Win, Lose or Draw, Ric McCluskey’s Ability to Reevaluate and Act On Quickly Changing Circumstances in the Race For CD-4 Strengthens His Future As Much as it Weakened Congressman Steven Palazzo.
Ric McCluskey is a guy who actively and aggressively works for what and who he believes in without apology. He is a Marine, and a combat veteran of one Middle East tour of duty in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, and a tour to secure New Orleans following the devastating destruction of Hurricane Katrina. In Iraq, he received promotions for exemplary service.
McCluskey is a personable guy from the stump, because he’s exactly the same guy in normal conversation. What you see is what you get. He easily articulates his positions on a wide range of subjects of government policy, and he genuinely enjoys traveling across Mississippi’s Fourth Congressional District to let voters know why he decided to run as a Libertarian against incumbent Republican Congressman Steven Palazzo.
But the policy issues haven’t been as central a subject to the CD-4 race in the past few weeks as they were.
What has made 2016 different for CD-4, in this year of off-kilter politics, began a few weeks ago with a single member of Palazzo’s National Guard unit contacting McCluskey with some explosive information. For a few years, the political scuttlebutt about Palazzo has been that he frequently failed to report to fulfill his duty with the Mississippi National Guard.
Daniel Wade says he felt compelled to step forward with this information earlier, but he instead decided to wait until he would be in the more comfortable position of having completed his.military service. Wade was Palazzo’s direct supervisor in the unit based out of Poplarville.
Wade decided to reach out to McCluskey in late October and confirm for him that the rumors of Palazzo’s absence are indeed true. But, according to Wade, Palazzo was not occasionally absent, Wade alleges that Palazzo was declared AWOL after he failed to report at all from 2013 to 2015, two years!
After a bit of discussion, McCluskey and his campaign team, having already dubbed his opponent #NoShowPalazzo for skipping out on two debates, decided to share Wade’s information. Wade no longer has access to unit documents, but says while fulfilling his responsibilities as the SSGT of the 155th he and many others noticed Palazzo’s constant absence. Wade was the person with the responsibility to file the documentation of the ongoing issue of Palazzo being AWOL.
With only three weeks remaining before Election Day, McCluskey needed badly to inject some more excitement into the race. So he published Wade’s information to his Facebook page. Subsequently, more soldiers from the 155th began stepping forward and agreeing to sign affidavits that supported Wade’s claim that Palazzo was absent from duty for 24 consecutive months, and McCluskey’s leadership instincts kicked in.
As a Marine combat veteran of multiple tours, McCluskey assured the other members of the 155th that he would stand by them and give them a voice no matter what happened on Election Day.
The Mississippi National Guard took an interest in the case and began organizing an initial state investigation into Palazzo’s absence.
Then on the second of a two-night debate forum on October 27, both of which Palazzo refused to participate in, McCluskey said something from the podium even he admits he hadn’t fully considered until recently. It may have then only come across as a clever phrase to the audience in attendance, as well as to those watching it live online, and to those who would catch it later on their local news. But it was more than clever to federal authorities, and caught the attention of the Dept. of Justice.
“Congressman Palazzo has stolen money from the people of Mississippi,” McCluskey said from the debate stage, concluding, “And he shucked duty one more time.”
The phrase about stealing money is logical, but it also has deeper ramifications.
While true that the Mississippi National Guard is a state entity, the organization is also part of what the Constitution refers to as “Militia of the Several States”. The 54 separate national guards across the country are not entirely independent because they can be federalized. According to Article I, Section 8; Clause 15, the United States Congress is given the power to pass laws for “calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.” Congress is also empowered to come up with the guidelines “for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States.”
Through the Militia Act of 1903 the National Guard In each of the state’s are now subject to an increasing amount of federal control, including having arms and accouterments supplied by the central government, federal funding, and numerous closer ties to the Regular Army.
Palazzo, like every other member of the Mississippi National Guard, receives pay from the federal government. Skipping out on training and service is bad enough. What might be far worse for Congressman Palazzo, however, is that he has been accused of cashing federal checks received as payment for services he didn’t render, in fact, that he never showed up to render. If he didn’t render those services for the two year span between 2013 and 2015 as Wade alleges, then the amount Palazzo was paid equates to federal fraud of a significant amount.
Palazzo remaining relatively dismissive of the charge may indicate a level of confidence. It also might indicate an inability to counter Wade’s and the others claims.
Whatever the outcome on this Election Day in the race for the Fourth Congressional District, and whether or not Palazzo finds a way out of this mess, one thing is certain; Ric McCluskey has shown clearly that the courage and character of our fighting men and women pays dividends far from the battlefield.
Ric has shown the true goodwill of a public servant by opening his eyes and heart to tending the need closest to him, a need that he is perfectly qualified and ideally suited to handle. The Truth of Grace is that God gives each of us exactly what we need. The Truth of Divine Providence is that He aligns perfectly the circumstances for us to act when our fellow citizens need us.
When we maintain through faith a determined spirit of prayerful patience and watchful prudence in this life, reward comes by way of opportunity to do extraordinary things under ordinary circumstances.
Ric McCluskey ran for political office because he has strong principled beliefs. But he provided a uniquely personal degree of public service because he wasn’t blinded by ambition.
That, my friends, is a leader.