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What will be the legacy of this Congress?

Prior to a Thursday morning press time, I spoke with Ohio Congressman Brad Wenstrup, a Cincinnati Republican, for a few minutes.

Not surprisingly, last week's telephone conversation focused on the current federal government "slowdown."

(Let's not call it a "shutdown." It is not.)

As the federal government slowdown ended Week One, Congressman Wenstrup said he believes the House GOP majority – along with several House Democrats – will continue to pass Continuing Resolutions in order to fund essential government services.

"We want to open government, and we want to end the special status for Congress," the congressman told me.

The congressman said he could not predict how long the current government slowdown would continue.

In a speech on the House floor last week, Congressman Wenstrup scolded those in Congress who would engage in such rhetoric as to link the conservative minority members with employing terrorist tactics.

"We have heard much debate over the last week…arguments and accusations being made from both sides," the congressman said. "I have heard references to being 'terrorists,' to 'jihad' and to having
'bombs strapped to our chests.'

"Mr. Speaker, I spent one year (2005-06), perhaps the bloodiest time of the war, as an Army combat surgeon in Iraq. In this chamber, I have seen no terrorists, no jihad, nor any bombs strapped to chests. If you have been to war, you would not use such rhetoric here."

Congressman Wenstrup represents Ohio’s Second Congressional District – my district. He serves on the House Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees. Before joining Congress as a 50-something freshman in 2013, Dr. Wenstrup practiced as a physician for 26 years and served
as a soldier in the Army Reserve for 15 years.

He is not a career politician. In fact, thus far, he isn't much of a politician – and that is intended as a compliment.

In his recent address to his colleagues – and to the world, courtesy of the Internet – Congressman Wenstrup asked members of Congress to consider their legacy.

"As you look around, and review our great history, you see the legacies left from previous generations. When you are there, review our great history, and the legacies left from previous generations. What is OUR legacy?" he asked.

"What will this generation, this Congress, leave behind? Will it be that we have a disregard for the law? A disregard for laws that were voted on and signed? Waivers, exemptions, subsidies… All of which show a disregard for applying laws equally, as well as a disregard for the rule of law.

"Applying laws equally. The rule of law – the very ideals that Americans have proudly touted for over two centuries. Are we deciding to abandon these core values? Is this the way that we want to carve out our chapter in American history?"

You can see the Ohio congressman's speech here.

* * *

Toward the end of our conversation, I asked Congressman Wenstrup if there were any current discussions about Syria or other pressing national security matters.

After all, just a couple of weeks ago, President Obama had all but declared war on the Western Asia nation.

"It's almost like the 'flavor of the day' here," the congressman said, in reference to how rapidly one issue replaces another on the front-burner of Washington politics.

Syria is no longer a front-burner concern, at least for the time being.

I like to contrast Brad Wenstrup's candor with some other members of Congress, including a few in his own party.

Consider California Republican Devin Nunes, who is quoted in the Oct. 5 New York Times (newsprint edition!) in response to a question about the House strategy on the current federal government slowdown: "You really have to call (Texas Sen. Ted) Cruz. I'm not even joking about that … because he's the one that set up the strategy. He's the one that got us into this mess."

With all due respect, perhaps Congressman Nunes should pull a Charlie Crist and switch parties.

The "mess" that we are in was hardly created by Senator Ted Cruz. He hasn't been in Washington long enough for that insult.

Meanwhile, more and more stories are (fortunately) being published about the administration's wasteful increases in spending during this supposed government slowdown. Taxpayer dollars were wasted (yet again) this week, when the administration ordered national parks, veterans' memorials and national seashores closed.

I've been to these national parks, memorials and seashores. On no occasion, did I ever have need for a government employee's assistance of any kind. I can drive through Yellowstone National Park and walk the beaches from Maine to Florida without Uncle Sam's interference, thank you very much.

Whatever this "mess" is it was not created by one freshman senator from Texas. No, Mr. Nunes, the political establishment – from both sides – created this "mess."

I'll credit men like Brad Wenstrup and Ted Cruz for at least attempting to fix it.

The rest of you can enjoy watching from the sidelines on your taxpayer-purchased tickets.

* * *

On a much more positive note, let's conclude this week's offering by mentioning the 2013 class of the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame.

Courtesy of Maureen Wallenfang of the Green Bay Press Gazette, we see that these well-deserving individuals are the latest Hall of Fame inductees:

• Charles N. Egan (dec.) was an entrepreneur, builder, and innovative leader who put together Little Rapids Corp. (LRC) in Green Bay, Wisc.

• Walter Brecht (dec.) was a professor in Paper Science and Technology at Technische Universität Darmstadt in Germany.

• Waldemar Jensen (dec.) was a professor at Åbo Akademi University in Helsinki, Finland, who later became CEO of The Finnish Pulp and Paper Research Institute (KCL).

• Sverker Martin-Löf is one of Sweden’s most renowned industrialists who played a key role in a number of Swedish Industries including pulp and paper.

• Sven Axel Rydholm (dec.) was the Sweden-based global authority on pulping processes and pulp qualities of his time.

• Theodore H. Wegner, assistant director of the USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory in Madison for the past 24 years.

Maureen Wallenfang added this interesting tidbit from the ceremony: "SCA chairman Sverker Martin-Lof made the trip from Sweden to accept his honor for 47 years working in paper. He said his company’s tissue and towel operations here, employing 930 in Neenah and Menasha, are important and well-positioned. 'It has a bright future in my point of view because it’s very well located. It has a very strategic location. The more we can add to the quality of the product and the innovation, the better we can do.'

"'A lot has happened in the paper industry over time. There’s a lot of overcapacity, a lot of competition and restructuring. Many paper grades have been losing ground. It has been important to find other areas where there’s a good future. In hygiene products, the whole portfolio is growing at the rate of GDP.'"

Mr. Martin-Lof's last point reflects precisely what Jim Thompson told me before I started this excellent adventure in the pulp and paper industry.

I suppose there's a reason. An obvious one, at that.

Rory Ryan is Senior Editor, North American Desk, at Paperitalo Publications and the owner of The Highland County Press in Hillsboro, Ohio. He can be reached by email at or

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