Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bean Treads Carefully On Iraq

By Maura Kelly Lannan
Associated Press

Freshman U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean recently returned from a five-day trip to Iraq, where she spent time talking with soldiers to gather insight from inside the war zone.

But when it comes to Bean's own position on the war, the targeted Democrat remains tight-lipped.

Bean, treading in Republican turf, rebuffs questions about whether she would have voted to invade Iraq-- mirroring tactics that helped her win her seat. When asked if she supports the war now, she will say only that she supports the troops.

"The reality is we are there. And right now, Baghdad is not safe for people to walk down the street. We need to make sure that the area is secure, and our military is doing a great job to do just that," Bean said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

With the American death toll in Iraq quickly approaching 2,000, many voters in the Republican-leaning 8th Congressional District say the war in Iraq will play a role in how they cast their ballots. But their opinions on how big that role will be are mixed, particularly as they weigh the issue against others closer to home

"I think we need to get back to square one, and square one is the United States of America, it's our economy, it's what's going on in this country," said Pat Kinnane, 49, a laid-off airline baggage supervisor from Hoffman Estates who usually votes Democratic. "I'm going to look at candidates who talk about taking U.S. tax dollars and doing what's in the best interest of our country."

Bean said she has received more questions on Iraq recently, but she believes those questions play into more far-reaching concerns about the economy, emergency preparedness, unemployment and workers' pensions.

"There's no question it's higher on people's radar. A lot of that has to do with economic concerns, not just national security, but about the billions of dollars that are being spent there after Katrina," Bean said.

Bean unseated 35-year veteran Republican Congressman Phil Crane last fall partly by portraying him as out of touch with his constituents in the district northwest of Chicago. The Barrington businesswoman played down being a Democrat and instead promised to work hard and keep in touch with the district.

Republicans have tried to paint Bean as a liberal in moderate clothing and have targeted her seat as one of a handful of the most vulnerable for Democrats in 2006.

Bean said she went to Iraq with three other members of Congress to "get some anecdotal, street level perspective from the troops that you cannot get from briefings."

But she also downplays the importance of the war as a single issue for voters next year.

"I think people are looking for who will represent them across the board on issues they're telling me matter most," she said.

Kathy Salvi, one of several Republicans who hope to challenge Bean in the fall, said she thinks voters are focused on the war, which she supports, as well as other issues.

"Nobody likes war, Republican, Democrat or nothing. But if we're going to enter into a war, we better win it and we have to have a strong policy. A stable Iraq is essential to a stable Middle East and a stable world," she said.

Philip Howe, 65, a retired computer repair worker from Elk Grove Village, worries that Democrats will try to make the war into a negative in the election. He plans to support Republicans in the next election and says the war has been worth the loss of life.

"Nobody is probably happy about the way the Iraq war is going, but then it took us 100 or 200 years to develop the kind of democracy that we have. It's not something you expect to happen overnight," he said.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Diana Maxwell, 56, a homemaker from Schaumburg, said the war is one issue that has pushed her closer to Democrats than Republicans.

"I didn't like Bush to start with and I like him less as time goes on and it's really turning me into a straight-voting Democrat," Maxwell said. "I used to call myself an independent but it's getting harder and harder."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Blogger Bill Scheurer said...

Now, Bean will not say whether she would have supported the decision to invade Iraq.

Well, when she ran against Phil Crane in 2002 and again in 2004, she believed it was necessary to tell voters she supported the war in Iraq, the same as Crane. This is why I ran against her in the 2004 Democratic primary!

As public opinion shifts, so does Melissa Bean. That is the hallmark of a politician driven by her own ambition and political expediency.

I suppose we can find some good in it? If we keep moving the public to see how wrong the Iraq War is -- for the country, and the world -- maybe she will even start to vote against it? We can only hope!

9:12 AM  

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