Iowa Public Television

 

Rep. Dave Loebsack

posted on February 23, 2007

>>

Borg: BOOTS ON THE GROUND. JUST BACK FROM IRAQ, IOWA CONGRESSMAN DAVID LOEBSACK SHARES INSIGHTS ON THIS EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.'

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23 EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: THIS PAST YEAR SAW DAVID LOEBSACK MOVING FROM CORNELL COLLEGE PROFESSOR TO U.S. CONGRESSMAN. INSTEAD OF JOGGING ALONG MOUNT VERNON STREETS, HE'S SURVEYING BAGHDAD'S ROADSIDE SECURITY. LOEBSACK'S LIFE CHANGING COMING AFTER DEFEATING LONG-TIME REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN JIM LEACH IN LAST NOVEMBER'S ELECTIONS AND THEN MOVING TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND SERVING NOW IN THE HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE. AND NOW HE'S FACING THE ISSUE THAT ARGUABLY BROUGHT HIM TO CONGRESS, AND THAT IS VOTERS DEMANDING CHANGE IN AMERICA'S IRAQ STRATEGY. AFTER SPENDING THE PAST WEEK IN IRAQ, CONGRESSMAN LOEBSACK COMES TO THE 'IOWA PRESS' TABLE JUST A FEW HOURS AFTER LANDING BACK IN THE UNITED STATES. WELCOME HOME.

Loebsack: THANK YOU, DEAN.

Borg: I KNOW THAT YOU HAVE PEOPLE IN THE SERVICE IN YOUR FAMILY. DID YOU HAPPEN TO SEE THEM WHEN YOU WERE IN IRAQ?

Loebsack: NO, MARCOS SERVED -- MY STEP-SON SERVED FOR SEVEN MONTHS. THAT WAS A COUPLE YEARS BACK NOW. HE MAY END UP GOING BACK AGAIN IN THE NEXT YEAR OR TWO. WE'RE NOT SURE. HE'S A MARINE COMPANY COMMANDER. HIS WIFE, MICHELLE, IS IN ANBAR PROVINCE. WE WERE NOT ABLE TO CONNECT. THERE WAS SOME POSSIBILITY THAT WE COULD DO THAT, BUT I REFRAINED FROM DOING THAT. I WANTED TO GET TO THAT PROVINCE, BUT I WAS NOT ABLE TO GET THERE. WE WERE IN BAGHDAD AND THE SURROUNDING AREA.

Borg: YOU KNOW THE JOURNALISTS ACROSS THE TABLE HERE, CONGRESSMAN

LOEBSACK: 'DES MOINES REGISTER' POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND 'RADIO IOWA' NEWS DIRECTOR KAY HENDERSON.

Henderson: ON THE GROUND HERE IN IOWA, THE BIG NEWS POLITICALLY IS THAT FORMER IOWA GOVERNOR TOM VILSACK HAS DROPPED OUT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE. WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THAT NEWS?

Loebsack: WELL, HAVING JUST HEARD IT, I DON'T HAVE A LENGTHY REACTION AT THIS POINT, AS YOU MIGHT IMAGINE. I THINK TOM VILSACK WOULD HAVE SERVED VERY WELL AS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. HE'S VERY QUALIFIED FOR THE JOB. I'M SORRY TO SEE HIM EXIT THE RACE AT THIS POINT. I THINK HE HAD A LOT TO OFFER. I HAVE NOT TAKEN A POSITION. I WON'T TAKE A POSITION ANYTIME SOON IN THE RACE, BUT I THINK GOVERNOR VILSACK -- I HOPE HE CERTAINLY STAYS IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS. HE HAD A LOT TO SAY ABOUT IRAQ AND A NUMBER OF OTHER ISSUES.

Henderson: YOU SAY NOT TAKE A POSITION ANYTIME SOON. DOES THAT MEAN EVENTUALLY YOU WILL ENDORSE SOMEONE BEFORE THE CAUCUSES?

Loebsack: I'M NOT SURE YET, TO BE HONEST, KAY. I'M A BRAND-NEW CONGRESSMAN FROM THE SECOND DISTRICT OF IOWA. THIS IS A FULL-TIME JOB -- MORE THAN A FULL TIME JOB JUST FIGURING OUT HOW TO DO THE BEST JOB I CAN FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE SECOND DISTRICT.

Henderson: WELL, REALLY QUICKLY, WHAT IS YOUR SNAPSHOT? WHAT IS YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THE FIELD AT THIS POINT AMONG DEMOCRATS?

Loebsack: WELL, I TRULY -- HAVING JUST GOTTEN BACK FROM IRAQ, I HAVE NOT BEEN THINKING ABOUT THESE ISSUES THAT MUCH. I THINK WE'VE GOT A HECK OF A QUALIFIED FIELD. I THINK WE'VE GOT THE BEST FIELD THAT WE'VE HAD FOR A LONG TIME. A LOT OF US REMEMBER 1988 WHEN WE HAD A LOT OF REALLY GOOD PEOPLE RUNNING ON THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE. AND THERE ARE A LOT OF GOOD PEOPLE ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE, FOR THAT MATTER, TOO. SO I'M NOT REALLY ASSESSING THE FIELD AS SUCH AT THIS POINT. I'M GOING TO HELP EVERYONE WHO COMES TO THE SECOND DISTRICT, AND I'VE PUT OUT THAT INVITATION TO ANY AND ALL. WE ARE THE MOST DEMOCRATIC DISTRICT IN THE STATE, AS YOU KNOW, SO THERE'S A LOT OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR THEM WHERE WE LIVE.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR VICTORY. IT WAS A SURPRISE TO A LOT OF US IN THE POLITICAL COMMUNITY.

