Open Letter to California Senator Barbara Boxer

Dear Senator Boxer, 

There has been much public discussion about your comments to General Michael Walsh of the Army Corps of Engineers when he testified before your Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works last week.  You interrupted General Walsh while he was answering–by all accounts courteously–your question to him about repairing levees damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Senator, you interrupted the general to scold him for referring to you as “ma’am,” and asked him to address you as “Senator,” since, by your own explanation, you had worked hard to attain that title.

 Ma’am, may I point out that “ma’am” is a term of respect to any married woman, as “sir” is to any man.  Military culture requires people in uniform to address superiors by one of these terms, and no possible disrespect could be interpreted from this.
Ma’am, may I further point out that in your remonstrance of General Walsh, you did not reciprocate the respect you demanded from him, referring to him neither as “General” (which would be correct), “Brigadier” (which the Brits prefer when addressing a one-star), or “Sir” (which would at least indicate common courtesy).

In fact, Ms. Boxer, you demanded respect and deference from someone who not only deserves the same courtesy, but you managed also to show none in return.

Barbara, you must know that the Army Corps of Engineers is a branch which devotes a tremendous amount of its time and effort here in the United States, building dams and levees and engineering waterways and other important public works. 

General Walsh spent several years in your home state of California as the Corps of Engineers built, modernized and maintained the vital systems that keep the water flowing to all residents of the Golden State.

Babs, surely you must recognize that the work of General Walsh as an army engineer in the service of Americans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is at least equal to whatever campaigning and politicking you did to become a Senator.  This is not to mention the vital humanitarian work General Walsh did in Iraq to build hospitals, schools, roads and other infrastructure in the war-torn country.  Further, it does not take into account General Walsh’s service to his country in the United States, Europe and the Persian Gulf, nor does it credit the general’s master’s degree in construction management from the University of Florida, nor his studies at the Army Command and General Staff College.

Honey, I’m sure your advisors will tell you that Americans hold the military in much higher regard than Congress, and that your rude and abusive behavior to a senior member of that military can only reflect poorly on your judgment, manners and mental acuity.  In fact, sweetie, your exchange with General Walsh will only serve to widen the esteem gap between soldiers and Senators, to the soldiers’ favor.

In sum, Barbie baby, you would be well advised to issue a sincere public apology to General Walsh and the Army Corps of Engineers, and consult a reputable etiquette book before again speaking in public.  Otherwise, the respect you so crave will be ever more difficult to earn.

About the author:Lance Thompson has written for movies and television and his articles and photographs have appeared in two dozen national magazines and newspapers.  He is an award-winning veteran of hundreds of motion picture ad campaigns, and has given workshops for the Scriptwriters Network in Los Angeles and the Idaho Film Office.  He writes for the political web site

Photo: Composition image from Low Down Central with editorial question provided by Tulsa Today Publisher David Arnett.