Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Good Town Hall Meeting Doesn’t Change Facts

By Christopher Truscott

John KlineU.S. Rep. John Kline should be applauded for the free-flowing town hall meeting he hosted Tuesday night.

Over the course of the two-hour session at Lakeville South High School, the congressman took questions and listened to comments on topics ranging from postal reform to special education funding to the Iraq War.

But while Kline deserves high praise for meeting with several hundred constituents on a blustery Minnesota night, he didn’t say or do anything to earn a fourth term in office. In fact, one’s left wondering how he got a third term.

On the biggest issue facing our country, the bloody civil war in Iraq, Kline proved once again – and once and for all – he’s not one of the people who will lead us out of a quagmire that to date has claimed 3,257 American lives, including 57 Minnesotans.

He acknowledges the need for a political solution to the Sunni-Shiite fighting, but ultimately he’s wedded to a policy of escalation – even citing page 73 of the Iraq Study Group report, which provides tentative support for a “short-term” troop surge. He’s silent, however, on page XIII of the bipartisan document, which calls for expanded diplomatic efforts in the Middle East. (It’s worth noting there are 77 pages between XIII and 73. Did he miss those?)

While the new Democratic majority in Congress is working toward a solution for a war the American people clearly oppose, Kline voted against the House troop funding legislation that calls for an Aug. 31, 2008, end to American military involvement in Iraq.

On Tuesday night he explained he’s opposed to policies that would make “it illegal for our troops to win.” That’s a great attempt at re-framing the debate. It’s also hogwash.

U.S. troops have done everything asked of them. They’ve toppled a dictator, eliminated a weapons of mass destruction threat and helped provide security for democratic elections. “Iraq is sovereign,” according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which means our troops’ work is done.

A deadline will make it clear to Iraqis that our military commitment to their country is not open-ended and it’s time for them to “stand up” and for us to “stand down.” We’re giving them more than a year’s worth of notice. If the government in Baghdad isn’t ready to take control of its affairs by then, it never will be.

Nearly four years after the fall of the Iraqi capital, Kline’s strategy is nothing more than the Stay the Course 2.0 plan the White House unveiled in January. While his past military service is commendable, Kline’s performance as a check on an administration in dangerously over its head is terrible.

It’s about time we had a congressman who’s willing to adjust his thinking as circumstances change. It’s about time we had a congressman who’s willing to think outside the box when it comes to creating solutions to the serious issues facing our country. It’s about time we had a congressman with a reality-based foreign policy.

Folksy charm isn’t a substitute for those important qualities. We deserve better and given the daunting nature of the challenges America faces, we need better. There’s too much on the line for the more-of-the-same thinking that got us where we are today.

Will the next 2nd Congressional District representative please step forward?

Christopher Truscott can be reached at chris.truscott@gmail.com. After he’s retired from Congress, Kline should take his town hall meeting show on the road. He might even score a time slot on cable access television.

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