Loebsack: YOU WERE NOT ALONE. [ LAUGHTER ]

Yepsen: AND THIS IS YOUR FIRST APPEARANCE ON 'IOWA PRESS,' SO THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US. YOU'RE BACK FROM IRAQ, AS EVERYBODY HAS MENTIONED. WHAT DID YOU SEE THERE?

Loebsack: WELL --

Yepsen: WHAT'S IT LIKE?

Loebsack: WELL, IT'S A SCARY PLACE. THAT'S THE FIRST THING I THINK WE NEED TO KEEP IN MIND. IT'S A VERY SCARY PLACE OBVIOUSLY FOR OUR TROOPS. AND I WENT THERE BECAUSE -- WELL, I'M ON THE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE AND WE'VE HAD TESTIMONY FROM SECRETARY GATES AND THE CHAIR OF THE JOINTS CHIEF OF STAFF, PETER PACE, A NUMBER OF MILITARY FOLKS. IT'S NOT THE SAME THING SITTING IN A COMMITTEE ROOM IN WASHINGTON, D.C., AND LISTENING TO THESE FOLKS AS IT IS ACTUALLY BEING WHERE IT'S HAPPENING. AND WHILE WE DIDN'T GO OUT -- AND THANKFULLY I WAS NOT INVOLVED IN ANY FIREFIGHTS, WE WERE IN THE GREEN ZONE FOR TWO DAYS. WE DID FLY ON BLACKHAWK HELICOPTERS. IT'S SIMPLY TOO DANGEROUS TO GO ON CONVOYS OUTSIDE THE GREEN ZONE. I WAS ABLE TO TALK TO SOME IOWA TROOPS. WE TALKED TO A LOT OF MILITARY FOLKS THERE, AND I THINK IT WAS REALLY CRITICAL FOR ME AS A MEMBER OF THE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE AND A MEMBER OF CONGRESS TO BE ON THE GROUND THERE. AND I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO HAVE STAYED LONGER, BUT WE ONLY HAVE SO MANY DAYS DURING OUR BREAKS.

Yepsen: WHAT'S YOUR ASSESSMENT BASED ON WHAT THE TROOPS ARE TELLING YOU?

Loebsack: THE TROOPS -- THIS IS -- THIS IS THE MAIN MESSAGE THAT I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW, AND THAT IS THAT WE'VE GOT TO HONOR THESE PEOPLE. WE'VE GOT TO BE SO APPRECIATIVE OF WHAT THEY'RE DOING DAY IN AND DAY OUT. AS I SAID, I DIDN'T GO OUT ON ANY PATROLS. I DIDN'T SEE ANY ACTION AS SUCH. A HEARD A LOT ABOUT WHAT IT'S LIKE FOR THEM TO GO OUT ON PATROLS. ONE PERSON I TALKED TO HAD JUST LOST A FRIEND THE DAY BEFORE IN A FIREFIGHT. THEY ARE SO COMMITTED TO WHAT THEY'RE DOING. THEY DON'T THINK ABOUT THE POLITICS OF IT. THEY JUST THINK ABOUT THEIR JOB, AND WE OWE THEM A HECK OF A LOT OF APPRECIATION, A REAL DEBT OF GRATITUDE.

Borg: I'M WONDERING, YOU -- IT'S NOT SURPRISING BECAUSE YOU WON IN THE SECOND DISTRICT BEING A STRONG ANTIINVOLVEMENT-IN-IRAQ CANDIDATE. BUT I'M WONDERING DID ANYTHING CHANGE ABOUT -- ABOUT YOUR VIEWS IN THE TIME THAT YOU SPENT IN IRAQ?

Loebsack: I WENT, AS YOU KNOW, COMMITTED TO THE PROPOSITION THAT WE SHOULD BEGIN TO DISENGAGE IMMEDIATELY AND THAT WE SHOULD IN FACT BE GONE WITHIN THE NEXT YEAR. THAT SHOULD BE OUR GOAL. AND I CAME BACK ACTUALLY BELIEVING THAT EVEN MORE SO. IT'S EVEN MORE COMPLICATED THAN I THOUGHT IT WAS.

Borg: WHY? WHAT DID YOU SEE THAT SAID WE'VE GOT TO MOVE EVEN FASTER THAN I THOUGHT?

Loebsack: NOT ANY FASTER. I'M JUST MORE COMMITTED TO MAKING SURE THAT WE GET OUT WITHIN THE NEXT YEAR. WE'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF A CIVIL WAR AND AS THE ADMINISTRATION ITSELF HAS SAID IN ITS NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ASSESSMENTS, THIS IS MORE COMPLICATED THAN A CIVIL WAR. AND WE ARE PUTTING OUR TROOPS INTO AN IMPOSSIBLE SITUATION, I BELIEVE. IT'S NOT JUST BAGHDAD. IT'S NOT JUST ANBAR PROVINCE. IT'S ALSO IN THE SOUTH. THIS IS -- IT'S AN IMPOSSIBLE SITUATION AND WE'VE GOT TO DO EVERYTHING WE CAN TO TURN IT OVER TO THE IRAQIS AS SOON AS WE CAN AND WE'VE GOT TO HAVE -- WE'VE GOT TO HAVE, AS SOME HAVE SAID, A DIPLOMATIC SURGE.

Borg: BUT WHAT'S OUR INVOLVEMENT AFTER WE PULL TROOPS OUT?

