Just got back from the two-hour exercise in futility that was Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) Portland Town Hall on Iraq at the near-capacity (about 400) Hoffman Hall at Portland State.
Lots of people wanting to ask questions. Lots of condescencion from Wyden about how the Senate doesn’t initiate impeachment and that he has to remain impartial as a potential juror just in case impeachment ever does happen which he thinks it shouldn’t because it would take up all the time the Senate needs to do important things like end the war, provide health care to every American, and get a Democrat into the White House (and apparently pass last week’s FISA extension). It was a rowdy crowd, and while Wyden got kudos from a number of people for his votes against the Iraq AUMF and war funding, he was jeered a number of times for statements on impeachment.
I had the misfortune of accidentally sitting in the middle of a bunch of 9/11 conspiracy theorists who were pretty vocal (although I have to admit I joined the general mob on a couple of points) so I may have been more in the thick of things than most.
A number of people pressed Wyden on the Israel/Palestine issue, since the Iraq Study Group made that a central point in the plan they put forth many moons ago. Wyden kept coming back to the amazing offer Ehud Barak offered Yasir Arafat in 2000, which seemed to rile a number of people — including the 9/11 contheos. Perhaps Wyden doesn’t realize that there’s some dispute about how wonderful the offer was.
My number to ask questions was 75, and as the second hour wound to a close and they started cutting things off, I think they were only up to the low 30s. There were a number of good questions and statements from people — mostly mothers — with children or more in service in Iraq. A lot of people wanting to know when the Democrats were going to end the war.
At one point, when answering an impeachment question, Wyden talked about how long and drawn-out the Senate trial would be. He made it seem as if there would be trucks full of evidence parking in the chamber. I thought I knew a piece of info and double-checked it on my Treo so that I could incorporate it into my question but one of the other folks who’d been sitting a couple of rows in front of me got there first and asked him if he knew how long the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton had lasted. I couldn’t hear if he actually said anything, but people in the audience started shouting it out: “One month” (January 7, 1999 to February 12, 1999).
So I didn’t get to ask him any of the questions I had bubbling in my head in front of the audience. I walked up to the front of the auditorium as he was shaking hands and let the old ladies and the people who knew him press the flesh first, because I’m nothing if not polite. Just before it looked like he was about to take off, I gave him one of my cards and introduced myself, then asked him the question I’d settled on.
“Senator, do you really trust these guys?”
He grinned at me and said “I believe in the Reagan Rule: Trust but verify.” Then he went on to explain how he was my guy in Washington to provide verification, but I have to admit I was a little stunned, well, no, really stunned, because after the past seven years of lies, evasions, and degradation this country has been subjected to by the Bush administration, I just wanted to say “Are you fucking kidding, Senator?”
I’m nothing if not polite. I didn’t say that. But I have to believe that anyone who thinks that they can start from a position of trust with the Bush administration at this point is incredibly naive.