Anchorage Daily News reporter Sean Cockerham rode with Ted Stevens and new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, James Peake, to Quinhagak and Bethel on Sunday. In a finely detailed article, Cockerham fully illustrates some aspects of the incredible advantage of incumbency Sen. Stevens possesses. He's able to, at short notice, summon Federally funded tools like a Blackhawk helicopter, and a cabinet secretary, and whisk off to remote places, and come down on the tarmac, looking like some almighty figure from on high.
Cockerham writes, "the one-day visit to Quinhagak and Bethel on Sunday was classic Stevens. He brings a cabinet official -- in this case Veterans' Affairs Secretary James Peake -- out to some of the nation's most remote spots of human habitation.
"Earmarks follow, and presumably some better appreciation from the officials of what it's like in the Bush."
I was a bit bothered by one comment from Secretary Peake, as described by Sean. Cockerham described the concerns of Bethel Vietnam veteran, John Guinn:
"Guinn told Stevens and Peake he was worried about what's going to happen to the village soldiers back from the Middle East.
"He said everyone is proud of them now. But what happens in a few years when these men, highly trained in combat, can't find jobs, start drinking and going a little crazy, he asked. There aren't people in tiny villages trained to deal with mental health issues, he said.
"It's going to cause a commotion in their village," Guinn said. "I'm scared."
Peake's response surprised me:
"VA secretary Peake suggested some of the concern about post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury has been overblown.
"Many of the brain injuries are serious but some of them are akin to what anyone who played football in their youth might have suffered, Peake told Guinn."
Back in Anchorage Monday, for a ceremony at the National Cemetery at Ft. Richardson, where a Memorial Day wreath was laid by Stevens' likely adversary in November, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, Peake spent quite a bit of time with Democratic Party candidate for the U.S. House seat, Diane Benson, discussing her efforts to direct more attention from his agency toward Alaska Native and Native American Veterans.
In November, at the 64th National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Diane Benson "helped make a resolution that examines the effects of repeated deployments on service members and their families and the physical and psychological impacts of caring for the seriously injured a reality."
I wonder if Peake shared the same thoughts with Benson he did with Vietnam Veteran Guinn? The fact that he sought out Benson, and asked her advice on Veteran's issues was noted by Begich, I've been told. Benson did let Peake know that she will be working later this spring with members of the NCAI on Veteran's issues.
Meanwhile, Don Young, the corrupt bastard Diane Benson and Ethan Berkowitz are vying with each other to challenge, is being scrutinized by the blog CQ Politics. He comes up wanting, as the blog notes some polls show Young trailing Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell.
The article points out the tremendous outlays Young's war chest has had to deal with since mid-2007, but fails to note his miserable numbers for fundraising during the same period. I predicted as early as November that June 2008 would be the crisis month for Young's campaign financing. I guess we'll soon see.
Young will also be in town, supposedly meeting with the board of the Hispanic Affairs Council of Alaska.
Begich needs to tie Stevens to John McCain. And to George Bush's failing economy, and to his tardy response to Jim Webb's VA Benefit bill, and to his lack of rational approaches to our growing rural crisis. Begich should also continue to note Diane Benson's resonance in these same Alaska communities visited in the past few days by both Stevens and Benson.
the author of this article has been volunteering for and contributing to Diane Benson since 2006, and has contributed to the 2008 Ethan Berkowitz campaign.