Loebsack: I THINK THAT REMAINS TO BE SEEN. WE CAN HAVE A STRATEGIC REDEPLOYMENT IN THE REGION THAT SOME ARE ARGUING FOR. I DON'T LIKE THE IDEA OF HAVING OUR TROOPS ON THE GROUND IN THAT REGION, PERIOD, BUT I'M WILLING TO COMPROMISE ON THAT, OBVIOUSLY. WE DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN ONCE WE GET OUT. I THINK THERE'S JUST A LOT OF -- AS DONALD RUMSFELD WOULD HAVE SAID, A LOT OF UNKNOWABLES. BUT WHAT WE DO KNOW IS THAT SO LONG AS OUR TROOPS ARE THERE, THEY'RE NOT GOING TO PREVENT THE CIVIL WAR FROM HAPPENING AND INTENSIFYING. THEY'RE GOING TO BE IN THE MIDDLE OF A CIVIL WAR, AND IT'S GOING TO CONTINUE.

Henderson: AS A MEMBER OF CONGRESS, HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE THAT POLICY GOAL? YOU DURING THE CAMPAIGN SAID YOU WOULD NEVER VOTE TO CUT OFF THE FUNDS. A LOT OF YOUR DEMOCRATIC COLLEAGUES ARE NOW STARTING TO THINK THAT IS A POSSIBILITY.

Loebsack: ACTUALLY I THINK VERY FEW ARE IN FAVOR OF CUTTING OFF FUNDING. WHAT CONGRESSMAN MURTHA WAS TALKING ABOUT -- AND AS YOU KNOW, HE'S THE CHAIR OF THE APPROPRIATION SUBCOMMITTEE THAT'S DEALING WITH THIS -- HE'S NOT TALKING ABOUT CUTTING OFF FUNDING. WHAT'S HE'S TALKING ABOUT IS SETTING UP BENCHMARKS FOR THE FUNDING SO THAT THE ADMINISTRATION HAS TO MEET PARTICULAR CRITERIA FOR THE FUNDING TO OCCUR. AND I THINK WHAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT MAKES PERFECT SENSE. I WAS VERY CONCERNED WHEN I WAS THERE AND BEFORE I WENT ABOUT THE READINESS OF OUR TROOPS. IT'S CLAIMED THAT ALL OF OUR TROOPS WHO WERE SENT THERE THROUGH KUWAIT -- OUT OF KUWAIT ARE FULLY READY. WE KNOW THAT'S NOT NECESSARILY THE CASE. WE'VE KNOWN THAT NOT TO BE THE CASE IN THE PAST.

Henderson: WHEN YOU SAY READY, DO YOU MEAN TRAINING OR DO YOU MEAN EQUIPMENT?

Loebsack: EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. THERE ARE DIFFERENT LEVELS OF READINESS. I'M TALKING ABOUT EVERYTHING. EQUIPMENT IS A BIG DEAL. AS WE KNOW, WE DIDN'T HAVE FULL BODY ARMOR SOME OF THE TIME. THE HUMVEES -- THE ARMORED VEHICLES HAVE NOT BEEN FULLY UP ARMORED. EVEN YET TO THIS DAY SOME OF THEM HAVE NOT BEEN. WHAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT IS NOT SENDING TROOPS UNLESS THEY ARE FULLY EQUIPPED, UNLESS THEY'RE FULLY READY. THAT'S WHAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT. AND THAT MAKES A LOT OF SENSE TO ME JUST FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE TROOPS, IF NOTHING ELSE.

Yepsen: I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT A COUPLE LARGER QUESTIONS. FIRST OF ALL, THIS CONFLICT IS CREATING A LOT OF REFUGEES.

Loebsack: IT IS.

Yepsen: WHAT RESPONSIBILITY DOES THE UNITED STATES HAVE TO THOSE REFUGEES? ANY?

Loebsack: WELL, THAT'S -- I THINK WE HAVE CERTAINLY SOME OBLIGATION, BUT I HAVE NOT THOUGHT THROUGH THE PROCESS THERE. WHEN WE WERE IN JORDAN, WE WERE TOLD THAT THERE COULD BE UPWARDS OF A HUNDRED THOUSAND OR MORE IRAQIS IN JORDAN, AS A MATTER OF FACT. MANY OF THEM ARE, OF COURSE, MIDDLE CLASS AND ABOVE, PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY HAVE THE WHEREWITHAL TO ESCAPE FROM IRAQ AND SET UP A BUSINESS OR JOIN FAMILY IN JORDAN. THERE ARE MANY IRAQIS HERE IN THE UNITED STATES WHO FLED AS A RESULT AS WELL. BAGHDAD -- I WAS SURPRISED IN SOME WAYS FLYING OVER BAGHDAD. THIS IS ONE THING I MENTIONED TO GENERAL PETRAEUS WHEN WE MET WITH HIM. YOU KNOW, I'VE BEEN AROUND THE WORLD -- I'VE BEEN IN A LOT OF BIG CITIES AROUND THE WORLD, NOT JUST IN THE UNITED STATES BUT IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD. FLYING OVER BAGHDAD, I WAS ASTOUNDED AT HOW FEW PEOPLE THERE WERE ON THE STREETS OF BAGHDAD BECAUSE THEY'RE GENERALLY VERY FEARFUL OF THE SECTARIAN STRIFE, BUT MANY OF THEM HAVE LEFT AS WELL.

Yepsen: WHAT ABOUT THE LARGER QUESTION OF THE IRAQ WAR AND THE AFTERMATH IT RAISES FOR THIS COUNTRY, AND THAT IS WHAT IS OUR ROLE IN THE WORLD? HOW DO YOU ANSWER THAT QUESTION?

