Saturday, June 28, 2008

Better than Brokaw hosting Meet the Press; A 13th CD Harper-Biggert virtual debate on the War, Cable and Streaming

Jeff Berkowitz: You’re saying you might recommend he [Obama] make those tactical changes, slow down the withdrawal?.

Scott Harper (D-Lockport, 13th Cong. District Candidate): I will listen to the experts in the field and try to make the mid-course corrections that we need within the overall framework. I don’t think we should have a permanent presence in Iraq.[Watch the show with Scott Harper here ]
The Biggert-Harper Difference on the War:

Jeff Berkowitz: The war. That would certainly seem to be one of those issues[where there is a major difference between the incumbent and you], because Judy Biggert, I believe, supported going into Iraq, way back in 2002 or 2003 when we went in. I think [Biggert] voted to give the President authorization to take military action. Barack Obama said on the set of Public Affairs in November of 2002 he would not have voted—the vote had already occurred—to authorize the President to take military action. If Scott Harper was in Congress in 2002, you wouldn’t have voted either to authorize the President to take military action, right?

Scott Harper [D-Lockport, 13th CD candidate]: That is correct, Jeff. In fact, at the very same time that Senator Obama was here, talking with you, I was against the war. From the beginning. I didn’t think that it served our national security interest. And I’m very disappointed that Judy Biggert has voted fifty-seven times on various resolutions and bills to give the President a blank check on his Iraq policy. [Biggert has] voted for over five hundred billion dollars in Iraq war spending, with no timelines, no responsibility. I think that that needs to change.

Clinton, Edwards and Kerry voted yes on Iraq War.

Jeff Berkowitz: Much of the country, many of the leaders—Democratic and Republican—almost a majority, I believe, in the Senate, of the Democratic party, voted to authorize the President to take military action. Many of the people who have run for President and were running—Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore, as I recall—I guess we wouldn’t say Al Gore because he wasn’t there at the time, but certainly John Kerry did. And John Edwards did. And Hillary Clinton did. Vote to authorize the President to take military action in Iraq, if he chose to, if he decided it was necessary. And those folks certainly bought into the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction. Many of our allies and even our critics bought into the notion that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But you, Scott Harper, sitting there in 2002, decided that there weren’t?

Harper predicted chemical weapons in Iraq

Scott Harper [D-Lockport]: I thought that there might well be. I was very involved in following the debate. Clearly I wasn’t a participant in the Senate debate or the House debate at that time. But it seemed to me at the time that there might well be chemical weapons. I had grave doubts about nuclear weapons, in particular, and thought that case seemed particularly weak.

Jeff Berkowitz: You thought there might be chemical weapons, which would be weapons of mass destruction-

Scott Harper [D-Lockport, 13th CD candidate]: By the definition that we had.

Jeff Berkowitz: And yet you wouldn’t have authorized the President to take military action.

Harper wanted to see diplomatic negotiations run their course in Iraq.

Scott Harper [D-Lockport]: I would not have. I wanted to see the diplomatic negotiations play their course. Remember, we had a very strict embargo at the time and the no-fly zones in the south and in the north of Iraq. Iraq was contained. And I didn’t think that if Iraq had chemical weapons, without missiles that could reach the United States, that that was a threat to our national security.

June, 2008, the surge has worked?

Jeff Berkowitz: But now scroll forward to June of 2008. And now take a look at the situation. Many people have said it’s been a rocky road, but security has improved, they would argue. They would argue security has improved in Iraq. The Iraqis have gotten better and closer to being able to defend themselves. They would argue that the surge has worked—militarily, diplomatically, and economically. [That is] certainly what John McCain would argue. They would argue 12 of 18 of the milestones have been achieved, and these are not simply military milestones that the surge set out as things they were trying to accomplish. They would say that there are provincial elections coming up, or that some have occurred. They would say that Sunni-Shia cooperation, at least locally, is much better than it was before. That a country is emerging and that the United States should try to wind up things. But these people would say, don’t set a date certain [deadline for withdrawal of all troops]; don’t set a date for surrender. Give Iraq a chance—whether it was right to go into Iraq or not, historians will argue about that, as we have discussed. But putting that aside, in terms of the future course of action—should the United States give the flexibility to Iraq—if they want us to stay, and it appears the government does--to ease out of there, rather than say, as Barack Obama has done, we should be out of there in sixteen months? A brigade a month [withdrawn] until basically, many but not all of the combat troops [are withdrawn]—I think [Obama] would say, get it down to twenty or thirty thousand troops, although Barack’s been a little vague on that. But more importantly, what does Scott Harper say? Because, I understand you were against [going into Iraq], but given the situation—have I got it wrong, or these people who say that things have gotten better, 12 out of 18 milestones have been achieved, security’s better, things are better, in Iraq? Are they wrong?

Scott Harper: You went quickly from the authorization to the surge.

Jeff Berkowitz: Yeah. It’s only a half-hour show.

Post invasion war mismanagement.

Scott Harper: Let me just circle back very quickly to the actual running of the war. Post-invasion, it was so badly mismanaged, the way we occupied the country, and did not protect the Iraqi people, did not protect the infrastructure, did not invest as we said we were going to do. And had the wrong military strategy. But, to your question, now that we’re there, we have to deal with the facts on the ground. And I’m very pleased that the violence is down. And that the surge has worked militarily. But let’s not forget that the purpose of the surge was to allow a political space for the Iraqi government and the various factions in Iraq to work out their differences, whether it’s community relations, whether it’s the oil revenue, whether it’s the role of militias.

Post Surge improvement in Iraq.

Jeff Berkowitz: Aren’t they working those out? I think there’s a tentative oil-sharing agreement among the three major groups, the Sunni, the Shia, and the Kurds. Am I wrong on that?

