On January 31 I met with Representative Kurt Schrader to find out what his attitudes were on several of Oregon PeaceWorksâ€™ issues. Here are the questions I asked him followed by my notes on his answers.
Ending the Wars
Q. What specific steps will you take this year to pressure the administration to end the war in a safe, quick and responsible way?
A: Schrader does not agree with Obamaâ€™s view of the war and will not vote for supplemental appropriations to support it. He will work to hold Biden and Obama to the current timeline for withdrawal. He will also demand an accounting on the 5 criteria that Obama put forward in 2009 to determine whether the war is achieving its goals.
I did not ask him about the â€œjust warâ€ criteria Obama cited in his Nobel acceptance speech:
- The war must be waged as a last resort or in self defense,
- The force used must be proportional to the goals sought,
- Civilians must, whenever possible, be spared from violence.
Q. What specific steps will you take this year to counteract the pressure from Republicans and the military to continue theÂ unnecessary and costly war in Afghanistan?
A: Schrader was not specific on this, but indicated that he would be applying pressure to Obama as noted above and in opposition to the Rs.
Q. Do you know how many troops will leave Afghanistan in July? What about the rest?
A: He was not sure about July, but believes that Obama means to remove them all by 2014(!). He said he would â€œraise a hue and cryâ€ if the Administration fails to hit the benchmarks that would lead to that. He said that he would like to see us leave Afghanistan sooner than 2014, but said he does not think it too likely.
Q. Will you continue to oppose more spending for that war?
A: Yes. He also thinks Secretary Gates is on the right track in terms of cutting waste from the military budget and supports that. (Gates proposes to cut $78 billion over 5 years.) Heâ€™s big on fiscal conservatism. I asked if he would support Pete Starkâ€™s HR 413, which would answer the Republicansâ€™ H. Res. 38 (which cuts spending on non-military items back to 2008 levels) by cutting military spending back to 2008 levels too. Schrader did not know about that effort, but sounded interested in it and asked aide Suzanne Kunze to assign a staffer to look into it.
Addressing Larger Threats
Q. These local wars, disastrous and unaffordable as they are, are far from the worst threats we face. To preserve our country and protect our population, we have to turn our attention to the most devastating threats:
a. Global warming
b. Peak oil
c. The financial crisis, especially the threat that dollars will no longer be used as the currency of oil transactions.
What will you do to protect the U.S. from these threats?
A: Schrader was very interested in the financial crisis part of the question and said that he chairs the Blue Dogsâ€™ Fiscal Responsibility Workgroup. Theyâ€™re working to put forward a plan to reduce the national debt and balance the budget by 2035(!). I shared with him an article (include link) that recently ran on The PeaceWorker website. He does not look for much help from the Republicans in addressing global warming. He did not respond to the part about peak oil.
Q. OPW is working to articulate a comprehensive vision of the world we all want to live in. We are seeking broad input now and will seek broad support later on. Are you interested in this effort, and if so, how can we partner on moving it forward?
A: Schrader was very supportive of this effort and applauded the idea of creating a broad vision. He requested to be shown the â€œagenda,â€ and asked to be kept in the loop as we move forward with peace visioning. I promised to send him our first draft and to seek his comments.
Like his predecessor, Darlene Hooley, Kurt Schrader is a savvy politician who must be very aware that his position as a Democrat in a district with a Republican voting edge makes him vulnerable and likely to be targeted for defeat. This makes him cautious about involving himself in anything that seems â€œleftist.â€ On the other hand, he is intelligent, very personable and open to hearing OPWâ€™s take on issues. He is fiscally conservative (which is probably a good thing, considering the mess the nationâ€™s finances are in), but is often a good vote on socially progressive legislation. Like Hooley, he is probably not going to lead much in those areas. However, he seems approachable by framing our concerns as wider national security issues. Î¦
Peter Bergel is Executive Director of Oregon PeaceWorks and Editor of The PeaceWorker.