Loebsack: WELL, I DO LIKE TO LOOK AT IT SORT OF FROM THE BIG-PICTURE PERSPECTIVE TO BEGIN WITH. AND AS MANY OF YOU KNOW, I BELIEVE THAT GEORGE BUSH HAS GONE ABOUT SORT OF OUR APPROACH TO THE WORLD IN THE WRONG WAY FROM THE VERY BEGINNING, PRIOR TO 9/11, WHICH DREW US FROM THE KYOTO PROTOCOL, FROM A NUMBER OF MULTILATERAL ORGANIZATIONS THAT I BELIEVE SERVE AMERICA'S INTERESTS, NOT JUST THE INTEREST OF OTHER COUNTRIES. I WAS HEARTENED WHEN I WENT TO BRUSSELS TO TALK TO NATO FOLKS -- EUROPEAN UNION FOLKS. I WAS HEARTENED TO HEAR THAT GEORGE BUSH HAS ALTERED HIS APPROACH TO OUR TRADITIONAL EUROPEAN ALLIES TO SOME EXTENT. HE'S BROUGHT THEM INTO THIS PROCESS. WE'VE GOT TO BE MUCH MORE CONSULTATIVE WITH OUR TRADITIONAL ALLIES, AND NOT JUST THE BRITISH BUT OTHERS AS WELL. YES, WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE FRENCH AND, YES, WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE GERMANS. I THINK WE HAVE TO BE MUCH LESS CONFLICTUAL -- AND COOPERATIVE MAY BE TOO STRONG A WORD -- BUT WE CERTAINLY HAVE TO CONSULT WITH THESE FOLKS AND WE HAVE TO NEGOTIATE WITH THEM BECAUSE WE SIMPLY CANNOT GO AROUND THE WORLD IN A UNILATERALIST FASHION AS GEORGE BUSH HAS DONE AND SERVE AMERICA'S INTERESTS WITH THAT KIND OF A APPROACH.

Yepsen: YOUR ACADEMIC BACKGROUND WAS IN TEACHING INTERNATIONALS AFFAIRS.

Loebsack: RIGHT.

Yepsen: ALL RIGHT. SO IS ALL IT'S GOING TO TAKE IS JUST FOR THE NATION TO GET A NEW PRESIDENT, OR DOES THE COUNTRY HAVE TO DO OTHER THINGS TO RESTORE ITS IMAGE AROUND THE WORLD?

Loebsack: WELL, WE'RE NOT GOING TO HAVE A NEW PRESIDENT UNTIL JANUARY OF 2009, AS WE KNOW, AND I'M HOPING THAT GEORGE BUSH WILL CONTINUE ALONG THIS NEW PATH AND INTENSIFY THIS PATH. BUT I THINK THAT'S A BIG PART OF IT. I THINK THAT'S PRIMARILY WHAT WE NEED TO DO IS HAVE MORE DIPLOMATIC OFFENSES AND NOT MILITARY OFFENSES.

Henderson: YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU'RE A MEMBER OF THE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE. WAS THAT A SURPRISE THAT SOMEONE WHO HAD BEEN AS OUTSPOKEN ABOUT THE WAR GOT APPOINTED TO THAT PANEL?

Loebsack: WELL, I'M NOT SURE WHAT SORT OF ALL THE POLITICS OF THAT WERE, TO BE HONEST. I'M A NEW MEMBER AND I PUT IN MY FIRST CHOICE, WHICH WAS EDUCATIONAL LABOR, AND I GOT THAT. MY SECOND CHOICE WAS ARMED SERVICES, AND I GOT THAT. PERHAPS I WAS APPOINTED TO THAT BECAUSE I DO HAVE SOME EXPERIENCE IN INTERNATIONAL POLITICS. I REALLY DON'T KNOW FOR SURE, BUT THAT'S WHAT I WANTED.

Henderson: SO WHAT IS YOUR GENERAL APPROACH TOWARD THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT?

Loebsack: WELL, WE NEED A DEFENSE DEPARTMENT. WE'VE GOT TO HAVE A STRONG MILITARY. I THINK WE'VE MADE THE WRONG DECISION WITH RESPECT TO IRAQ THAT HAS DRAINED US. WE'VE UNFORTUNATELY PROSECUTED THE WAR IN IRAQ -- MISMANAGED IT IN DRAMATIC FASHION. I THINK PRETTY MUCH ALL OF US AGREE ON THAT NOW ACROSS THE AISLE, IN CONGRESS AS WELL. WE'RE DEFINITELY GOING TO HAVE TO RESET, AS THEY SAY RETOOL, IF YOU WILL, OUR MILITARY EQUIPMENT. WE'VE GOT A LOT OF PROBLEMS BECAUSE OF IRAQ. WE'VE GOT A LOT OF EQUIPMENT THAT NEEDS TO BE REFURBISHED, RETROFITTED, WHAT HAVE YOU, BECAUSE THE IRAQ WAR ESSENTIALLY HAS PUT US IN A BIG HOLE AS FAR AS ANY POTENTIAL CONFLICTS WE MAY HAVE TO GET INVOLVED IN.

Borg: POTENTIAL CONFLICTS. THANK YOU, DAVE. ARE YOU MENTIONING -- IN POTENTIAL CONFLICTS, ARE YOU THINKING OF IRAN?

Loebsack: I DON'T WANT US TO CONFLICT WITH IRAN. I DON'T WANT US TO HAVE MILITARY CONFLICT WITH IRAN. I'M NOT THINKING THAT WE'RE GOING TO GO TO WAR WITH IRAN. NOW, THERE ARE SOME WHO ARE VERY CONCERNED ABOUT OUR POSTURING IN THE RECENT WEEKS, SENDING IN ANOTHER CARRIER TASK FORCE, FOR EXAMPLE, INTO THE REGION. I THINK THAT'S THE WRONG WAY TO GO. WE'VE GOT TO HAVE A DIPLOMATIC SURGE, AS I SAID BEFORE, WITH THE IRANIANS AND THE SYRIANS AND ANY NUMBER OF OTHER COUNTRIES IN THE REGION. BUT WE NEVER KNOW IN THE WORLD WHAT MAY COME UP. YOU KNOW, THERE MAY BE AN ENEMY OUT THERE THAT WE'RE NOT EVEN THINKING ABOUT THAT WE HAVE TO RESPOND TO. AND WE HAVE TO BE PREPARED IN ALL CASES AND WE'RE NOT AT THIS POINT.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, WHY DID YOU WANT THE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE? I MEAN I CAN UNDERSTAND EDUCATION AND LABOR, THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA. YOU'VE HAVE GOT A LOT OF EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN THAT DISTRICT, YOUR OWN BACKGROUND. BUT WHY ARMED SERVICES? USUALLY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS FROM IOWA WANT THE AG COMMITTEE?

