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Norm Dicks, congressman and patriot extraordinaire

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on March 3, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
March 2, 2012 6:07 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

With Norm Dicks, there are no six degrees of separation. If you live in the South Sound, you’ve been touched directly by his work in Congress.

Dicks’ decision to not run for re-election this year isn’t welcome news, but it’s not a shocker, either. He is 71 and has held his seat in the House of Representatives going on 36 years. All good things must end, and Dicks’ long run in Congress has been a decidedly good thing for this region.

The worst that can be said about the exuberant Bremerton Democrat is that he is an old-fashioned pork-barreler who has brought home the bacon to his state and his beloved Sixth District. But that’s another way of saying he has been very adept at looking out for his constituents.

The “pork” he delivered has stood the test of time. For example, he engineered funding for Interstate 705 – the Tacoma Spur – which extended the reach of Interstate 5 to the heart of Tacoma and the city’s waterfront.

Dicks was the prime mover behind the restoration of crumbling Union Station into a stunning rotunda hung with Chihuly glass. He secured federal grants for other urban redevelopment projects, all of which helped kick-start the dramatic revival of downtown Tacoma in the 1990s.

He was a key player in the historic land claims settlement with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and the creation of the bypass highway around the Tideflats, breakthroughs that greatly expanded the capacity and potential of the Port of Tacoma.

He accelerated the cleanup of Commencement Bay. He was behind countless improvements at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and helped bring the Air Force’s C-17 transports there – a move that enhanced the base’s strategic importance at the time when military installations were being closed and downsized across the country.

Many of Dicks’ individual accomplishments would have been enough – all by themselves – to crown the career of any House member. For example, he – along with Sen. Henry Jackson – turned Madigan Army Medical Center into a reality.

JBLM’s medical complex had been a motley collection of 106 buildings spread out over 75 acres, connected with eight miles of ramps and corridors. In its place now stands one of the country’s great military hospitals.

Dicks’ advocacy of a strong military – including strategic bombers and missiles – incurred the wrath and ridicule of his party’s doves. They and others have accused him of pandering to Boeing and other corporate interests.

Our conversations with Dicks over many years left us no doubt that he is sincerely and devoutly committed to the country’s security. Agree with him or not, he is an old-fashioned patriot. His passion turned him into one of Congress’ leading authorities on defense.

Washington will lose a genuinely great lawmaker when Dicks steps down at the end of the year. So will the nation.

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