Citizen Staff Writer
Editor’s note: U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, and her opponent, Republican state Senate President Tim Bee met with the Tucson Citizen Editorial Board last week to discuss several major issues. Here are excerpts from the discussion.
Bee: The way this bill went through is a perfect example of what’s wrong with the process.
My biggest concerns are that the House did not pick back up after they left, it went to the Senate to solve the problem. And the Senate put on a lot of proposals, many of them reasonable and good.
So we created a tremendous amount of debt for our citizens for the future. I hope that we can pay it off.
But I think there could have been other alternatives. I believe something had to be done and I would agree that action needed to be taken. But I would have liked to see it worked with much more accountability to the taxpayers.
(The first time this came to the House floor) I would have gone to my leadership and encouraged them to work hard to come up with a plan that was less costly to the taxpayers and did not place that entire burden upon to us. (Failing that,) yes, I would have voted against it.
Did she (Giffords) do the right thing when she voted for the second bill? I believed she should have still used her vote to leverage with leadership to come up with a better package.
Giffords: I’ve heard from thousands of my constituents, more than 4,000 to be precise, on this bailout package or rescue plan.
Leading up to the vote on Monday, the calls were split 50/50: Fifty percent “no,” and 50 percent “hell, no, don’t vote for this legislation.”
The legislation was rammed through the Congress. We didn’t have a chance to explain it to the constituents.
We saw the Treasury head present basically a $700 billion line of credit with very little options and the legislation wasn’t ready to move. And I felt that by voting “no”, I could leverage my vote to get a better bill. And we did get a better bill.
Certainly this legislation is far from perfect. It is an enormous piece of legislation and it includes everything, including the kitchen sink.
When we saw that the Dow dropped 700 points on Monday, the calls started to change. On Monday afternoon, people started calling in from Green Valley and Sierra Vista, a lot of retirees, saying, “I lost 30 percent of my retirement. I lost 20 percent of my 40a(k).”
The bill got better. We saw a bill that enabled the taxpayers to get something out of this initially which was the property tax credit, the education tax credit, the child tax credit and the solar tax credit.
The economy is in the biggest crisis we’ve seen since the Great Depression. And the Congress had to act. I think we got a better bill.
IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
Giffords: The war in Afghanistan is completely different from the war in Iraq. And I think a lot of Americans don’t understand the differences.
When we were attacked on 9/11, the Taliban leadership and the training for al-Qaida came from Afghanistan. That’s where we knew Osama bin Laden was hiding out.
Unfortunately, we took our eye off the ball. We were given false information, we ended up going into Iraq. And I think when history is written about this, it will be the worst decision this country has ever made. We spend $345 million every single day in Iraq.
I think there is a big difference between the war and the warriors and I’m going to stand behind the men and women in uniform who are currently deployed over there and serving us with great honor and great courage.
But we need to refocus on the future fight against terrorism and that’s in the tribal areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s where we know that Osama bin Laden is hiding out, that’s where we know that other shadowy terrorists are gaining power.
And yet we are so heavily involved in Iraq. I’m the first new member of Congress to travel to Iraq, I’ve returned to Iraq to meet with some of the top commanders there, I’ve been to Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of my responsibility of serving on the Armed Services Committee.
But I don’t believe, as my opponent does, that you can just listen to our top military commanders. They’re smart, they’re professional, they know what they are doing.
But this Constitution was designed and our country was designed so that we have a civilian overseeing the military. It’s a fundamental part of who we are as a nation.
Our job is oversight.
Bee: I don’t believe Congress should be in the role of trying to second-guess what our commanders in the field are doing. I would support our troops 100 percent and the decisions that are being recommended back by commanders.
I do not believe that we should have a timetable for surrender based on political decisions made by Congress. I believe that we need to support our military leaders and in doing so respect what their opinions are on the ground.
I believe that we have to win these battles. When you put out a timetable, you’re basically telling your opponent in those battles when you’re going to be done. And that, I don’t believe, will leave you in a situation that will lead to success.
The surge has been very successful. We’re already starting to see a transfer of authority to the Iraqi government. I understand that we are now at pre-surge troop levels in Iraq.
The strategy needs obviously to be to move the Iraqi people toward self-defense and governance as quickly as possible. And as we reach goals and markers of success, then we can withdraw. And I think those things are starting to happen.
After my opponent went to Iraq, she came back and continued to oppose the surge. I would never vote to delay or hold up in any way equipment for our troops while they are on the battlefield. I think that puts them in a very dangerous situation.
What I believe happened with Iraq is it has become a very political issue within the nation. The debate between the parties and even within parties has caused it to be very divisive. That’s impacted the ability of our men and women to serve us.
I’ve spoken numerous times with some of our colonels who have told me you cannot support the warrior without also supporting them in doing their mission.
I don’t believe Congress should be setting the military strategy.
Bee: We have to remove some of the special interests and get it down to where the members themselves can focus on the problem. You get different groups out there who may have concerns about policies along the border, such as the unions.
We’ve tried tackling all of the areas around immigration at one time. I think we could work to solve the problems right away by tackling two fronts.
One, I think we need to have a temporary guest worker program. I believe that would solve a majority of the traffic that is coming across the border.
It would put the coyotes and human smugglers out of business because people would be able to have legal documentation into our country to work.
And I think that could be combined with a step that continues to complete the border security infrastructure, which is partially a fence, partially the vehicle detention barriers and partially the technology.
Giffords: Immigration is such a complicated issue and we’re not talking about it as much as we did two years ago.
There have been a lot of efforts put forward. We passed the Department of Homeland Security funding and appropriated $167 million over the president’s request. This included 3,000 additional Border Patrol officers. It included additional funding for fencing. I do not support the building of a fence across the entire 2,000 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border. It’s expensive and it’s not effective.
We do have to pass a comprehensive bill. People don’t like that term. I think it’s the best term in terms of looking at a bill that would address the guest worker program, address the security standpoint, the employee verification, the employer sanction standpoint.
A lot of the stuff we can agree on. The hardest is what do we do with the 10 million to 12 million people who are here illegally.
(President Bush cam to Tucson in July for a fundraising event for Bee. Local law enforcement agencies spent about $99,000 providing security for Bush. Readers asked us to ask Bee if he planned to repay that cost.)
BEE: I would be happy to sit down and talk with the local governments about that. What I would want to make sure is that we knew exactly what those services were used for.
I have never declined to pay those services.
In working with the president, whether it is Democrat or Republican, and bringing them in to support a candidate, there are processes that have been in place since President Reagan. They have been used by all presidents since that time with all candidates.
We have reimbursed the White House close to $130,000, for costs associated with the event. We’re more than happy to sit down and discuss with people what’s due here.
But if we’re going to change the policy, then it needs to be changed for everyone.
To see video of the Tucson Citizen Editorial Board’s meeting with Tim Bee and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, see this story at www.tucson citizen.com/opinion
PAUL DAVIS, LIBERTARIAN
Davis won a spot on the November ballot as a write-in candidate in the primary. He lives in Sierra Vista and owns a coffee shop.
• The bailout: Government shouldn’t be involved in regulation of markets. Markets will regulate themselves, if allowed to.
• Iraq, Afghanistan: Iraq was a mistake from the get-go. The Iraqi people want us out of there. We should have a U.N. referendum and if the Iraqi people want us out of there, we leave, if we’re really there just to protect them and not to get the oil.
On Afghanistan, here we are meddling in these affairs of other countries and it’s always for the best of intentions, but the result is that we end up, in many cases, siding with dictators, tyrants and despots who are rabidly opposed by the people in their countries.