Loebsack: RIGHT, RIGHT. WELL, CERTAINLY ARMED SERVICES IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE OF THE INTERNATIONAL NATURE OF THE ISSUES THAT WE DEAL WITH. AND I AM CONCERNED ABOUT THE ROLE OF AMERICA IN THE WORLD, AND I AM CONCERNED ABOUT US BEING FULLY PREPARED FOR ANY POSSIBLE CONTINGENCIES DOWN THE LINE. SO IT SEEMED TO BE A NATURAL FIT FOR ME IN MANY WAYS, ACTUALLY, NOT NECESSARILY FOR THOSE, YOU KNOW, WHO DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT MY BACKGROUND, BUT IN THE STATES.

Yepsen: WELL, YOU'RE NOT KNOWN AS A MILITARY HAWK.

Loebsack: WELL, I WOULD HOPE THAT THOSE OF US ON THE HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE ARE NOT ALL HAWKS. I HOPE WE HAVE SOME DIVERSITY ON THE COMMITTEE.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, MANY DEMOCRATS -- MANY PEOPLE ON THE LEFT ARE ASKING PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES CAN WE CUT THE DEFENSE BUDGET AND REALLOCATE MONEY TO THE MILITARY. BARACK OBAMA, IN APPEARANCES IN IOWA, IS SAYING, NO, WE MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO DO THAT, WE'D LIKE TO TRY BUT WE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO DO THAT. HE'S -- THE ARMY IS WRECKED. IT NEEDS REEQUIPPING. THE SIZE OF THE MILITARY HAS TO BE INCREASED. HOW DO YOU COME DOWN ON THAT QUESTION?

Loebsack: WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO CONTINUE TO DEVOTE, YOU KNOW, A FAIR SHARE OBVIOUSLY, BECAUSE WE DO HAVE TO BE PREPARED FOR ANY CONTINGENCIES. NOW, WITHOUT GOING INTO SPECIFIC DETAILS ABOUT SPECIFIC SYSTEMS, BECAUSE I AM NEW ON THE COMMITTEE AND, YOU KNOW, I DON'T WANT TO MENTION THESE SYSTEMS AT THIS POINT, BUT THERE ARE SOME SYSTEMS THAT ARE THERE THAT COULD BE ELIMINATED BECAUSE THEY'RE COLD WAR SYSTEMS. I DON'T THINK IT DOES US ANY GOOD. I DON'T THINK IT PROVIDES ANY GOOD -- IT DOESN'T ADD TO OUR SECURITY TO CONTINUE TO FUND SYSTEMS THAT DON'T DO ANYTHING FOR OUR NATIONAL SECURITY. IN FACT, THAT WOULD WEAKEN US BECAUSE IT WOULD BE WASTING RESOURCES. SO I THINK THERE ARE SOME OPPORTUNITIES IN THE BUDGET FOR US TO REALLOCATE, PERHAPS FROM THE MILITARY BUDGET ITSELF, TO OTHER PARTS OF OUR BUDGET, NOT JUST WITHIN THE MILITARY ITSELF.

Yepsen: WHAT ABOUT VETERANS? YOU KNOW, THE PRICE TAG FOR CARING FOR VETERANS FROM THIS CONFLICT IS GOING TO BE HUGE. LAST WEEK WHILE YOU WERE GONE THERE WAS A STORY IN THE 'WASHINGTON POST' ABOUT HOW INJURED -- WOUNDED VETERANS AT WALTER REED WERE NOT BEING PROPERLY CARED FOR. WHAT'S THE PRICE TAG GOING TO BE FOR TAKING CARE OF VETERANS?

Loebsack: I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE PRICE TAG IS GOING TO BE. I'VE HEARD THE STORY TOO SINCE I'VE GOTTEN BACK. IT'S A TRAGEDY WHAT'S HAPPENED AT WALTER REED, AND I'VE ONLY HEARD A LITTLE BIT ABOUT IT SINCE I'VE BEEN BACK. IKE SKELTON, THE CHAIR OF OUR COMMITTEE, I KNOW HAS PUT OUT A STATEMENT ABOUT THIS. IT REALLY IS A TRAGEDY. IT SEEMS TO ME THAT AS A MEMBER OF THE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE, MY FIRST CONCERN HAS TO BE FOR OUR SOLDIERS AND OUR MARINES AND OUR SAILORS, FOR OUR TROOPS, PEOPLE WE PUT IN HARM'S WAY TO PROTECT AMERICA, TO PROTECT US AND AMERICA'S INTEREST. AND IF THEY COME BACK TO WALTER REED HOSPITAL AND DO NOT GET THE TREATMENT, IN FACT ARE MISTREATED, THEN TO ME THIS IS SCANDALOUS. AND I CAN GUARANTEE YOU THAT BEGINNING NEXT WEEK THERE'S GOING TO BE OVERSIGHT OF THIS. THERE COULD HAVE BEEN MORE IN THE PAST. THERE'S NO DOUBT ABOUT THAT. THERE WILL NO DOUBT BE LEGISLATION INTRODUCED. I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE NATURE OF THAT WILL BE, BUT THIS HAS TO BE -- THIS HAS TO BE DEALT WITH.

