We are all for increased face-to-face contact between our local congressmen and the public. We're a fan of the so-called town hall meetings where average taxpaying citizens can go ask their representatives just what the heck is going on in Washington and how they plan to help fix it.
But we're not a fan of political grandstanding. And we're certainly no fan of showing disrespect to the office of the president, whether that president is a Republican or a Democrat.
That's exactly what U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a McHenry Republican, did last week in Schaumburg when he was AWOL from a joint session of Congress convened to listen to President Obama's jobs plan. Instead, he held a small-business forum, while showing Obama's speech on television, telling reporters beforehand that he was "offended" by the president's request for a joint session.
We're offended by Walsh's disrespect and even more so by the message it sends: He's not listening. He's not open to compromise. Rather than being part of the solution, Congressman Walsh is part of the problem.
If you don't have respect for the office of the president, if you don't want to listen to the other side, if you are not open to compromise, then how, exactly, will you get things done? That's the dilemma in Washington. We need leaders who see that indeed they must listen, and indeed they must compromise to move forward.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner recognized that last week. "I've encouraged my colleagues to come tonight and to listen to the president," Boehner said Thursday. "We ought to be respectful, and we ought to welcome him."
And Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, also a Republican, recognized that as well. "Even if you campaigned against the current office holder, you respect the office of the president and the role of the joint session of Congress in the Constitution, and I think we should be in the chamber watching carefully."
Normally, this editorial would have run several days earlier as the president's speech was on Thursday. But we had a series of editorials marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Coincidentally, this passage is from our editorial on Thursday: "Marking this anniversary of 9/11 memorializes all of those who lost their lives, but also gives us a chance to reflect on what we have learned, and to learn from it again: We're more alike than different. We're stronger when we pull together. We can moderate our disagreements by acknowledging our common ground."
Congressman Walsh was at a ceremony in Mundelein on Sunday, as he should have been, to mark the 9/11 anniversary. We urge him and all our representatives in Washington to bridge the partisan divide and get back to work with a renewed sense of unity to help solve the country's ills.