progressive view

Duncan limps away from Congress

After last week’s elections, Renee Hoyos is the Democratic nominee and Tim Burchett is the Republican nominee for Tennessee’s second congressional district. The November winner will replace John J. Duncan Jr. This month (Aug. 5 to be precise) also was the one-year anniversary of one of Duncan’s more bizarre incidents, an interview on National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition Saturday.”

Host Scott Simon introduced the segment on legislation imposing new economic sanctions on Russia. Only five legislators voted against the law. Simon then spoke to one of them, Duncan, asking why he voted against the bill.

Duncan proffered that “I didn’t think we should sanction Russia just after they had been helping us in the fight against ISIS and helped to broker a peace agreement in Syria.”

A baffled Simon replied, “I guess I’m not familiar with that broker of peace agreement in Syria. Wait, do you mean the brief cease-fire when …”

“Well, I mean the brief cease-fire,” interrupted Duncan, “which is a semi-peace agreement or a brief — a temporary peace agreement.”

Simon replied that action hadn’t “caused any appreciable reduction in the killing there, though.”

Duncan asserted, “Well, you can argue about the success of it. But still, I think that their intention was good.” (Advice to our congressman: Russia’s Syria actions have yielded little benefit and much harm. You really can’t argue for success.)

Our congressman then got close to a coherent point when he said sanctions sometimes backfire and hurt only the poor and vulnerable.

He quickly reverted to form, however, when Simon noted President Trump’s reluctance to criticize the Russian leader. “Do you share his high assessment of President Putin?” Simon asked.

“I don’t have real strong feelings about Putin either for or against him,” declared Duncan. “I’ve read quite a bit about him, but I’ve read some things that don’t sound particularly good. But I’ve never met the man. And I also have read, for instance, columns by Pat Buchanan that are very favorable towards Putin. … I guess he’s like most of us. He has some good and some bad.”

Simon then pressed about solid reports that Putin has authorized the murders of political opponents and journalists. “You know, I don’t know all the facts behind that. If he’s murdered anybody, then I’m certainly not in favor of something like that,” Duncan waffled.

Rep. Justin Amash thought the Russia sanctions too broad. Rep. Thomas Massie worried the sanctions could lead to another Cold War. Sen. Rand Paul thought China was as bad an offender as Russia. Sen. Bernie Sanders supported Russia sanctions but wanted to delay included sanctions on Iran.

Duncan offered the most confused reply. He now limps out of Congress, underperforming for quite a while his task of understanding issues.

Mark Harmon is a progressive with a long background in politics and media.  He is a professor of journalism and electronic media at the University of Tennessee.  From 2006 to 2010 he was an elected Knox County Commissioner, and is starting his second term on Tennessee’s Democratic Party Executive Committee.

Harmon has won three national awards, and several regional and local awards, for column writing.  He has worked as a newspaper columnist, radio host and reporter, and TV news producer.

His columns will appear in the second and fourth week issues of farragutpress each month.

Conservative Greg Johnson’s popular columns also will appear in future farragutpress issues on a twice-monthly basis.