Yepsen: GOING BACK TO THIS LARGER QUESTION I ASKED YOU EARLIER ABOUT, OUR ROLE IN THE WORLD AND HOW YOU SEE THAT ROLE IN THE WORLD, YOU MENTIONED YOUR CONCERN FOR THE TROOPS. HAS THE EXPERIENCE IN IRAQ MADE THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA LESS WILLING TO PROJECT POWER? THAT WAS ONE OF THE EFFECTS IN VIETNAM, AS YOU KNOW. IS THAT OCCURRING AGAIN?

Loebsack: THAT MAY BE THE CASE. I'M NOT SURE ABOUT THAT. WHAT I'M HOPING IS THAT WE WILL LEARN SOME LESSONS FROM THIS PARTICULAR CONFLICT, THAT ANY POTENTIAL PRESIDENT WILL LEARN SOME LESSONS. AND ONE OF THEM IN PARTICULAR BEING -- AND I THINK THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVE LEARNED THIS LESSON THAT IF YOU'RE GOING TO GO INTO A COUNTRY AND REMOVE ITS LEADER AND DISBAND THE MILITARY, DISBAND THE BUREAUCRACY, THEN YOU DARN WELL BETTER BE READY TO PAY A HUGE PRICE LITERALLY TO NATION BUILD, BECAUSE THAT'S WHERE WE ARE IN IRAQ AND EVEN AFGHANISTAN AT THIS POINT. AND IF THAT MAKES US LESS LIKELY TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS IN THE FUTURE, THEN I THINK THAT'S A GOOD THING. THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT WE SHOULDN'T EVER USE MILITARY FORCE. THERE MAY COME A TIME WHEN WE MAKE A CALCULATION, A CORRECT CALCULATION THAT WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO DO ALL THOSE THINGS BECAUSE OUR NATIONAL INTERESTS TRULY ARE THREATENED, AS THEY WERE NOT IN IRAQ.

Yepsen: IS THIS COUNTRY GOING TO BECOME MORE PACIFIST, MORE ISOLATIONIST AS A RESULT OF THIS WAR?

Loebsack: NO, I DON'T THINK SO. I REALLY DON'T THINK SO. I'M HOPEFUL THAT WE'LL BE MORE CAREFUL IN OUR USE OF MILITARY POWER, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT WE'RE NECESSARILY MORE PACIFIST OR PACIFIC. AND THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT WE'RE NECESSARILY LESS INTERVENTIONIST. WE ARE THE GREATEST POWER ON EARTH. WE ARE THE LARGEST NATION IN THE WORLD. WE HAVE INTERESTS ALL OVER THE WORLD. THERE ARE A FEW ISOLATIONISTS OUT THERE, BUT I DON'T THINK THEY'RE GOING TO HOLD SWAY.

Henderson: ONE FINAL --

Borg: YOU SOUND TO ME LIKE SOMEONE WHO WOULDN'T MIND PROJECTING POWER SOMEPLACE.

Loebsack: NO, I DON'T THINK IT'S A GOOD IDEA VERY OFTEN TO PROJECT MILITARY POWER. THAT'S JUST SIMPLY NOT A GOOD IDEA. I WOULD RATHER USE SO-CALLED SOFT POWER, OKAY, WHETHER IT'S DIPLOMACY OR CULTURE, IDEAS, WHATEVER THE CASE MAY BE. WHAT I'M SAYING IS THAT IF IT COMES TO THE POINT WHERE WE ACTUALLY HAVE TO USE MILITARY POWER, THEN THAT'S WHAT WE HAVE TO DO. WE ARE A WORLD OF NATION STATES AND THAT HAS TO HAPPEN FROM TIME TO TIME, BUT I THINK I WOULD DO IT MUCH LESS OFTEN CERTAINLY THAN GEORGE BUSH.

Henderson: ONE OF THE POINTS YOU MADE DURING THE CAMPAIGN WAS YOU WERE NOT IN FAVOR OF DONALD RUMSFELD'S MANAGEMENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE. ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE NEW GUY?

Loebsack: ACTUALLY WE'VE HAD SECRETARY GATES IN A NUMBER OF HEARINGS. I BELIEVE HE'S FAR MORE OPEN, FAR LESS RIGID, FOR LESS CONFRONTATIONAL THAN DON RUMSFELD. AND I THINK STYLE IS IMPORTANT; THERE'S NO DOUBT ABOUT IT. ALSO TO THE EXTENT TO WHICH I'VE BEEN ABLE TO GATHER SORT OF HOW HE LOOKS AT THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT, I THINK IF WE EVER WERE TO GO INTO ANOTHER CONFLICT UNDER SOMEONE LIKE SECRETARY GATES -- SECRETARY OF STATE GATES, I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT WE WOULD DO IT WITH THE ARMY WE NEED AND NOT NECESSARILY THE ARMY THAT WE HAVE.

Yepsen: WE'VE ASKED A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT IRAQ. I WANT TO ASK ABOUT YOUR OTHER COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENT, EDUCATION AND LABOR. WHAT'S YOUR AGENDA THERE? WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH FOR IOWA IN THE DISTRICT ON THAT COMMITTEE?

Loebsack: WELL, AS YOU KNOW, IN THE SECOND DISTRICT OF IOWA, NOT ONLY DO WE HAVE THE K-12 INSTITUTIONS OBVIOUSLY BUT WE'VE GOT THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA, CORNELL COLLEGE, A NUMBER OF OTHER SMALL LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE, AND A LOT OF COMMUNITY COLLEGES. AND EDUCATION AND LABOR IS A GREAT PLACE FOR ME TO BE IN THAT SENSE, WHETHER IT'S REAUTHORIZATION OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION ACT OR NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, WHICH IS COMING UP; OR CERTAINLY ON THE LABOR SIDE, WE HAVE A LOT OF -- YOU KNOW, A LOT OF OUR COUNTIES, BLUE COLLAR COUNTIES, AS MANY OF YOU KNOW, LABOR IS VERY IMPORTANT.

