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Gary Horton: The Buck now stops

Posted: January 22, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 22, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Energizer Bunnies keep going and going and going – and for a time, it looked like Buck McKeon would be equally perpetual in motion to those furry little drumbeaters. The man is after all, 75, and still beating war drums while running circles around most of us. Yet now it seems that both Buck the man, and his underlying message of perpetual militarism may be running down, with time well deserved for some R and R away from the military industrial complex.

Buck McKeon is no ordinary, run of the mill congressman. A true people person, Buck first earned honest chops in church service, then on the Hart School Board, then as a founding member of the SCV City Council, and also as its first mayor. Opportunity later called further afield, and Buck made a successful play for Congress in 1992, where he’s successfully squatted in this Republican gerrymandered district ever since.

One hopes that 21 years in Congress would net special dispensations or Bridges to Nowhere or other gilded trinkets of public works. Indeed, Buck brought home a 16 oz. pack of bacon worth 9 million dollars for our long overdue Cross Valley Connector, and also used his considerable influence to help kill the Elsmere Canyon mega-dump.

Yes, SCV newbies, before the scary Mega-mine was the scary Mega-dump, and it appears the SCV is at perpetual risk of giant out-of-town conglomerates using our valley basin as one sort of pit or hole. Next at bat? Little doubt the topic will be fracking our old abandoned oil wells, risking our already risky water supply. To our loss, McKeon won’t be here anymore to fight that battle with his decades of congressional leverage. That said, the next time we vote we’d best be thinking about who cares more about people than oil if we have any chance of maintaining sufferable water in the decades to come.

Twenty-one years ago, Buck showed up to Congress just as serial adulterer Newt Gingrich was whipping up America into an earlier partisan frenzy with his infamous and somewhat comical “Contract with America.” Buck lost me way back then, when the Republicans indeed took the House, but subsequently failed to pass the 12-year term limit promise contained in their Contract. Who would have thought these silver-tongued servants weren’t serious about voting themselves out of perpetually renewing gilded jobs? So, Buck blew off the term limits and hung on for 10 more years, during which, he ascended to one of the most powerful positions in Congress – Chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Buck has now seen more money pass through his hands than most other nations combined will ever see, period. Spending 600 billion dollars a year, Buck wields influence far beyond his, or anyone else’s wildest imagination from back in his School Board days. “Only in America” could a story like this happen, for better or worse, and depending on your view, it’s absolutely true.

Buck’s chairmanship has served our district well, if running guns is your preferred cup of capitalistic tea. We live in a district populated by nearly as many arms manufacturers as voters, and if you live in the 25th and you’re not retired or on welfare, you’re likely working at Northrop or Lockheed or a company providing associated services.

So, our 25th has certainly gotten the manufacturing representation stockholders crave - if not exactly the government we deserve.

I bumped into a funny picture on the web. The caption read, “Wouldn’t it be a great if politicians had to wear the logos of the companies that fund them?” The picture showed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wearing a blazer covered with the logos of AIG, Citi, Pfizer, Shell, DuPont, etc., looking rather like a NASCAR driver adorned in logos. But while the NASCAR guys look cool, this concept was stomach-turning.

Buck has entertained a long list of military donors over the years and I’d have to think his logo-adorned jacket would pretty weigh him down quite low. But this might be less Buck’s fault than ours: Why do we still allow corporate money in politics and act perpetually surprised when politicians put business lobbies before people, time and again, decade after decade? We make these rules. Politicians like Buck simply play by the rules on the court.

Well beyond our Cross Valley Connector or Elsmere Dump campaign, Buck McKeon will likely go down as the Last Cold Warrior - the staunch, give no ground booster of war preparedness and perpetual militarism. While others see signs of peace, Buck perceives threats at every corner - and has no reluctance in shelling 600 billion a year of deficit spending containing these ever-engaged but never defeated threats.

We can’t say whether Buck will be remembered as eminently insightful in the face of grave danger, or just one more good man tricked and manipulated by a powerful military industrial establishment for war profiteering.

History will answer that, and until the future unfolds, with its risks and wars and even peace, we won’t know if Buck’s crowning achievement as Armed Services Chair was for good and saved our skins, or for trillions more squandered on trumped up enemies like so many war trillions squandered before him.

These chips will fall. One thing for certain: Buck acted consistent with his conscious 110 percent as he perceived the world from his own unique slice of our nation’s culture and timeframe.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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