Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Moore on campus

Dennis Moore address the KU Young Dems and the Black Students Union last night. His broad theme was the dangers of partisanship, and the importance of civility in politics.

He specifically discussed Iraq, the deficit, protecting child support payments, and – in a discussion with a large crowd of students – talked about civil rights in America, genocide in Darfur ("I don't like genocide"), immigration, free trade (he supports free trade for economic and security reasons), race and poverty in Katrina (poor planning was a more important problem than race and poverty per se, though those are important factors).

Congressman Moore sits on the Science committee in the House, so I spoke with him after the event about the state of science in the federal government. Asked about the complaints of political interference in federal science, he backed global warming as good science based on real evidence and also specifically criticized politicization of science education like what the Kansas Board of Education did. I pressed him about Rush Holt's proposal to revive the OTA, and he said he'd talk with Congressman Holt about that idea.

On Iraq, he said that he authorized the use of force because of 4 classified briefings which convinced him that Saddam was on the verge of attacking America or our allies with WMDs, including one briefing in which he was told that Saddam would have the capacity to have a nuclear weapon within 6 months. He says "we were all wrong." This relies on a rather narrow definition of "we" and "all," since plenty of people who didn't get those briefings didn't buy the claims being made, and we were right.
He repeated a comment he made to retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Myers, "I think we have done all we can do militarily there now." At this point, he sees the nation on the verge of civil war, and that there are no guarantees. The solution will be political, and is in their own hands, no longer ours.

Speaking about the NSA surveillance, he said that "once you give up freedoms, you almost never get them back."

A student asked about the immigration debate. Moore voted for the Sensenbrenner bill in the House, though he said he had strong reservations. He feels that it's too punitive, but hopes it will be fixed in conference committee. As a former prosecutor, he wants people to follow the rules, but he respects immigrants and acknowledges that we can't afford to be shipping 12 million people back to their home nation. He hopes that something like McCain-Kennedy will ultimately emerge from Congress. He didn't say this, but it seems like he voted for the "punitive" bill because he supports the principle of immigration reform. I wonder about that strategy, since he also had to endorse a set of policies he doesn't support.

He described the work he did to ensure that all soldiers returning from active service abroad were given tickets to return home, not just to Atlanta or Baltimore. Two soldiers told him that they gave up opportunities to return home because they couldn't afford the last minute tickets between Atlanta and their home. They stayed in Iraq rather than going home. He submitted a bill, he lobbied the Pentagon, and ultimately ensured that the soldiers could return home. Later, he got a more generous death gratuity for soldiers who die in active duty, again by working across party lines and working with the Pentagon.

There's no doubt that Moore is a deficit hawk, and he criticized Republicans who claim to be conservative while they have increased the national debt by $3 trillion in the last few years. Calling the half triillion dollars spent annually on interest for the debt a "debt tax," he said it was "obscene" to be passing these costs on to my generation and his grandchildren's generation.

He was asked, years after the Civil Rights Act and other efforts to promote equality, why are there more black men in jail than in college. He offered to sit down with a larger group of students to discuss the issue and work toward a solution to what he described as "the $64,000 question."

He and a friend traveled down to No Man's Land six days after Katrina. He ran into Michael Brown and then encountered Clinton's FEMA chief, James Lee Witt. Working with Witt (and skipping Brownie, for whom he has obvious disdain), he managed to send emergency workers to rescue people trapped in a building in New Orleans. He expressed real anger that the federal government and Louisiana didn't do more to strengthen the levees and to prepare for the breach of the levees, even though the breach was anticipated in FEMA and Army Corps planning.

I also asked about the debate over how blog activity should be handled for campaign finance purposes. He said he was unsure about the details of the issue, but supported a media exemption for bloggers and similar media. The controversy relates to how the FEC treats activities like TfK and things like RedState or DailyKos. As it stands, and as of a ruling the FEC issued today, those activities are treated basically the same way that Fox News is treated – exempt from regulation as campaign activity. This is as it ought to be, and I hope Congress backs away from two bills currently in Congress which would add more to this area of the law. At some point problems will emerge and Congress will need to act, but for now, the Internet is a great place for a new kind of political organizing, and there's no need to interfere with that.