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Commentary: The Book Everyone in Washington Should Read


By Gary Truitt

Gerd DeLey has compiled a book that should be required reading for everyone on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and at the numerous government agencies that line the mall between the two. Cowboy Wisdom is a collection of over 200 sayings, quotes, and witticisms from the old west. Actually, there are many other sources used in the book other than cowpokes; but these, too, embody the simple, practical, honest views of the frontier. We Midwest farm folks should not feel left out because, as the book points out on page 2, “A cowboy is just a farm boy in leather britches and a comical hat.”

Given the events in Washington of the past few weeks, I found many of the sayings in this book to be very timely and appropriate. I have selected a few that I feel may be especially impactful for some of our leaders and news makers.

For President Trump: “If you ride ahead of the herd, take a look back to make sure it is still there.” This may be just what the President did when he suddenly decided to reopen the government last Friday. His pledge to hold the government hostage until he got funding to build the wall was very popular in the beginning. Yet, as the shutdown stretched into weeks, its impact began to take a toll not only on government employees but on many other aspects of the US economy, including agriculture. The breaking point may have come when the air traffic system began to fall apart with the canceling or delaying hundreds of flights and stranding millions of passengers.  Hopefully over the next few weeks, both sides will find a way to resolve the issue without further punishing the American people and threatening the economy.

For Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: “Advice is like a pot of chili. You should try a little of it yourself before you offer it to others.”  Since becoming speaker, Ms. Pelosi has had lots of advice for the president and just about everyone else. Yet as leader of this legislative body it is her responsibility to get things done. Rather than simply blocking, delaying, and undoing anything the White House or the GOP espouse, the House needs to address and find solutions to the problems facing our country. This may require a compromise, which is a concept on which our country was founded.

For Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: “You don’t have to step in a cow pie to know what it smells like.” Mr. Ross certainly stepped in one last week when, in a television interview, he repeatedly stressed that federal workers should simply take out loans to cover their expenses while the government was shut down. Mr. Ross is a billionaire and has likely never had to try and make ends meet at the end of the week.

Will Rogers has some advice for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: “If you get to thinking you a person of some influence, try ordering someone else’s dog around.” Mr. Schumer was one of the more outspoken in the war of words over the government shutdown.  His favorite word was “no” as he rejected any solutions put forth by Republicans. Even the media began to paint him as an obstructionist.

Some advice for our newly elected legislators: “Leading a horse to water is management. Making them drink is leadership.” The mid-term elections resulted in many new lawmakers heading to Washington. Many got there because they were either all for Trump or had promised to take him down.  In any case, getting elected is one thing and governing is another. Simply saying yes to everything or no to everything is not leadership and is not doing the work of the people.

For radio and TV talk show hosts: “If you are ridin’ a high horse, there is no way to get off gracefully.” Some people watch or listen to political talk shows, but I am not one of them. I generally find these  guys to be overpaid egos who know less about what they are talking about than most ordinary people do. As their numbers have increased on radio and cable news channels, they have turned to saying more and more outrageous things in order to get attention. In some cases, this has resulted in them stepping over the line of tolerance and abruptly ending their careers.

For farmers: “Whether the glass is half full or half empty depends on whether you are drinking or pouring.”  The state of the farm economy and the finances of farmers today have been big topics of conversation at winter farm meetings.  Some producers have been in good shape, while others are hurting badly. Your perspective on agriculture and its future will be largely determined by which camp you are in. Yet, a ride through Mr. DeLey’s book may lift your spirits a bit and provide the kind of dogged persistence to ride into the sunset with your head held high. You may also want to purchase a copy and send to your favorite elected official.