Friday, March 02, 2007

Gordon Smith's Dorchester Town Hall

Gordon Smith's town hall style meeting is underway--but first we must endure the requisite speech talking about why he's a Republican. And while its moral to be a Republican (as opposed to a Dem...presumably we're a bunch of immoral wretches)

And the usual excuses for invading Iraq...complete with the 10-on-the-truthiness scale material about how Dems saw all the intelligence Bush saw....war on retreat from it....why he's flip-flopped on Iraq...sort of...this is to head off angry questions from the Bushophiles on this topic....

(Credit where credit is due: he's calling the situation a "civil war" between Sunnis and Shias)


Question time: (Questions and answers paraphrased)

How are we going to address the situation in Iraq without demoralizing our soldiers?

The troops are conflicted just like this audience. It demeans our troops to say that they don't understand democracy. We've never had a war without dissent and that's what they're fighting for. A cornerstone of this what they're fighting for is a healthy Democratic debate. Its a sign of our strength and not our weakness that we have differences of opinion that we debate openly.

Q:I'd like to know about you voting with Kennedy on that immigration bill.

I know there are strong feelings on this issue. I've never dealt with a more contentious issue than Iraq. If you go with me to visit nurserymen, orcharders, farmers, restaurant owners. These are Republicans and our party is divided on this issue. I have three points here: First we secure the border. Then we recognize that we have a legal immigration system that's broken and doesn't work for anyone. And we need to remember we're a nation of laws AND a nation of immigrants. What I did in this debate was to vote for every conservative amendment and then I voted for final passage because I wanted the process to continue. Some of the rhetoric I hear (on some shows) has a tone of intolerance. Our tent is INCLUSIVE not EXCLUSIVE.

If we were to pull the troops out of Iraq and violence escalated, would you support a resurgance of American troops?

I've never said pull out of Iraq. Secure, train, equip..but don't keep advancing, clearing and retreating. When you're fighting an insurgency you don't do that. Baghdad is a city like Los Angeles, nearly 7 million people. A little fraction is the Green Zone. If you're going to do a surge you don't need 20k troops, you need 200k. We need the Iraqis to step up. General Petraeus tells me we have a one in four chance that Bush's plan will work. We should be nearby to make sure that Iraq doesn't fall into the hands of Jihadists. That's in our interest. We want Iraqis to see that democracy is in their best interest as well. They need to determine how they want to settle their fight. If they do that will produce peace and they will be the freedom fighters of their country

Q: Why can't we take the handcuffs off our military and let them go into Iran? They're making the IEDs. And there are 7 Marines being held at Camp Pendleton accused unjustly of crimes

I'm going to let the military justice system do its work for the Marines. In terms of Iran, President Bush isn't trying to start a fight. Its not a Democracy like we understand it. Its a theocracy. The Mullahs determine who gets on the ballot. The opportunity to deal with Iran diplomatically is one you need to understand. Iran has overwhelming numbers of young, Pro American people. They want to stop living in the 12th Century. We're seeing already the fruits of these young, Persian kids who want something different. If we attack their opinions could change on a dime. Don't interpret all of Iran as the same as Amadenajahd. If we do, we might see a better result than Iraq.

Q: How do we go about changing the philosophy of the public employees that we seem to be running at loggerheads with during the election? We need to generate private dollars for education. When I sit down with educators I try to explain how our philosophy is good for them. Will you support a program that would bring educators (without their union) to the table about how we support public education, will you come on board with us?

My kids went to Oregon public schools. We have great teachers and I care about them knowing what actually pays the bills. The enviornmental ethic in our country changed--reflected through Clinton and the courts. What's been forgotten is that connection to the land. Our education system needs to remember that. We need to get back to those family wage jobs that come from working the land. If the government is going to ramp down the money they need to ramp up the harvest--so we can go back to the old fashioned way, like we used to do in Oregon. There's a happy medium that will allow us to keep faith with harvesting and enviornmental stewardship. Take the best available science on this and subject it to peer review.

Q: Where was Congress on issues of the treatment of prisoners and the use of $ for civilian contractors?

We had hundreds of Senate hearings on these issues. Dems have not been silent on these hearings. The issues you raise are legit and deserve answers. Congress must exercise oversight. Rumsfeld was excoriated by both parties. Halliburton has undergone constant audits and oversight. Millions have been recouped. When you go into a war zone and need private contractors--its tough to get people who want to go. Its a tough business, many of them have died. I'm not going to defend them--and when they're audited they'll be held to account and the money will be recouped. It will happen no matter which party has the gavel.

Q: What issues do you think will bring our fractured party back together? (One or two issues)

Concern about the war--we need to be united on the War on Terror. Fight this war intelligently. Health care affordablity. Education. Renewable energy--there's an issue where Oregon is beautifully situated to provide America with this energy. We need to commercialize wave energy. Our woods are overgrown--we can clean them up and get into cellunotic(?) ethanol, to provide these renewable fuels. Farmers can also now provide not just food but fuel--in Umatilla County they've got windmills right there with the wheat! Oregonians want a clean enviornment AND renewable energy. Republicans can't be absent on these debates.