Obviously, given my age and time frame of political involvement, I have been an observer of Senator Roberts’ career for decades. He certainly has been successful, never losing a race and a whole lifetime of work in Washington D.C. He started as staff support for Congressman Keith Sebelius. Leadership on agriculture has been a focus and he has played a very significant role on that budget, and most importantly, the once every five years renewal of the Farm Bill. I know he worked quite closely, in a bipartisan way, with then Congressman Dan Glickman. Back then, when earmarks were in practice, he was very successful at “bringing the bacon” back to Kansas. Right here at K-State, he was key in getting resources for the bioscience research facility (the Hall bears his name) and, in many ways, he was helpful in the bipartisan effort to secure support for NBAF, the National Bioscience Agro-defense Facility being built just off the K-State campus.
I write this blog not so much to recognize Senator Roberts. Others in widely covered editorials have been extremely positive and one can assume there will much more of that given he still has two years left to serve. But, since he does still have these two years to serve, I write this to make the plea for our Senator to now, free of reelection plans, step up and provide some much needed leadership on key issues not currently being addressed and also to speak out when the best interests of Kansans, or the values of our country, are not being served.
Senator Roberts’ lock-step loyalty to Mitch McConnell (who currently holds the power to end the ongoing government shutdown) and his 'look-the-other-way' approach to the words and actions of President Trump have set back the country and also hurt Kansans—even on the issue to which Senator Roberts has devoted the most time over the years, agriculture. Though he's finally shown the ability to speak at least some truth to the President and to Kansans on the issue of trade, I wonder what a difference it would make if Senator Pat Roberts would speak out on the challenges of climate change, for instance. His focus could be tied to the impacts we are already feeling with changing weather patterns that negatively impact production agriculture. Floods and droughts in the same year is a formula for disaster and in 2018 we got a taste of that in Kansas. I’m reminded the Time Magazine article sometime back on Durum wheat in North Dakota, and how rising temperatures have forced the growing of that crop further north. Another ten years and who knows what we might be facing, particularly if we do nothing to lessen the change.
The time has come for Senator Roberts to step up and, in the Kansas tradition, be a bellwether for common sense and decency in the country. If not now, we'll be left to conclude that blind party loyalty has won out, and it will put a lasting stain on a long and distinguished career in public service.