress all their lives.

Now, Ozark Billy has said this kind of thing before. In fact, he ran on it. To him, “citizen legislators” are not postal workers or carpenters or school teachers or domestic engineers, but “people that [sic] have run businesses.” Those folks, he believes, know best how to make things work, know how to make government more efficient, know how to run government like, well, like a business. Never mind that it is insane to think that government can or should be run like a business, unless you think that JP Morgan Chase should have its own Navy. Wait, does JP Morgan Chase have its own Navy? God knows it could afford to buy one.

In any case, Long was asked about what it was like to be a brand new congressman and have to deal with the Joplin tornado that ripped through our town two years ago. Here was his initial reply:

It was really a welcome-to-Congress moment, I guess you could say. It was May 22, 2011, and it was my daughter’s birthday and we have a friend who has a birthday the same day so we were over at their house celebrating two birthdays. And we got word—our district director down in Joplin area called and said, “We’d been hit by a tornado”—and we said, “Oh, okay.” We didn’t think that much of it, because we’re in tornado alley, just like you are in Oklahoma, we have tornadoes all the time.

Hmm. “We didn’t think much of it,” Billy said. He was just told by his own guy on the ground that a tornado had hit Joplin and, shucks, Ozark Billy didn’t think much of it. Heck, tornadoes hit around here all the time. It’s tornado alley, don’t you know. Of course a tornado is going to hit Joplin and of course our congressman isn’t supposed to “think much of it.” That is, until he thought it was headed toward his friend’s house and that birthday party:

And then on the news in Springfield, which is 70 miles to the east, it came on and said there’s a tornado right outside of Springfield…we ran home—there was no basement in the house we were in—and we really thought it was to head to Springfield…

Oh, now I see. When a tornado hits Joplin it’s not much to worry about. But when it is headed Billy’s way, it is. Gotcha. He goes on:

…and then when it evolved and we  found out how terrible it was, then we made the decision—I was supposed to come back up here in Washington the next day—but I cancelled all those plans and we got down to Joplin at daybreak the next day…

That’s where Billy’s role as local hero begins.

He explains how he and his staff did heroic things, like leaning on the local fire chief to help get a travel ban lifted so “a prominent businessman in Joplin that was housing eight or ten families at his house” could get back home. That’s our Billy. Always thinking of the bidnessman because, well, you know, those are the ones those darn Founding Fathers thought ought to be in Washington. They are a special breed.

Besides the local heroics, if you watch the video interview you will also be treated to how “proud” Billy is of a resolution he created to not allow to happen in America what almost happened in Cyprus several weeks ago—the government was to levy a tax on the bank deposits of rich Russians, many of whom stash their ill-gotten gains there for strategic reasons.

Billy was “infuriated,” he said, upon learning of what the Cyprus government might do. A determined Billy said, “that will not happen here!” And you know what? It hasn’t! Thanks, Ozark Billy, for stopping Obama from taking our savings!

There are other efforts Billy the congressman chronicles for us, and then there is Billy telling falsehoods about budget balancing and the Keystone XL pipeline. And there is a touching plea for civility in Washington.

But in order to get those details, you’ll just have to sit through the 29-minute interview like I had to:

11 Comments

  1. middlechildwoman

     /  May 6, 2013

    Barfola Billy. What an embarrassment! So sorry that his party was shortened by severe weather threats. Looks like he’s had plenty of cake to make up for it.

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  2. ansonburlingame

     /  May 6, 2013

    WELL,

    I watched the video and thought OBL did just fine thank you. He did not show lack of concern for Joplin, he did not “run for the hills” thinking HE was going to be in danger, etc., etc. He had NO IDEA when he received the intial report of a “tornado in Joplin”, that it was an F-5 Killer, with all the loss of life, property, etc. that only became evident a few hours later. For all he initially knew, it would have been a small twister tearing up one barn, at the moment. BUT WHEN HE KNEW, within an hour or so, well then look what he DID do.

