Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wyden Speaks

You almost never see Senators speak with candor directly to their constituents. On a site he hosts to promote his health care policy, he did today. It's a very lengthy post, but I'm going to excerpt pretty broadly from it, anyway. It's fascinating stuff.
I hope that many of my colleagues who have so far resisted are also meeting with their own constituents and holding their own town halls to discuss the war in Iraq. I hold open town meetings in every county in Oregon each year, but after over 450 of those meetings as a Senator, I have never before witnessed the level of intensity and emotion that I encountered at my recent Iraq-focused meetings. Over 700 people attended these forums, about 150 of them spoke, and many more submitted written comments. The almost unanimous thread in what I heard is that people have had enough....

I have spoken publicly in opposition to the war now several hundred times, many times with reporters and cameras present, but reporters aren't going to produce story after story saying, "Wyden Continues to Oppose War." They see no "news value" in it. It's frustrating, but I still get up every morning looking for ways to help end this war.

One episode from the town meetings which made me scratch my head, but also illustrates the level of frustration out there, came when I answered that if the House impeached the President or Vice-President, or if a censure resolution was considered, I would insist on due process such as a formal presentation of the evidence and a full opportunity for the accused to present evidence and present their case. I finished by saying that we should extend the same due process to President Bush that was extended to President Clinton, and that it shouldn't matter whether you are Independent, Democrat or Republican when it comes to due process. A significant chorus of "no" came from the audience, including cries of "he doesn't deserve it!" When passionate liberals argue in opposition to due process, you know that good and decent people have long ago exceeded their boiling point.

Almost everyone who spoke brought a unique and personal vantage point to the conflict, but I want to highlight a few who really stood out. There was a woman in Portland—whose son and husband are serving in Iraq – who has lost all confidence in the government that is solely responsible for their service. There was the veteran in Medford who has experienced enormous road blocks and lengthy waits to be seen for health problems, including mental health issues. And there was the religious leader in Eugene who talked about the role our government ought to be playing in bringing together peace-loving people of different faiths in troubled regions like Iraq. I wish every Senator could have heard these Oregonians and the other speakers at our meetings.

Finally, there was one gentleman who bravely stood up before a passionately anti-war crowd and made a case for the war and for staying in Iraq. While I strongly disagreed with him, I thought he made a valid point when he challenged me to admit that Iraq will likely be in turmoil if we withdraw. Where I disagree with the speaker, however, is that staying longer in Iraq won't change the outcome, but will result in even more Americans and innocent Iraqis killed, more jihadists recruited and trained to kill Americans, and more money wasted while Americans suffer.

The best news from these town meetings: Oregonians don't see government as a spectator sport, and Oregonians are going to keep pushing for a more sensible and humane foreign policy.
Full post here.

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