Scott Harper: It seems like there is some movement, but it’s certainly not the milestones we set at the beginning of the surge. They’re not accomplished.

Milestones met in Iraq

Jeff Berkowitz: But, some of the political milestones have been reached, in addition to the military milestones, you would agree, 12 out of 18? All 12 of those weren’t military, right?

Scott Harper: Could I just follow back to the surge for a second? One factor about the surge and the military success on that front, is that it’s required so many military resources, in terms of our brave soldiers and Marines and airmen.

Jeff Berkowitz: Sure.

Support the Troops.

Scott Harper: And sailors. And, when they come home, they’re not necessarily taken care of. This talking point of “supporting our troops,” as a way to sell-

Jeff Berkowitz: Judy Biggert says “support the troops?”

Scott Harper: She does.

Jeff Berkowitz: Well, let me just interject. You’re giving very specific answers here, and I appreciate that, because if you go to Judy Biggert’s web site , which I’ve done, you don’t find all the answers there, that is why we want Congresswoman Biggert to come out here separately, and with you, Scott.

Scott Harper: That would be great. But when we say, “support the troops,” that doesn’t stop at the battle’s edge. That philosophy of supporting our troops needs to follow them home. And Judy Biggert voted against VA funding, voted against this new GI Bill. These are all unconscionable hypocrisies in my view, when we use that phrase to support the funding of the war without timelines or accountability, but not to support them in their human needs—back in their families--

Jeff Berkowitz: But get to my question. Because we’ve got to get to other topics.

Scott Harper: Yes, let’s get back to the Surge.

Jeff Berkowitz: What we should do now? Post-June 22, 2008.

Scott Harper: I’m in quite close agreement with Senator Obama on his plan. My sense is that if we have a strategic, phased, withdrawal, that starts now and provides that accountability, that we can empower the Iraqi government to take the further steps. We’re in agreement that they’ve taken some steps. Now let’s empower them to take further steps, to stand up for themselves and protect the Iraqi people.

Slow down the projected troop withdrawal in Iraq?

Jeff Berkowitz: What if they take those steps, and say, six months later, with us taking out, say, forty thousand troops, they say to us, we’re not quite ready. We appreciate that you’ve got to eventually bring these troops home, but close it down for a little bit, give us a chance. We’re making progress, economically, militarily, and even diplomatically. The Iraqi government says that to us, says that to Barack Obama as President. Think that Barack ought to change at that point?

Scott Harper: I think that we have to be reality-based. When we’re formulating policy, that’s as important as the safety of our troops, as the future of the country of Iraq, we have to be reality-based. And that’s my complaint with the Bush administration and with Judy Biggert.

Jeff Berkowitz: But, what does that mean? Go forward with my hypothetical. Six months into a Barack Obama presidency, he’s taken out forty thousand troops, fifty thousand-- a brigade a month-- and the Iraqi government says, we need a little more time, slow down the troop withdrawal. Does Barack listen to them and try to give this government in Iraq a chance to succeed?

Scott Harper: My sense is-

Jeff Berkowitz: Should he? I’m not predicting what he would, but should he?

Scott Harper: Right. We want to listen to the Iraqi government. We want to listen to the generals on the ground. We want to have a policy that makes sense, but if we have the intention clear in the minds of both the Iraqi government and our senior military leadership, if they have a goal to shoot for, if they know that in sixteen or eighteen months or whatever the timeline we decide on is, then they can take the appropriate steps, they can do the tactical planning. And, if something changes-

Jeff Berkowitz: So your answer is keep the withdrawal going, notwithstanding what the Iraqi government asks of President Barack Obama.

Scott Harper: Sometimes you have to make tactical changes to a strategic plan.

Harper might slow down the troop withdrawal.

Jeff Berkowitz: You’re saying you might recommend he [Obama] make those tactical changes, slow down the withdrawal?.

Scott Harper(D-Lockport, 13th CD Candidate): I will listen to the experts in the field and try to make the mid-course corrections that we need within the overall framework. I don’t think we should have a permanent presence in Iraq.
From this week's Chicago Metro North and Northwesterrn suburban edition of Public Affairs, 13th CD Democratic Nominee Scott Harper debates the issues with show host and executive legal recruiter Jeff Berkowitz; show was taped on June 22, 2008. For more about the show's topics, the guest and the upcoming airings next week of the show in Chicago, Aurora and across the State of illinois, go here. To watch the show on your computer, go here.
Thanks to "Public Affairs," intern Amy Allen for preparing a draft of the above partial transcript of our show with 13th CD Democratic Nominee Scott Harper.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at You may watch "Public Affairs," shows with Presidential Candidates Obama, McCain, Giuliani and Cox, this week's show in the Chicago Metro suburbs with 13th CD Dem. Nominee Scott Harper, last week's show in Chicago and Aurora with State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago); this past Monday night's city of Chicago and city of Aurora edition of "Public Affairs," featuring State Senator John Cullerton (D-Chicago), our prior shows with Comm. Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago), State Rep. Candidate Joan Solms (R-Aurora), 6th CD Democratic candidate, Colonel Jill Morgenthaler (Ret.), State Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and shows with many other pols at
Recently posted shows on the Public Affairs YouTube page include this week's show in the Chicago Metro North and Northwest Cook County suburbs with 13th CD Dem. Nominee Scott Harper, last week's show in Chicago and Aurora with Sen. Kwame Raoul(D-Chicago), last Monday night's show in Chicago and Aurora with Senator John Cullerton (D-Chicago)- watch here; our prior shows with State Rep. candidate Joan Solms (R-Aurora), Comm. Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago) on the Obama Presidential campaign and shows with many other pols