    He was not sitting there thumping his own chest telling all how wonderful he was. He merely related how he as a brand new Congressman learned, from the ground up how to really HELP in an emergency, which he seemed to have done rather well. Listen to how he “got the soldier back to Joplin” at the drop of the hat, so to speak, not realizing at the time what power and influence he had or could muster up from the Red Cross.
    .
    NO ONE, me included, particularly likes OBL as a 7th district Rep., at least those from this district that post on this blog. But as far as how he reacted, what he did, on the ground, immediately after the tornado and for days, weeks and months thereafter, I see little or nothing to criticize him for, as far as the Joplin Tornado goes.

    Finally for “citizen legislators”. If a single person owns, say a big farm. He alone is ultimately responsible for “running the farm, paying the workers, producing products that sell for a profit, etc.” That single person bears huge responsibility and by “running a good farm’ has PROVEN his ability to manage and lead.

    Now put him on a ballot for Congress. Have a “worker” on another farm, one of equal size, etc. that would oppose the farm owner. That worker has proven himself as a good worker, but has NOT MANAGED anything, or even “lead” other workers to achieve the goals of a farm.

    NOW who do you think, the owner or the worker, has the potential for being a good Congressman based only on performance in past efforts? For sure I would want to know “more” about each man before I cast a ballot. But I certainly would not vote against the owner, simply because he was an owner, or vice versa, against the worker because he was “just a worker”.

    Instead I would want to understand the DETAILS of how each candidate has actually managed and lead anything, how he has dealt with BIG issues, issues affecting lots of folks and not just him or his family, how he can think on his feet, show compassion AND resolve on tough choices, etc., etc.

    Let the “workers of the world unite” all you like. But to elevate any of them to high government positions, well being a worker is not enough in my book. OTHER things matter, a lot, to me and I try to judge past performance in similar positions of authority and leadership and not just vote on a “whim” or a “title”.

    Anson

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    • Glad to see that you are now a Billy Long convert, Anson. Because if you think he “did just fine” in that self-serving interview, then you deserve him. The point is that he never even considered any other “citizen legislator” in his thinking other than a businessman. For him, a former businessman, they are they salt of the earth and the rest of us are just here for their amusement or to help them make a buck.

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  3. I think this is one of those interviews they call “soft”? Schmoozing with a fellow conservative for a half hour is hardly likely to be revealing on the issues and I really can’t get motivated to absorb any more of his personality – I think I’m already sufficiently familiar with that. But thanks for letting us know our representative is still in circulation back east, Duane. I feel all warm and fuzzy now.

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    • I think people really need to “absorb” more of his personality, in the sense of trying to understand what motivates folks like him. This interview I thought was quite revealing of that personality, as he talked with someone who mirrors his own persona, a former businessman and now congressman. As I mentioned, it is significant to me that he talked about “citizen legislators” but only in the context of businessmen. And the self-serving stuff after the tornado was particularly revealing to me. I thought in this interview he let his guard down a bit and thus I got a glimpse into his real self.

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  4. ansonburlingame

     /  May 7, 2013

    You are right, Jim, a soft interview. For sure the two would not be trying to “set themselves up” for bad decisions. But on the other hand I did NOT see OBL coming across as trying to be a one man “hero” either.

    Duane’s attempt to take a soft presentation and make a mountain of disdain out of it, is simply “Duane doing it again”, a rant against all things conservative, deserved or not!!

    Anson

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  5. Billy did use the word evolved regarding the tornada, so you should be pleased Duane!

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    • That’s what I like about you, Bruce, always trying to find a silver lining behind every dark and dreary cloud!

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      • Well this life can be hard some times. You can laugh or you can cry about it a lot of times. I choose the former, but I know why others cry.

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  6. The interview seems like fluff mostly, not particularly damning. I think it was said he’s been in congress since 1911, by the way.

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