Although he is a moderate Democrat and to the right of me, I found him very reasonable and honest. He shared about his fervent hope for a new President, not, he said, simply because he's a Democrat, although there is that too, but because he feels this current President is completely lacking in the abilities to do the job. He spoke of how, for many years, America has been respected around the world, and now has lost that respect, so that 77% of the EU now think poorly of what we're doing in the world. For this reason, he wants to see a new President, be they Republican or Democrat. (Though he might have stronger feelings one way or another in a couple years.) He's of course also looking forward to the mid-term elections, with the hope of gaining control of Congress, so that Congress can begin to institute checks and balances in Washington, and not simply be a rubber stamp to the President's desires. In response to audience suggestions, he disagreed and stated that Chavez and the Iranian President are more extreme than George Bush.
He knew a lot about the Middle East especially, and spoke extensively on this topic. How we need to continue to support Israel- though Israel has made many mistakes, it has the right to exist under U.N. resolution. (He didn't get around to how that U.N. resolution gives the right to exist to Israel only if there is an independent Palestinian state, but he did support a 2-state solution.) How we need to support a non-nuclear Iran. How we should withdraw from Iraq, but slowly, as we're part of security there. However, he strongly questions that we are truly making the regime more stable at this point. And he seemed to indicate some regrets in supporting a carte blanche for George Bush's invasion of Iraq. While Afghanistan was clearly a threat, it seemed that he was saying everyone was caught up in the need to support the President and protect the US from terrorism after 9/11, but a lot of opportunities for diplomacy were wasted in our rush to war.
I had the opportunity to ask two questions of him, and albeit poorly articulated questions, the answers were quite good. The 1st was, considering that Iraq is largly a post-WWI construct imposed by the winning Western powers, and doesn't conform to any large extent to the boundaries of ancient Mesopotamia, and considering all the turmoil there now, why not just create three states, a Kurdistan, a Shi'i state, and a Sunni state? He said that actually he would favor that, and mentioned a Congressman has recently proposed something similar. Congressman Smith said that probably a workable solution would be something like Bosnia-Herzegovinia, with a weak central government and three largely independent sub-states. However, of course, Turkey is the big block to this, as they don't want an independent Kurdistan on their Southern border. He reposited that an independent Kurdistan might actually make the Kurds happier, as they would have something of their own now, and might stop trying to be so independent in Turkey. But a big hurdle is also that a contested area for the proposed Kurdistan is in central Iraq, and oil rich, so there would be much fighting over that.
My 2nd question was, considering the Christian doctrine of loving our enemies, how could he see us as a nation loving Al Qa'ida? He first off made it clear that, while he respects the viewpoint, he's not a pacifist, and believes Americans need to be protected. Then he said as a Christian, he would want to love Ossama bin Laden/Al Qai'da, but seemed to indicate he meant in his heart. But as policy, we needed to protect the U.S. On the other hand, a good way to practically love Al Qai'da (and this was the part of his answer I was most impressed with) would be to help the region out economically, so that those tempted to join Al Qa'ida or those who have joined would have an alternative, and not see the U.S. in such a negative light. This would serve them, and protect the U.S. as well.
Overall, I was very impressed with this Congressman. Since at the moment I'm staying in his district, I asked his aide to help me with the ongoing issue of trying to ascertain if Homeland Security violated my rights by searching my computer when I landed. I was told she would personally look into it and get back to me this week. Two days later Congressman Smith's office contacted me just to let me know that they were still looking into my case. As a small person under a big government, I was very touched.