Democratic candidate Peter Buckley sharply rebuked his rival, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., for not attending a candidate’s forum at the Hood River Middle School on Tuesday.
“He does still live here doesn’t he?” quipped Buckley after telling the 30-member audience that he “passionately” believed that a public debate was necessary to highlight their ideological differences.
Camille Hukari, who represented Walden at the forum sponsored by the Citizens for Responsible Growth, apologized for his absence but explained that the elected official had just gotten out of a federal legislative session to set the national budget and debate possible military action against Iraq. She said Walden was following that workload with attendance at 56 events in 15 of his 20 counties.
“Greg is always being pulled in a lot of different directions, particularly this time of year, and unfortunately his schedule doesn’t allow him to be everywhere he’d like to be,” said Dallas Boyd, Walden’s legislative assistant, in a follow-up interview.
However, even Walden’s written response to a question submitted by Mark Nykanen of Columbia River Fellowship for Peace showcased the sharp differences between the two rivals for the Second District Congressional seat.
The federal candidates gave divisively different answers to the question, “Do you support the new doctrine of ’pre-emptive’ attack proposed by the Bush Administration, which reverses established international law that has developed over the last century, and do you feel a pre-emptive attack on Iraq will destabilize the Middle East?”
Walden, who is seeking a third term in office, said he was “hopeful” that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction could be eliminated without using military force. However, he believes the United States has to reserve the right to use force if diplomatic efforts failed.
“It would be irresponsible of America’s leaders to allow a profound threat to our national security to gather without using every means at our disposal to neutralize it,” Walden wrote.
Buckley began his response with a quote by Gen. Dwight Eisenhower that termed a pre-emptive strike as a “foolish idea” and warned against listening to anyone who suggested it.
“I’m absolutely opposed to this war in Iraq, I think it stinks,” said Buckley. “There is a different way besides bloodshed to resolve differences.”
In fact, Buckley suggested during the evening that the answer to some of the country’s budget woes over unfunded government mandates was to cut the $11 billion national defense expenditure for a nuclear weapons shield.
In his campaign platform, Buckley, an arts administrator from Ashland, contends that the War on Terrorism needs to be centered on bringing the world a better understanding about American values of democracy and justice — instead of a “mockery” of true leadership.
He said the nation needed to live up its ideals and stop “massive” expenditures on weapons systems and focus its energies on searching out the root of the problem that creates terrorism.
“If we need to have a war on terrorism let’s go after Al Qaida but let’s respect international law,” said Buckley, who believes military action will bring polarity between the United States and the Middle East.
Conversely, Walden said that use of the proper military action against Iraq could have an overall stabilizing effect in the region since Hussein’s regime was responsible for much of the current unrest.
He said that was evidenced by two “aggressive” wars against Iran and Kuwait, as well as attacks launched on Saudi Arabia and Israel and payment to families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
“Removing Saddam from power may well have the effect of cooling tensions around the region, especially if we try to ensure that a post-Saddam government of Iraq is a functioning democracy, which could inspire democratic reforms around the Arab world,” Walden said.
Both Walden and Buckley unanimously joined four Oregon House and Senate candidates in the belief that public school funding needed to be secured and given top priority at all levels of government.
At the forum Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, faced off with her Democratic challenger Larry Cramblett of Cascade Locks.
They were joined on the platform by Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches and his Republican rival Bob Montgomery, also of Cascade Locks.
All four contenders for state office were united in their opposition to Ballot Measure 27 which would require foods containing genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled.
The candidates said the new law would place huge hikes in production costs on farmers who were already struggling financially.
In addition, they said Oregon would be the only state with the regulation and would be placed at a marketing disadvantage.