Seventh- and eighth-grade gifted social studies teacher Andrea Taylor helped coordinate the event. “Last year,” she said, “my seventh-grade class went to the congressman’s web site, and they all emailed him. By that afternoon, he let us know that he was interested in paying a visit and getting to know the students. We couldn’t do it last year, but it ended up being a big surprise for us this year. I’m glad he was able to come and here and give the children a chance to put a name with a face up in Washington. It lets them know this is someone local, that they can get to know, that is accessible to them.”
She said several students are now receiving monthly email updates from Rogers’ office. “They’ve been really excited about getting them each month,” she said. “It really makes them feel connected.”
Following the tour, Rogers answered several questions from students in the auditorium next door.
When asked which accomplishments he was proudest of, Rogers first mentioned voting for Medicare Part D and the Bush tax cuts, but said his proudest accomplishment involved the jobs that he was able to bring to the Anniston Army Depot.
“Not only does it help our war-fighters, but it also benefits people that don’t work there, because the people that do have money to spend on other things.”
He cited the power train and small arms maintenance programs and a solid waste treatment facility as major programs at the depot he had backed.
In response to another question, he told the students that he had wanted to enter politics since he was about their age. “I can remember watching the election for governor between George Wallace and Albert Brewer, and other statewide races. And I can remember watching the national conventions on television for both parties. Back then, the conventions were on television from morning to midnight all week long. Now, the conventions are all show business, but then it really did determine the nominee.”
Rogers has a law degree, but said, “The law is my vocation, politics is my career. The law, for me, is a means of entering politics.”
In response to another question, Rogers said he worked with the White House regularly, although he did not have as much direct contact with President Obama as he did with President Bush.
“Obama is more likely to send people,” he said. “But either way, we always have to deal with the White House if we want to get anything done.”
He characterized Obama as being “a courteous, smart family man, but as far as the way we see the world and the size of government, we see things differently.”
In response to another question, Rogers explained a bit about how the legislative process actually works.
“It takes the House, the Senate and the president,” he said. “You may have heard some complaints from adults, because most of them around here didn’t vote for the president and are not happy with Obamacare and other things. They say, ‘Why can’t you make the president do something.’ Well, this is something they should have learned if they had been paying attention in fourth-grade civics class. The House is one of three levers. You need the Senate and the president. You hear some people in Washington, especially that were elected in 2010, that say they are going to make something happen. Where were they in high school.”
Rogers said his fellow Republicans control the House, but Democrats control the Senate and the presidency. “We can make things difficult, but we can’t make anyone else do anything. We can cut off the money, but that’s hard to do.”
The legislative bodies cannot veto bills, but the president can, he said. A bill vetoed by the president must be approved by a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate to override, and this is difficult. As an example, Rogers cited the passage of the War Powers Act in 1973 as a bill becoming law over a presidential veto.
Rogers said students would likely be hearing more about the War Powers Act in coming weeks, as Obama asked for approval for action in Syria. Rogers said he did not believe that such authorization was necessary, since the act gives the president authority for two months before requiring congressional assent.
Rogers addressed the situation in Syria in greater detail later that day at the joint meeting of the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs. “The president said weeks ago that chemical weapons would cross a ‘bright red line,” he said. “Assad has been killing his own people, and Obama has been getting pressure for the U.S. to correct him, as the world’s only superpower. He thinks, ‘I’m Obama, and people will do whatever I want.’ But Assad knows that if he loses, he’s dead. That’s what happens to dictators that lose civil wars.
“The president has had hard proof of chemical weapons for some time, but he had a credibility problem with Benghazi and other apologies that he’s made in the region. He blinked. Europe didn’t want to participate in this, so now he’s putting the full court press on Congress. He’s not required to do this by law. He can intervene for 60 days. And I said the same thing when Bush did it. It doesn’t matter who’s in the White House.”
Rogers said the consultation with Congress was “pure politics. He wants to be able to tell the anti-military, anti-war do-gooders that he didn’t do anything and tell the rest of the world that he wanted to do something but Congress wouldn’t let him. And he wants to take attention away from Benghazi, the IRS, the NSA and the Justice Department spying on journalists. I don’t believe we have any business intervening in a civil war. If he was going to say what he said, then there should have been missile strikes within the first hour of his having hard evidence. Now the Syrian press is saying we made the Americans retreat. Arabs already see the world differently from the way we do. Now you’ve got that runt in North Korea, who has nuclear weapons and missiles, and he’s emboldened, and Iran is, too.”
That said, Rogers continued, “we have no business putting boots on the ground, and there are no good sides. Assad is a blood-thirsty dictator and the other side is the Muslim Brotherhood. What we need to do is get troops to the Jordanian and Isreali borders to keep those countries stable, and let the U.N. intervene in Syria if they want. You know how worthless I think the U.N. is.”
When asked about the specific remarks made this weekend by Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Rogers said he had not heard them and did not particularly care for either man. “They’re showboats, both of them, and they get on my nerves,” he said. “But I guess what they were trying to say is that if this is going to happen, it needs to be something big. It’s kind of like when I gave my kids too many warnings, and then they didn’t know what was happening when the belt came out.”