I attended today’s listening meeting in Big Flats. There were about sixty people there filling the room. The audience was predominately older white males; there were about ten women. The meeting lasted a little less than an hour. Tom passed out the President’s proposed resolution and a copy of a Washington Post article on Syria, gave a short speech, and invited the audience to ask questions. Here is a summary of the speakers called on by Reed’s aide Joe Sempolinski.
- What is our strategic interest? (Speaker identified with Tea Party)
- Focus on domestic issues. (Chesapeake Energy employee)
- Administration has no policy.
- Why go alone?
- Focus on Iran.
- What is the end to this?
- Will President Obama act regardless.
- President was rash in drawing line.
- President was rash.
- Is there a path that won’t lead to war?
- What about other countries?
- What about other countries? (first of two women to speak)
- Will this lead to proliferation of chemical weapons?
- Could non-military sanctions be used instead of weapons? (one of two women to speak)
- What would happen if we do nothing?
- President Obama lacks credibility; we need a new president.
- Gave a list of scandals.
- Congress should avoid politics and give the President a broad mandate. (my view)
- What does the administration say about their strategy?
- Administration has no credibility.
- What if the President acts without approval of Congress?
At the end Joe called for a vote by show of hands on the draft resolution. The audience favored a no vote by four to one. However, no alternative proposal was offered.
Tom repeated his belief that he considers the situation complex and dangerous. He fears escalation and unintended consequences. He feels we should focus on domestic issues. On Syria he said:
- Assad government is irresponsible.
- unacceptable use of chemical weapons.
- no clear right and wrong in the two factions: government and rebels.
- civil war.
- Obama Administration irresponsibility led to this dilemma.
Tom said we should act to limit the spread of chemical weapons, he got in another dig at the administration, and he opposed a rush to escalation. He noted that the President’s draft resolution might be altered before an expected vote. He said he would be guided by the views of his constituents in deciding how to cast his vote.
(the above is based on notes I took during the meeting)