QWhat is the main issue in this race?
AThe main issue is who can best serve the interests and needs of Northern Virginia. My opponent is suggesting he can better serve the 8th District's interest. I'm confident that's not the case. Through a combination of experience and public service and commitment, the right priorities and knowledge of the people I serve, I think I'm best equipped to help those in need in the district, to represent Northern Virginia's interest in terms of foreign policy issues and domestic priorities.
What is the one issue 8th District constituents are most concerned about?
Right now my constituents are most concerned about the manner in which we have squandered our goodwill around the world and are vulnerable to attacks by people who hate Americans and what we stand for. We are clearly within a target area for terrorists.
Do you support the war against Iraq?
No. In fact, I co-authored the alternative resolution to require that the U.S. go through the United Nations and authorized the use of military force only in the event that weapons of mass destruction were found or our search for them was interfered with. In the final resolution that authorized the president to go to war, I was in the minority of members who voted against. I was one of the approximately one-third of the Congress that voted no. And I voted no for funding as well.
What do you think of current U.S. policy in Iraq and the administration's handling of the prisoner abuse allegations?
I think accountability has to start at the top. The actions of the people who were so grossly abusive of the prisoners have to be punished. But we also have to hold accountable their supervisors for not carrying out their responsibilities and even the president for insisting on a troop deployment that was composed almost entirely of U.S. military, National Guard and reservists with few who could speak the language or understood the culture.
This is why I felt if we went after Saddam Hussein, it had to be in concert with other nations, particularly some of our Arab allies, similar to the way his father put together a coalition in the Persian Gulf War.
Do you support the planned June 30 turning over of the government to the Iraqis?
I think that it's little more than window dressing. The only plan that's going to work is U.N. [special envoy] Lakhdar Brahimi's plan to turn it over more completely to the Iraqis themselves. We have lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people as of today.
There is a difference between the candidates on the issue of banning late-term abortions. Can you explain your position?
It's been a tough issue for me, because I don't feel comfortable as a man making decisions that so profoundly affect women's lives. I felt initially that a partial-birth abortion ban was consistent with Roe v. Wade, which attempted to make abortion very difficult in the last trimester. But after talking with constituents, one in particular who shared her own experience, I realized that the right position was to oppose the ban. It's not the only issue in which I've changed my mind after listening to the people I represent and respect.
Your district includes Arlington and parts of Fairfax. Many Fairfax commuters would love to see Interstate 66 widened inside the Capital Beltway, while many in Arlington oppose that. Would you work for federal money to widen I-66?
The Arlington residents who opposed I-66 when it was initially constructed at that time got a signed agreement from the federal and state governments that it would never be widened once built. And if it is to be widened, it has to be done through the state, through the Virginia Department of Transportation. If the Northern Virginia delegation decided to widen it or to make modifications to it, I would support their decision since it's a state highway. You can get all the federal money you want, but you can't spend it unless the state approves it.
No one from your own party has ever challenged you in a primary. What does [Andrew M.] Rosenberg's candidacy say about the extent to which people are growing tired of your personal and political problems?
I welcome his candidacy. I've always felt competition was healthy, and I'm glad that he has worked as hard as he has and raised as much money as he has. It gives voters of the 8th District a clear choice. And it enables me to explain to them what I have been doing and what I intend to do in the future on their behalf.
Are you worried about Rosenberg? Does he have a chance of beating you?
Oh, absolutely. I take his candidacy very seriously. I've said that from Day One, and I've been impressed he's raised as much money as he has.
I'm disappointed that the majority of it has come from outside of Northern Virginia, as have a number of his campaign staff.
The fact is he doesn't have the endorsement of even one Democratic elected official in Northern Virginia. I think that, plus the fact that he hasn't been involved in any leadership in any voluntary, civic or charitable organization, in addition to never having run or held elected office -- these are things that people will look at.
Most importantly, he never voted for [former Virginia lieutenant governor Donald S. Beyer Jr.] when Don ran for governor. He never voted for [former Alexandria mayor] Kerry [J.] Donley when Donley ran for mayor, and he didn't participate in any Democratic City Council caucuses which elected an all-Democratic City Council. I question his Democratic credentials. It shows a little bit of chutzpah to be the Democratic nominee. He even voted in the 2000 presidential Republican primary. It's just a big step from not even having voted for the most part to seeking the Democratic congressional nomination.
That's what gives me some confidence. But I take his campaign seriously. He is going to show he's raised a great deal of money in the last month. He'll send out a very substantial amount of negative mailings. And while I take his campaign seriously, I have to believe somebody who has never held office, who has never led any volunteer organization and has never voted in a Democratic election for the most part could prevail against an incumbent congressman.
Will your reelection chances be hampered by your comments that the United States would not be in the war if not for the support of the Jewish community? Do you stand by your statements or would you like to clarify your position?
I said virtually the same thing at three antiwar forums. In the other forums, I referred to two other major religions. I wasn't singling out the Jewish community. I was citing any major organization in this country that can have a profound effect on the course we take. That applies to the Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Convention or the Jewish community. I wouldn't have mentioned the Jewish community if it hadn't been brought up. I wasn't blaming the Jewish people for the war in Iraq. Instead of marching in protests, you have to work within your own sphere of influence. People who were there [at the forum] understood that. No one there has been critical of my remarks, including several Jewish people who were there. It was taken wholly out of context. People there understood the context.
I think the extent to which it continues to be taken out of context, it's a damaging statement. If it suggests that I blame any single community for the war in Iraq, that's harmful, but that's not what I did. The point I was trying to get across was something quite different. Whatever organization you're part of, including the three major communities of faith in this country, you can make a profound difference in the direction this country takes.