This morning I spoke briefly with Joe Catenacci about the legacy of North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones (1943- 2019). When I first moved to this state somebody asked me who I admired in North Carolina politics? I immediately responded with Walter Jones. Not necessarily because I agreed with him the most but because I saw him as somebody who was reflective and sensitive, particularly to the pain of his constituents. He told the AP about what attending funerals of the fallen from the wars after 9/11 had done to him: “I want them to know that my heart aches as their heart aches.” It was the infamous trench poet Wilfred Owen who once wrote, “Those who feel most for others suffer most in war.”
This video of Jones speaking about the display of fallen service members from Camp Lejeune outside of his office certainly speaks to a different kind of lawmaker. He was obviously somebody who was principled and was willing to buck his own party. His commitment to sounding the alarm on our debt and federal spending was a constant reminder that overall, the Republican Party in Washington D.C. has abandoned fiscal sanity. They don’t have the courage to govern as principled men and women and are willing to sacrifice future generations instead of focusing on much-needed belt-tightening. Their careers come before moral courage.
I was told on several occasions by some people in this state that Jones didn’t matter that much in Washington. He didn’t get things done because he wasn’t in good with Republican Party leadership. Of course, the part of not getting things done wasn’t true. He was continually willing to stand up to corruption and entrenched power in his own party as I’ve pointed out on this blog before. In this era of spending binges, his witness to the lunacy of more federal spending increases was more than enough.
Finally, his legacy is strong because he was willing to go against the grain and not just be a pretend conservative or one of convenience. If you agreed with him or not, you knew his vote wasn’t for sale. In Washington, we are desperately in need of more lawmakers like that, who look at the spending and much of the status quo and say, “I have the courage to change things.”