Bergman talks Afghanistan, infrastructure, election

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman talks during an interview at the Daily Mining Gazette Wednesday.

HOUGHTON — The management of the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has been a “national embarrassment,” U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman said during an interview Wednesday.

Bergman, R-Watersmeet, spoke during a visit to the Daily Mining Gazette.

Bergman, a retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Marine Corps, had served in Afghanistan.

“If you use a sports analogy, we gave (the Taliban) our playbook and allowed them to do what they wanted to achieve their endgame,” he said. “That’s not the way to do this. And it’s been an embarrassment, I believe to the world, at the lack of leadership at the highest levels of the United States government. And now that falls on the executive branch, which is the president.”

Bergman called the situation worse than the Saigon airlifts in 1975, as the Afghan situation had the potential to seed more potential bin Ladens.

Bergman planned to participate in a conference call about the Afghanistan withdrawal Wednesday with Congress’s For Country Caucus, made up of veterans. Members had pushed bipartisan legislation to expedite visa applications for Afghan interpreters and their families.

“Every day, there are rank and file Democrats and Republicans working together all day to do the right thing for not only the American people, but those around the world who’ve supported us,” he said.

Bergman also responded to the 2020 census results, which showed losses in every Upper Peninsula County but Houghton. The problem’s not a new one, Bergman said; almost a century ago, his dad, an Ironwood native, had moved because he couldn’t find work.

One solution is in the expansion of broadband, Bergman said. Earlier this year, he introduced the Rural Broadband Window of Opportunity Act, which required the FCC to prioritize applications in areas with shorter build seasons. Advancements in telehealth can also help seniors who might otherwise be unable to get to a doctor’s office in winter.

“Especially in the last year and a half, we saw under COVID, when the State of Michigan shut us down, we were having to work from home, we were having to educate our kids at home,” Bergman said. “So it really shined a big spotlight on our lack of connectivity up here.”

Bergman also stood behind his vote against certifying President Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election, saying he’d still do the same thing. Bergman was among three Michigan representatives to vote for disallowing electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Bergman compared his vote to those cast by seven House Democrats in 2016, including one against certifying the Michigan votes. The only difference, he said, was the lack of a senator to join the objection, as happened in January.

Bergman said he had been troubled by discrepancies in Antrim County. The results of the county had initially shown Biden with an incongruously large lead before being corrected later that day, a total confirmed through a hand recount. The county’s clerk said the mistake had come from human error through not properly updating software. A subsequent report from the Senate Oversight Committee found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

“We need to make it easy to vote, and impossible to cheat,” Bergman said. “That’s what Michiganders want … I’m going to do everything I can at the federal level to ensure Michigan does its job to make sure that those voters in Michigan who are registered voters, and that take the time to vote, whether they do it in person or whether they do an absentee ballot, that their vote is accurately counted, and they know it was accurately counted.”

Aside from broadband, Bergman said his main priority for the rest of his term will be trying to cut back “runaway, rapid, out of control” federal spending. When the CARES Act was passed, the government erred on the side of extra spending because of the uncertainty surrounding COVID, Bergman said. He said the continued unemployment checks for people who turn down job offers had led to worker shortages.

“We’re seeing, with the current administration, they seem to think there’s no end of the money, and we know there is an end,” he said. “And if there’s no end, it’s the mortgage that’s being passed along to our kids and grandkids, and they’re going to have to pay it.”

An MLive analysis showed the 26 states that canceled the $300 unemployment bonus had added 100 jobs per capita in June versus 69 jobs for the states that maintained it. Check-canceling states were also at a higher percentage of their pre-pandemic job numbers at the end of June. But of six states that lost jobs in June, five were those that had canceled unemployment benefits.

Bergman said he plans to run for re-election in 2022, and potentially at least a couple of more terms beyond that. Bob Lorinser, formerly the executive director of the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, declared he would run as a Democrat in the 1st District race next year.

“We’re just going to get up every day and do our business, and like anything else, we’ll let the people decide,” Bergman said.

Bergman asked 1st District residents to honor him and others who served their country by voting, regardless of their preferred candidate.

“If people don’t vote, they give us their vote, and that is not what our Founders believed,” he said.


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