Yepsen: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?

Loebsack: WELL, CERTAINLY IN THE CASE OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION ACT, WE'VE ALREADY DONE SOME THINGS THERE PIECEMEAL. WE'VE, FOR EXAMPLE, IN THE HOUSE INCREASED PELL GRANTS BY AN AVERAGE OF $260 PER STUDENT. WE'RE GOING TO DO MORE THAN THAT AS WELL. CERTAINLY WE NEED TO DO ALL WE CAN TO COUNTER GEORGE BUSH'S BUDGET, WHICH CALLS FOR AN INCREASE IN THE PELL GRANTS BUT A DECREASE IN THE SEOG PROGRAM, SO HE TAKES -- ROBS PETER TO PAY PAUL. NOW THAT WE HAVE A DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS, A CONGRESS THAT'S NOT SIMPLY GOING TO GO ALONG WITH GEORGE BUSH, WE CAN ACTUALLY OFFER ALTERNATIVES LIKE THAT. WE CAN BEEF UP SOME OF THESE PROGRAMS. WE CAN REFORM NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND -- HOPEFULLY WE WILL -- SO THAT IT DOESN'T PUNISH SCHOOLS THAT ARE UNDERPERFORMING SO THAT IT IN FACT PROVIDES THEM MORE RESOURCES SO THEY CAN PERFORM. THOSE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT I'M TALKING ABOUT.

Henderson: WE HAVE A FEW MOMENTS LEFT, AND WE WANT TO TALK ABOUT YOU. FIRST OF ALL, WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WERE GOING TO WIN IN NOVEMBER OF 2006? WHEN DID YOU KNOW?

Loebsack: I ALWAYS KNEW THAT I COULD WIN. I NEVER KNEW THAT I WOULD WIN. BUT NEAR THE END OF THE CAMPAIGN IN THE LAST WEEK OR SO, WE HAD A PRETTY GOOD SENSE THAT WE COULD WIN. I DIDN'T KNOW UNTIL ELECTION NIGHT A COUPLE HOURS BEFORE IT WAS OFFICIAL THAT I WAS GOING TO WIN.

Henderson: WHAT WAS THE CALCULATION THERE? WHAT CAME TOGETHER? WHAT WAS THE FORMULA?

Loebsack: THERE WERE -- THERE WERE A LOT OF THINGS THAT WENT INTO THIS. AND, YOU KNOW, I THINK IT WAS A COMBINATION OF BEING A GOOD YEAR OBVIOUSLY FOR DEMOCRATS. AND I TALKED TO THE PEOPLE ABOUT WHAT THEY WERE CONCERNED ABOUT. THEY WERE VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THE POCKETBOOK ISSUES.

Henderson: SO IT WASN'T IRAQ?

Loebsack: NOT IN THIS CASE SO MUCH. NO, AS A MATTER OF FACT THAT'S WHERE I WOULD AGREE WITH DEAN'S PREMISE AT THE OUTSET BECAUSE, AFTER ALL, CONGRESSMAN LEACH VOTED AGAINST THE WAR RESOLUTION HIMSELF. WE DIFFERED ON DONALD RUMSFELD AND WHETHER RUMSFELD SHOULD RESIGN OR NOT. WE DIFFERED SIGNIFICANTLY ON THAT, AND THAT MADE SOME DIFFERENCE, NO DOUBT. BUT THE PEOPLE OF THE SECOND DISTRICT, I BELIEVE, WERE READY FOR A REPRESENTATIVE WHO WOULD DEAL NOT ONLY WITH THE INTERNATIONAL ISSUES, WHICH CONGRESSMAN LEACH DID -- AND WE DIDN'T DISAGREE THAT MUCH ON THOSE ISSUES; HE DEALT VERY WELL WITH THOSE ISSUES -- BUT ALSO THE POCKETBOOK ISSUES, WHETHER IT WAS HEALTH CARE OR MINIMUM WAGE, EDUCATION, A NUMBER OF OTHER ISSUES. I THINK THEY WANTED SOMEBODY WHO HAS MORE OF A BALANCE OF CONCERNS ALONG THOSE LINES, AND THAT'S WHY I FIRST GOT ON EDUCATION AND LABOR AND THEN SECOND ON ARMED SERVICES.

Yepsen: SOME PEOPLE WERE SURPRISED, CONGRESSMAN, THAT ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS YOU DID OUT THERE WAS GO OUT AND TAKE A BUNCH OF PAC MONEY AND HOLD SOME FUND-RAISERS. THEY WEREN'T EXPECTING THAT FROM YOU. JIM LEACH DID NOT TAKE PAC MONEY. I THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO CHANGE THE ETHICAL CLIMATE IN WASHINGTON.

Loebsack: WELL, I WOULDN'T EQUATE TAKING PAC MONEY WITH BEING UNETHICAL, FIRST OF ALL. I DISPUTE THAT PREMISE. SECONDLY, I'VE NOT HAD ANY FUND-RAISERS. THERE WERE A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO WERE VERY EXCITED WHEN I GOT ELECTED. THERE WAS A HUGE OUTPOURING OF SUPPORT FOR ME, AND THAT'S WHERE A LOT OF THIS SUPPORT CAME FROM INITIALLY. AND I'M PRETTY CONFIDENT THAT BY THE TIME 2008 ROLLS AROUND AGAIN, PEOPLE IN THE SECOND DISTRICT ARE GOING TO SEE THAT I'M WORKING FOR THEIR INTERESTS AND NOT FOR THE INTERESTS OF ANY PARTICULAR PAC OR ORGANIZATION REPRESENTED BY A PAC.

