Closing Statements from the candidates for Vermont’s U.S. House seat from the debate held at Middlebury College Mead Chapel on Sept. 26.
Peter Welch, Democrat:
“I believe our foreign policy must go in a new direction. We know that we face global challenges, the war on terrorism, AIDS, global warming, failed African states. And no single country can solve these problems alone. Global problems require global solutions.
“This election, in many ways, is about competing philosophies. The philosophy of the Bush presidency and the Bush Congress, both in domestic and foreign affairs, can be simply stated: You’re on your own.
“In domestic affairs, if you want healthcare, get a health savings account. And even if you’re one of the millions of American families that can’t balance their budget at the end of the month, you’re on your own. You want clean air and clean water, move. It’s not the job of your government to make certain that those are available to you and your family. To our young soldiers who are sent off to Iraq and Afghanistan and Kuwait on our behalf, with patriotic speeches, when they come home, it’s with the message that we’ve cut their veteran benefits. You’re on your own.
“That’s not acceptable.
“The philosophy of President Bush on foreign affairs is a variation on the same theme. Go it alone. America will go it alone. And nowhere have the consequences of this ill-devised approach to foreign affairs been more devastating than the reckless decision of George Bush to send American to war in Iraq.
“I want America to return to the bipartisan tradition that we have enjoyed since the second World War, where we are strong by working with our allies, not giving them the back of our hand. We should be proud of upholding, not debating, the Geneva Convention on torture. We should be working to strengthen the Kyoto protocol on global warming. We should be creating alliances that will help us bring our troops home from Iraq.
“This election is really not about me, or Martha, or Jane, or Will, or Dennis, or Keith, or Bruce. It’s really about you and your vision of what America can be.
“What I have seen, as the Vermont senate president, elected by Republicans and Democrats, is that when we have been successful, it’s always because we’ve worked together. And I believe that when America has been successful, it has used its strength to work with others.”
Martha Rainville, Republican:
“I spent the last six months traveling around Vermont and I understand what kind of representative Vermonters want. They want one who lives their ideals of personal integrity and honesty, they want a representative who has a record of leadership, and who, regardless of party, will bring to congress the courage and independent spirit that is this proud state’s gift to the halls of congress.
“Too much time and energy in Washington is being spent on discrediting those who disagree. This must change. Progress comes when people rise above their own biases and commit to working together on solutions. I believe my record and experience with fostering cooperation, building consensus and creating trust, can serve well in congress.
“Both parties in Washington have lost their way. It is time to restore the trust and public faith in Congress. Our nation faces some of the most difficult challenges of its history. As Thomas Jefferson said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” We must learn from our past experiences and mistakes and move forward with resolve to chart a new course. Together we can find solutions so American can stand proud and continue to be a beacon of hope to other nations.
“I am not George Bush. I am not Dennis Haskell. And I am not Nancy Pelosi. I am Martha Rainville. I have raised a family. I’ve served on environmental, hospital and town planning boards. I’ve served my state and nation in uniform, and as Adjutant General, I served alongside many of your neighbors and family. I’m a Vermonter who has been to third-world countries, who has worked for peace through partnerships and diplomacy. I’ve overseen missions in emerging democracies to rebuild schools and health clinics and to provide help in orphanages. I have met Iraqi women, and I have met Macedonian women. And no one knows better than I what it means to commit troops in times of war.
“Like you, I believe that war must always be a last resort. These are challenging times, both domestically and internationally. I want to bring my spirit and fresh perspective to Washington. It’s time to end politics as usual. Together we can strengthen our economic future, we can expand job opportunities, and we can rely less on foreign oil.
“Together we can demand fiscal responsibility and ethical behavior. Together we must promote peace and prosperity throughout the world. There is much to be done, and together we can do it.”
Jane Newton, Liberty Union:
“I represent a small, alternative party that is against the use of violence as a policy of the government — that includes war, poverty, the death penalty and the struggling to speak truth to power before more people die and our world becomes uninhabitable.
“I represent myself when I speak of the fear and sadness I feel when I think of leaving our children and grandchildren a legacy of war. Speaking tonight on foreign policy and not domestic policy, reminds me that separating the two is not only impossible, but often dangerous, since it allows many of us to remain conscious of what happens at home while ignorant to the suffering and death of our foreign policies around the world. We become a dual personality, letting the sorrows of hatred and patriotism sneak in unbeknownst on the one hand, and pathological detachment from suffering on the other.
“Our addiction to war has brought us to a dangerous place. Here tonight we have two candidates who in very different ways are connected to nuclear power in the military industrial conflict. Mr. Welch and Mrs. Rainville. Mr. Welch encouraged the Vermont legislature to give Vermont Yankee permission (to use) dry cask storage (for spent fuel rods), without which there could be no increase in power output and no twenty-year extension of (their permit). This exposes us to a nuclear accident, which, if you remember Chernobyl (1986 nuclear accident), is international in scope, since the radioactive cloud would reach around the world.
