JIM CREES: What’s more important, the debate or the debacle?

So... Tuesday morning everyone was excited about the debate.

One side tried to claim GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump handled himself as well as could be expected. On the other side, Democrats are absolutely convinced Hillary Clinton carried the day.

The Debate (capitalized) was the biggest thing since... whatever.

If you believe Wolf Blitzer or any of the other pundits, the first presidential debate was fateful and fate filled.

Ummmm... not so much. Sorry.

CNN called this “The most important presidential debate in American history.”


The debate Monday had a lot more to do with personality than they had to do with policy. And frankly, neither of the personalities involved is overly exciting - at least not for me.

BUT... you can be sure our friends and neighbors picked up on the nuances.

For example, Facebook is filled with shocked and dismayed citizens reporting Donald wore an American flag pin while Hillary did not.

And, noted our local black helicopter observers, did you not see the secreted earplug speaker tucked away in Hillary’s ear??!!??

Oh. My. God!!! ‘Tis the end of civilization as we know it. PROOF!!! Hillary is getting her marching orders from the U.N.

Sigh. Again.


What some may have missed whilst lolling about in a haze of post-debate euphoria and worrying about the latest Hillary conspiracy silliness, was the following tidbit in the news.

The Associated Press reported “The House on Monday unanimously approved a bill requiring the Veterans Administration to ensure that all telephone calls, text messages and other communications received by a crisis line are answered in a timely manner by an appropriately qualified person.”

OK. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let us review this slowly.

The U.S. House of Representatives had to propose and pass a bill to force the Veterans Administration staff (specifically at crisis lines) to answer their telephones... when a veteran called... needing help... from the people who promised him or her all the support they needed... after giving the best years of their lives in the service of this country.

The bill wasn’t just about answering phones, but the legislation was kinda forced by the unaccountability of VA employees manning crisis hotline phones who simply did as they damn well pleased - and got paid for it!!!

According to Nikki Wentling, a Stars and Stripes reporter looking into VA issues, the new legislation contained “... contentious reform on how Department of Veterans Affairs employees are demoted and fired.”

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., introduced the bill in July in response to a federal appeals board reversing a series of disciplinary actions against VA executives in malfeasance cases.

“The biggest obstacle standing in the way of VA reform is the department’s pervasive lack of accountability among employees at all levels,” Miller said when introducing the bill. “Until this problem is fixed once and for all, long-term efforts to reform VA are doomed to fail.”

So, what is this all about?

Well, according to AP, a highly placed whistleblower, Greg Hughes, who directed the Veterans Crisis Line, reported, “Over one-third of calls to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ crisis line in May rolled over to back-up call centers.

“Between 35 and 40 percent of calls from troubled veterans to the hotline in May were not answered by primary staffers...”

In other words, and in order to be perfectly clear, “More than one-third of calls to a suicide hotline for troubled veterans are not being answered by front-line staffers because of poor work habits and other problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs... Some hotline workers handle fewer than five calls per day and leave before their shifts end, even as crisis calls have increased sharply in recent years,” said Hughes.

The House bill requires the VA to ensure all telephone calls, text messages and other communications received by the crisis line are answered in a timely manner by an appropriately qualified person.

The bill, by the way, hasn’t really passed. It now goes to the Senate.

So, once again, let’s review.

Congress actually has to pass legislation in order to “require” federal employees working the phones at a suicide crisis center for veterans to pick up the phones when they ring at their appointed stations because until now if they didn’t answer the phones, they were never held accountable and could not be dismissed.

The shabby and shoddy treatment of American military veterans by the Veterans Administration (in some quarters) is a national scandal, but what really gets people fired up is who lies the most - Hillary or Donald.

We as a nation may well deserve the national leaders we elect. Our veterans, however, do not deserve the inexcusable treatment they receive at the hands of an uncaring and uncompassionate gaggle of petty bureaucrats and functionaries.