Now Playing: MFSO reps meet with Senator Cantwell
Topic: Local Lobbying
Cantwell speaks to party faithful, then meets with critics in private
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In Seattle for the weekend, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell got a rousing reception from 400-500 of the party faithful at the King County Democratic Party convention.
She didn't say much about Iraq there, but afterward, she talked about the war, an issue on which she differs with some of the city's liberal activists. She met privately downtown with a delegation representing military families opposed to the war and calling for an early troop withdrawal.
... On Iraq, she stuck with a slogan — "In Iraq, 2006 must be a year of transition" — that her critics deride as too vague.
"What does it mean? Transition to what? ... There's no clear definition," said Lietta Ruger of Military Families Speak Out, one of those who met with Cantwell afterward and who wants a clear and short timeline for troop withdrawal.
Rejecting demands that she make a clear call simply to withdraw, she [Cantwell] said very few of her critics truly believe that the troops can be pulled out quickly.
Cantwell left the convention to meet with exactly such critics: members of Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families Speak Out, two activist groups that claim 3,000 members nationwide.
Interviewed before the meeting, delegation members said they would press Cantwell to support an explicit near-term withdrawal from Iraq.
"We want the troops out now," said Ruger, of Bay Center, Pacific County, in the southwest corner of the state. "We understand there's a withdrawal process. ... It can be a matter of weeks to months." Her son-in-law and nephew both served in Iraq.
Ruger's group flatly rejects the argument that U.S. troops are needed to prevent anarchy in Iraq.
"The problem in that nation is the ongoing U.S. occupation," said Stacy Bannerman, of Kent. The wife of a national guardsman, she is the author of an anti-war book, "When the War Came Home."
"We need to remove the cause of the pressure, which is American forces," she said.
Speaking partway through the meeting with the military families, Cantwell spokeswoman Charla Neuman said the meeting was going "pretty well, considering it's an emotional topic" for the families involved. But Neuman said the group was very skeptical of Cantwell's contention that real progress in promoting Iraqi self-reliance is possible in the near term.
After the meeting with Cantwell, Arthur Ruger, Lietta Ruger's husband and a Vietnam veteran, described it as powerful. "It was very frank. She spoke openly," he said, "She has made her position clear. She stuck to that."
"It was a very intense two hours," he added. "Even if she doesn't change her position, definitely she's got things to think about."
Asked if he would be voting for Cantwell, Ruger said yes, that had never been in doubt. He said he has not voted Republican since 2000 and the meeting Saturday reinforced his desire to vote for Cantwell.
Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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