“The military connection resides in the fact that the Iranian enrichment process is to enable the military and Mrs. Rainville to obtain their weapon of choice these days — depleted uranium. DU, as it’s often called, is still 60 percent radioactive. The bi-product of the enrichment process, it’s very dense and will penetrate anything it’s used on, artillery shells… On explosion it sends radioactive dust into the air, the water and dirt the children play in and the lungs of everybody, including our soldiers. Thousands are now sick or dead, children are being born with terrible birth defects, or dying from leukemia all over the world — Kosovo, Afghanistan, Kuwait, the United States and now probably Lebanon.
“Mrs. Rainville is connected to the military in a more obvious way. The Vermont National Guard, over which she presided, did not tell their members about depleted uranium. In schools, young people are being brought into the military with never a word about death, or killing, or cluster bombs, or light bombs or things they can’t see that will hurt them.
“Howard Zinn said, ‘There’s no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.’ Eugene Debs said, ‘The ruling class declares war and the working class gives its life.’
“This is no war on terror. Oil has loomed in our plans for controlling the Middle East and the area around the Caspian Sea for years. I’m afraid we’re going willy-nilly down a demented path and there will be nothing left of the world for our children.”
Bruce Marshall, Green Party:
“Just to reiterate what I said today, there is one vast issue that we must stop. We have plans to go to war against Iran. Currently there is mutiny in the U.S. armed forces. They’re all talking about this. This almost happened last year. So we have to stop that. Congress declares war.
“We have to re-federalize the federal reserve. We have to institute a new Bretton Woods system to replace the IMF World Bank system that’s loading the free exchange rates, which are causing incredible debt that can never be paid. Then we go back and start off with a rebuilding project. I introduced this to the Vermont State House, a bill that was passed called JRH76 – what it does, is it calls for an FDR (Franklin D. Roosevelt) plan to revitalize the auto industry in the United States. It takes the failing auto industry and saves the machine tool capabilities of the industry. We don’t want to lose machine tools like we lost them in Vermont. And then we can take that and start building trains; we can build windmills, we can build solar panels, we can build advanced power systems. We can deal with the nature of water systems in the area, and then we can start to constructively create jobs of value.
“Then we can raise the wages of people because we are actually creating value. We’re not taking our money and throwing it into derivatives. What is a derivative? Well, there’s $450 trillion worth of derivatives out there. And basically, a derivative is a theft. We had a situation here where a company that makes the little things for maple syrup tapping, which used to be made in Vermont, is now made in China. That means we can’t work. This little Vermont dream, it doesn’t work. It’s false. It comes from China.
“Now what we have to do is reverse the business situation. We have a lot of knowledge and brain power. We have genius here. We have it in every one of us. And we have different ways that we can make a change, a revolution, a revelation. It will make a difference. Get Bush out now.”
Dennis Morrisseau, Impeach Bush Now (party):
“At least two of us at this table were officers in the military, myself and General Rainville. We each took the same oath of office. It goes roughly like this: Do you swear to obey all lawful orders, and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution?
“Let me tell you what I did during Vietnam, how I saw my oath of office differently than the General apparently saw hers.
“During Vietnam I was an army officer. I’d just failed out of law school when the draft came after me. They said “You’d better sign up,” so I did. I was always opposed to the Vietnam War, always. After I was commissioned, I began to speak out against the Vietnam War as an illegal, crazy, monstrous thing. And I did the speaking out in my army officer’s uniform. I did it here and there and everywhere.
“In New Hampshire, I spoke for Eugene McCarthy, twice; when he was a presidential candidate against Lyndon Johnson, that fool. And I also stood in front of the White House once in my uniform, all by myself with a sign that said, “120,000 American casualties, why?” And they seized me. And they brought me to a special plane, where the props were turning and the doors were open and two SQAT cars of Military Police had their faces in my face and I was ordered to board that plane, which was bound for Vietnam, and I refused to do so. The order was repeated a second time and I refused to do so again. And they sent that special plane away.
“This was on every television station, in every newspaper in this country. The news media in Vermont think it (this story and that personal rebellion) is irrelevant. I think it’s a fair credential. They sent the plane away and they charged me with ‘willfully refusing to obey a lawful order.’ We began a court-martial and after a two-week hearing the Pentagon said, “Come and talk to us,” so we did. We were three and a half lawyers, I was the half. We asked the Pentagon fellas, ‘How many millions more war protestors do you want to see in the street?’ And the Pentagon fellas said, ‘How would you like to resign?’ And I did. We beat that court-martial. I didn’t go to prison.
“You do have a duty to disobey illegal orders. You don’t send troops to an illegal war, I don’t give a damn if it’s George W. Bush who tells you to do so, General Rainville.”
Keith Stern, Independent:
“Peter Welch is absolutely right — a change is needed in Washington. I’ll ask you right here, ‘How many of you think that the wealthy should pay a lower percentage of taxes than the rest of us?’
“It’s not about taxes, it’s about accountability.
“Who are they representing? They’re representing the wealthy, with the military and with all issues.
“We need a change in Washington, and it’s not going to come from electing another Republican or another Democrat. It’s going to require electing someone outside of the system, somebody who’s going to represent you and you and you. That’s the only way it’s going to work.”