Jeff Merkley Liveblogs

Last Saturday, Jeff Merkley hosted an hour-long live-blogging session on his campaign site in which he answered questions on a variety of topics. One question dealt with Merkley's plan for Iraq (question in italics):

In the democratic primary debates, many of the presidential candidates have revealed that their idea of a safe withdrawal of troops from Iraq is more about the safety of the government that has been set up in Iraq than the safety of the troops... Do you really support the withdrawal of U.S. troops, or is your support like our presidential candidates contingent upon the survival of the puppet government?

Thanks for the question, Tricia. We need to get our troops off of the checkpoints and patrols and start bringing them home today. Their continued presence continues the Iraqi sense of the US as an occupying force, delaying the transitions to Iraqi control.

There are five things that we need to do.
1) Intense diplomacy with Iran, Syria, and Turkey to avoid a broader war.
2) Fund Iraqi reconstruction through Iraqi contractors, not through 180,000 American contractors.
3) Continue support for the branches of the government, particularly the Parliament and Judiciary.
4) Make sure that we don't leave any permanent base in Iraq, which would pose a long-term problem for our relationship with the Islamic world.
5) Get our combat troops home, starting immediately. The Senate should send the Reid-Feingold amendment to the President setting a strict schedule for withdrawal.

There is no question that Iraq will be a mess after we leave. It is in chaos now and will be for some considerable time to come. This must not stop us from getting our troops home.

Several questioners asked Merkley about his views on healthcare, and he outlined some of his ideas:

** Every American must have access to affordable healthcare, fulfilling Truman's vision from more than 60 years ago. It is not morally acceptable to have 50 million Americans without access to healthcare (including about 650,000 in Oregon!).

** The US system needs to focus on prevention, primary care, and chronic disease management. Because we don't currently do this, we have the most expensive system in the industrialized world but one of the least effective. Focusing on these services will save money and produce better outcomes than the current reliance on hospitals and emergency rooms.

** We need to stop the drug companies from ripping off our citizens!! We pay more for drugs than any other nation, even though the drugs were developed with our government funded research. This is outrageous.

** We need to greatly strenghten our clinics in both rural and urban areas. These clinics are the gateway to healthcare for many citizens and communities and are highly cost-effective.

As a first step, I will immediately sign on as a co-sponsor of Senator Wyden's Healthy Americans Act.

Other questions dealth with Iran and Iraq again (questions in italics, answers in bold):

If you were in the Senate would you have voted for the Kyl/Lieberman amendment that designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization?

No. I would have voted with Senator Wyden against it. I don't trust Bush; he might try to use this amendment to attack Iran.

Would you have supperted the amendment put forward by Sen. Russ Feingold that would have only allowed funding on non-military actions in Iraq, as Gordon Smith refused to do.

Yes. I support the Reid-Feingold amendment.

You can read the rest and discuss at Merkley's campaign blog.


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