Yepsen: IS THERE SOME WAY -- I MEAN YOUR PARTY CLEARLY DID NOT SEE THIS AS A DOABLE RACE WHEN YOU FIRST RAN.

Loebsack: I DIDN'T MEET -- UNTIL AFTER THE ELECTION.

Yepsen: IS THERE SOME WAY YOU CAN EDUCATE YOUR PARTY, THE CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE, SO THEY DON'T MISS OPPORTUNITY SEATS LIKE THIS?

Loebsack: OH, I THINK THEY'VE LEARNED FROM THIS AND FROM CAROL SHEA-PORTER IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, NANCY BOYDA IN KANSAS. NO, I THINK THEY'VE LEARNED.

Yepsen: WHAT DID THEY LEARN?

Loebsack: I THINK THAT THEY'VE LEARNED THAT THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE OUT THERE RUNNING GRASS-ROOTS CAMPAIGNS AND DO THEM EFFECTIVELY.

Yepsen: WHAT ABOUT YOUR OWN HIGHER AMBITIONS?

Loebsack: I'M DOING ALL I CAN TO BE THE BEST CONGRESSMAN I CAN BE FROM THE SECOND DISTRICT OF IOWA.

Yepsen: BUT MIGHT YOU RUN FOR THE U.S. SENATE, FOR EXAMPLE?

Loebsack: I CAN'T EVEN THINK ABOUT SOMETHING LIKE THAT. I JUST GOT BACK FROM IRAQ AND I'M TRYING TO BE, AS I SAID, THE BEST CONGRESSMAN I CAN BE FROM THIS DISTRICT.

Yepsen: SO REPORTERS ALWAYS ASK -- TO AN ANSWER LIKE THAT WE ALWAYS ASK, SO YOU'RE NOT RULING IT OUT.

Loebsack: WELL, I'M NOT EVEN THINKING ABOUT IT. HOW DOES THAT SOUND? I'M NOT EVEN THINKING ABOUT IT.

Henderson: PERHAPS YOU'VE THOUGHT ABOUT THIS. YOU WERE A POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, AS WAS MENTIONED EARLIER ON THE PROGRAM. HOW IS BEING IN THE ARENA DIFFERENT THAN TEACHING KIDS ABOUT THE ARENA?

Loebsack: YEAH, THAT'S A REALLY GREAT QUESTION, AND THAT'S A VERY FAIR QUESTION. I HAVE TO BE HONEST WITH YOU. IT IS ONE THING TO TALK ABOUT THE THEORY; IT'S ANOTHER THING TO PRACTICE IT EVER DAY. WHAT'S -- WHAT I FIND VERY FASCINATING IS JUST HOW OVERWHELMING THE EXPERIENCE IS, JUST HOW STEEP THE LEARNING CURVE IS IN ALL OF THIS, HOW MANY PEOPLE I MEET EVERY DAY AND THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE I AM UNABLE TO MEET EVERY DAY BECAUSE THERE JUST AREN'T ENOUGH HOURS IN THE DAY. BUT, YOU KNOW, THEY HAVE A SAYING THERE WHICH YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD, AND THAT IS IT'S LIKE DRINKING WATER FROM A FIRE HOSE. AND BRUCE BRALEY MAY HAVE MENTIONED THAT TOO WHEN HE WAS ON IN DECEMBER; I'M NOT SURE. BUT THAT'S WHAT IT'S LIKE. IT'S MUCH MORE OVERWHELMING THAN EVEN INTELLECTUALLY ONE CAN ANTICIPATE IT'S GOING TO BE.

Yepsen: WHAT KIND OF ROLE -- WHO'S YOUR ROLE MODEL?

Loebsack: TOM HARKIN HAS BEEN MY ROLE MODEL FOR SOME TIME. TOM HARKIN SPEAKS ABOUT THE PEOPLE AND FOR THE PEOPLE. AND I SAID THIS TO ANOTHER NEWSPAPER IN DECEMBER WHEN THEY ASKED ME THE SAME QUESTION, THE D.C. NEWSPAPER. I'VE ALWAYS ADMIRED HIM. HE'S A GREAT FIGHTER FOR THE PEOPLE WHO MATTER. IN MY CAMPAIGN -- I MEAN EVERYONE MATTERS, BUT IN MY CAMPAIGN I TALKED ABOUT MY OWN GROWING UP IN POVERTY AND A MOTHER BEING A SINGLE PARENT. AND TOM HARKIN HAS SPOKEN FOR THOSE PEOPLE IN THE PAST AND I ADMIRE HIM FOR THAT.

Borg: WE'RE OUT OF TIME BUT I WANT TO SAY THANK YOU FOR BEING WILLING TO SHRUG OFF THE JET LAG AND TO COME ON AND TALK WITH US TODAY.

Loebsack: THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR HAVING ME, DEAN.

Borg: WE'LL BE BACK NEXT WEEKEND WITH ANOTHER EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' THAT, HOWEVER, WILL BE ONLY ON MARCH 2. THAT'S FRIDAY NIGHT AND IT WILL BE AT 7:30. IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION'S ANNUAL 'FRIENDS FESTIVAL' WILL BE UNDERWAY THAT WEEKEND, SO THERE WILL BE NO SPECIAL 'IOWA PRESS' PROGRAM ON SUNDAY. WE'LL HAVE FESTIVAL PROGRAMMING THERE. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA... THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.


Tags: Congress Dave Loebsack Iowa