Tuesday, August 15, 2006

His Master's Voice

Monday evening I attended a talk given by Republican Congressman Dan Lungren at a small church in the town of Elk Grove, CA. He was invited by a group called Elk Grove Peace and Justice Forum. This group and the church have liberal leanings, so for Lungren, being a Republican, to have accepted the invitation was itself a bold and unusual step.

Dan Lungren has considerable political experience (Congressman current and 1978-89, ex-California Attorney-General, member of House Judiciary Committee) so I expected his talk to be an exposition of the thoughts and ideas that go behind a mature politician’s approach. Unfortunately, Lungren had little to offer besides the hackneyed post-9/11 truisms that are already being doled out in good measure by his party and the administration.

His talk centered on the Israel-Hizbullah conflict as he defended the administration's no-ceasefire policy and put the Israeli position in the context of “peace and justice”. There were barely 60 people present in the church, but most of them were anti-war, so when the question-answer session started it became pretty clear that a ceasefire wasn’t coming soon, not in this church! To all questions alike, Lungren tossed back official Republican party lines – at least half a dozen times he qualified his views by adding “as President Bush says”. Except for some disagreement with the administration’s fiscal approach, everything conformed to the GOP cookie-cutter.

One highlight though was Lungren’s unwitting admission that America’s Iraq adventure is for oil, when he mentioned on a couple of occasions that energy self-sufficiency was important so that “our men and women don’t have to fight abroad like they are doing now”. You never hear such public admissions. The person who pointed this out was none other than Bill Durston, Lungren’s Democratic opponent in the coming election (November), who was present in the audience. Unfortunately, Lungren refused to engage with Durston, insisting that they save themselves for their first official debate on October 5.

While most questioners gave Lungren room to weave and digress, one gentleman in the audience who called himself David hit the nail on the head. Here is what transpired:

David: Sir, talking about ‘justice’, what is your view about the Palestinians’ right to return [1]?

Lungren: I believe that Israel and Palestine should live side-by-side … blah … democracy… blah …peace ..blah

David: Sir, you haven’t answered my question. What do you think of the Palestinians’ right to return to Palestine?

Lungren: As I said, I believe in the two nations….

David: Sorry for interrupting. It seems to me that you think that the right to return does not apply as far as Palestinians are concerned. Is that correct?

Lungren: *silence*

David: Thank you.

[1] i.e., UN resolution 194 which gives Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 13

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