U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Dearborn) welcomed members of the University community and other constituents to an intimate dialogue yesterday at the Michigan League. Dingell invited audience members to “tell what you have as matters of concern,” focusing most of the conversation on the impending war against Iraq.

Shabina Khatri
U.S. Rep. John Dingell addresses issues surrounding Iraq and domestic politics last night in the Michigan League.

Dingell repeatedly said he does not support President Bush’s plan to attack Iraq and compared Bush to a headstrong Texas cowboy. “I voted not to give him the authority to go to war,” he said. “(Going to war without allies) is dangerous to us and to the system of collective security.”

Dingell frequently, denounced Bush’s plans because of his failure to focus on possible post-war repercussions and the possibility of going to war with North Korea.

“I think we will have a fairly easy time of destroying Saddam’s army. We have a much more dangerous situation in Korea,” Dingell said. “Throwing away all our capital on Iraq is a stupid blunder. We’re just about over-committed.”

In response to a question from Ann Arbor resident Dennis Mullin, Dingell said he did not remember a government administration situation like this in the past.

“I don’t like to make a partisan comment,” he said, “but George Bush is an unsophisticated student of history if he’s even a student of history at all. Consultation, cooperation and a friendly relationship with other people in the world is important.”

Sonia Chang, an audience member visiting from Boston, asked if anything could be done to prevent the war in Iraq. Dingell said Bush will most likely attack Iraq between March 15 and April 15.

The conversation also focused on criticism of the Bush administration’s politics. Dingell agreed with Mullin, who called Bush’s policies “blatantly political.” Citing decisions and policies on education, health and women’s reproductive rights, Dingell said “this White House is the most intensely political we’ve ever seen.”

Regarding Sen. Trent Lott’s (R-Miss.) controversial remarks about former Sen. Strom Thurmond in December, Dingell said the Republicans “weren’t down on Mr. Lott because he said something they disagreed with, but because he jeopardized their plans for integrating the party.”

Dingell also explained the differences between a successful and an unsuccessful president. “A good president knows you cannot take the country where it doesn’t want to go. Johnson did not know this lesson. Kennedy did. It’s a lesson (Bush) has not learned.”

He reassured audience members that nothing would happen to Arab citizens comparable to the internment of Japanese Americans after World War II.

But he did admit that few politicians listen to the Arab population in Washington. “Does the administration listen to them? No. Are they frustrated? Yes. Does it portend trouble for this country? Very seriously yes,” Dingell said.

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