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Local political leaders cool criticism

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“The debate on whether to send in troops is over,” said U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel.


Local political leaders cool criticism


March 21, 2003
Sentinel Staff Writer

The antiwar protesters who have come to symbolize California’s sentiment toward war continued to rally Thursday as U.S. forces struck Iraqi targets.
But the majority of Californians seem to be waiting and watching in silence as the war unfolds. Among them are California’s representatives in Congress.
“Today is not a day to review the policies that have brought us to this point,” said U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, the Palo Alto Democrat whose district includes Scotts Valley and the San Lorenzo Valley. “Our country has just attacked another country. It’s unprecedented. It’s serious.”
Pointed criticism by California’s leading Democrats of pre-emptive and so-called unilateral strikes just days ago has turned to unconditional support for American troops.
“The debate on whether to send in troops is over,” said U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel. “My thoughts and prayers (now), first and foremost, are with the men, women and families of our Armed Forces.”
Political analysts said the harmony in Washington, D.C., isn’t likely to subside soon.
“Unless things start to go wrong, I don’t think you’re going to get any criticism until (American) ground troops are in Baghdad,” said Ronnie Lipschutz, a politics professor at UC Santa Cruz. The time of reckoning will come only when Iraq is being rebuilt, he suggested.
The waning objection to war, Lipschutz said, comes not only out of concern for U.S. service members but because of politics.
“People are playing it safe right now,” he said. “Nobody wants to get caught as the naysayer if this turns out all right,” he said.
Additionally, many Democrats have long supported pre-emptive strikes on Iraq and have encouraged their political colleagues to do the same, Lipschutz noted.
Farr, whose district includes Santa Cruz, acknowledged pressure to go along with current White House policies. “If you complain about this administration you get your head chopped off.”
Farr, though, said he’s less hesitant to voice objection because of his generally sympathetic constituency.
Retired from Beltway politics, Central Coast resident and former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta did not hesitate to criticize the administration’s military assault.
“It kind of got off to a bumpy start,” he told the Sentinel Thursday.
With no clear battle plan and no disclosed assessment of risk or cost, President Bush is acting inappropriately, as well as outside of democratic conventions, Panetta said.
“For over 200 years this country has operated on the basis that we only attack when we’re attacked or a clear threat presents itself. ... I’m not sure this is the case here,” he said.
Local Republicans disagreed.
“The leadership of Iraq is a threat to the United States,” said Santa Cruzan Tim Morgan, head of the California Republican National Committee.
Morgan applauded Bush’s resolve to take on the regime of Saddam Hussein, in spite of opposition, both internationally and locally.
“It’s Santa Cruz County that is out of step with the rest of the nation, not me,” he added.
Contact Kurtis Alexander at kalexander (at)

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