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Unfazed by new “watch,” and other Lantos musings

By rgordon
Monday, March 19th, 2007 at 5:45 pm in Uncategorized.

Tom LantosA handful of residents have started up Lantos Watch, an activist group of sorts to push Congressman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, to represent their views with his votes, as well as to get people to pay closer attention to what is (and isn’t) going on in Washington.

Used to seeing Lantos in Congress for so long – this marks his 14th term – constituents have become too complacent, said Burlingame resident Pat Gray, a founding member of Lantos Watch.

“Every time he sends out his nice little fliers and campaign information and his report from Congress, it all just sounds swell and everybody just doesn’t really think about or pay attention to what are his actual votes in Congress,” said Gray, who ran against Lantos in 2004 as the Green Party candidate. “In fact, if they knew how he was voting, the might not be so pleased.”

The group held their first meeting Thursday night.

“We want to kind of push him more to be concerned about the feelings of the people here in the district,” Gray said. “Specifically, of course, with this war.”

Asked about it Friday, however, Lantos was unfazed, and perhaps even a little nonplussed, by the watch formation.

“I was elected to my 14th term by my constituents – who have been watching me – with 75 percent of the vote,” Lantos said. “So I welcome whatever this outfit is and whatever their views are, they are entitled to their views.

“I want my constituents to watch the voting record of their Congressman,” he continued. “Since I am running for my 15th term in November of 2008, I very much hope that all of my constituents will watch me very closely.”

The group criticizes Lantos, the chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, for voting to authorize the Iraq war.

His vote, he said, was based on the intelligence Congress was provided with at the time. Now, he advocates for a timetable for troop withdrawal, calling the conflict “the most spectacularly mismanaged war in American history.”

“It is not our job to referee a religiously-based, intra-Muslim civil war indefinitely,” Lantos said. “We have done more than our share. And I believe the administration is dead wrong in moving ahead with a surge, pouring more money and more of our precious human resources into the Iraq war.”

Lantos also offered several thoughts on the issues facing our world, government and Congressional district in a meeting at his San Mateo office Friday with the Insider. We’re posting the entire interview online on Radio SMCT. The first half of the interview appears today; the second part will appear Tuesday. To listen, just click on the Radio SMCT “play” button on our home page.

To whet your appetite, here’s a smattering of Lantos thoughts on a variety of issues that we asked him about:

On his initial vote to go war:

“If the fire department gets a call that there is a fire on the corner of Third and El Camino and the fire engines go out and find that this was a false alarm, you don’t blame the fire department. Our intelligence apparatus and the intelligence apparatus of all of our Western allies were convinced that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That was false intelligence. That is the intelligence we were presented and we voted on the basis of that intelligence.”

On NATO’s perceived lack of participation in Afghanistan:

“For two generations, the United States had hundreds of thousands of our fine troops in Europe protecting these very European countries from being invaded by the Soviet Union. And when we need their assistance, when we want them to share the burden, they tell us they won’t do it. This is really the litmus paper of the future of NATO and I think I will probably use my chairmanship on the Foreign Affairs Committee as one megaphone to embarrass some of these European countries for their failure to carry their share of the load.”

On the scandal over the firing of U.S. attorneys plaguing Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez:

“I have called publicly for his resignation and if he doesn’t resign, the president needs to fire him. The Senate Judiciary Committee is chaired at the moment by one of the finest people in Congress, my dear friend, Patrick Leahy of Vermont. You don’t lie to Patrick Leahy, and Patrick Leahy was lied to.”

On the recent local immigration raids:

“That’s not the way the United States should function, take mothers away from children. This is not in consonance with the values of the American people. And while we are dealing with a vast number of instances across the country, some are clearly unjustified and irresponsible, others where there may be extenuating circumstances. This is not the way the American people function. We are the most humane and generous and civilized and people-oriented society on this planet. And I fully anticipate once this comprehensive immigration legislation – which I favor and I will vote for – will become the law of the land, this issue will be behind us.”

On how long Lantos will keep running for office:

“I’m in excellent, physical, mental, intellectual and emotional condition. And as long as this prevails, I intend to run. I don’t know how many terms that is, but it certainly is valid for the upcoming term. I am running for re-election in 2008 and I fully expect to be elected in November 2008.”

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