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Federal Issues in Local Light

Moran criticizes president’s policies and outlines platform for reelection, while avoiding controversy.

U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) admittedly has a problem during the campaign season: “This should be a safe seat, but I go through these Herculean efforts to make it competitive,” said Moran, referring to a string of political gaffes he’s made in the past.

It’s why the crowd of about 60 people sitting in the Reston Community Center at Hunters Woods grew silent when Moran was asked about a controversial study, titled “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” written by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University.

The study became controversial in late March when Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz said quotes from the paper appeared on hate sites. Eliot A. Cohen, a professor at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, also wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, calling the paper “anti-semitic.”

At Moran’s town hall meeting Saturday, May 8, a Reston resident said he felt discussion about the study was being suppressed and asked Moran if he would enter it into the Congressional record. “No,” said Moran, explaining that he didn’t think it was necessary and that the practice of entering studies into the record was no longer done.

Moran also told the audience that the Washington Post published two competing opinion pieces written about the study — the one by Eliot Cohen and another by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, who said the study wasn’t anti-semitic. He encouraged the audience to read both.

“I happen to agree with Richard Cohen that it is a subject that should be discussed,” said Moran. “I think it is an issue that should be no more suppressed than it is in Israel. In Israel you can talk about politics.” He added that every issue deserved open, public discussion.

THE TOWN HALL meeting was the first of three Moran held in his district Saturday. In Reston, the eight-term congressman took the opportunity to outline a platform that may be the focus of his re-election campaign this fall.

Moran outlined several policies he thinks should be implemented, but added that they have little chance of approval as long as Republicans control Congress. The two most important policies Congress should pass, Moran said, are universal healthcare coverage and universal child development before the age of five.

Meanwhile, Moran slammed the Bush administration and its signature policies, particularly the tax cuts, the war in Iraq and the reliance on deficit spending.

“The tax cuts are unfair,” said Moran. “People who make more than $300,000 receive a majority of the tax cuts.” Moran added that the tax cuts should have gone to working families who need them most.

Large deficit spending, Moran said, has been the result of the war and the tax cuts. “Every dollar of those tax cuts is borrowed and these young ladies," pointing to two children in the audience, "will have to pay for it,” said Moran.

Larry Schulte of Herndon asked Moran about the war in Iraq. “What is your view of how we got into Iraq and how do we get out?” said Schulte.

Moran, who voted against the war, said the president wanted to go to war with Iraq even though Saddam Hussein had no relation to Al-Qaeda. Moran called the president’s use of military force in Iraq without an exit strategy “grossly irresponsible.” “Now, we’re spending more than $2 billion a week on Iraq.”

Bob Simon, founder of Reston, asked Moran about his views on immigration. “It’s an issue I’m a little out there on,” said Moran.

“FIRST, WE ARE a nation of immigrants. The U.S. has been successful because of wave after wave of immigrants searching for the American dream,” said Moran. He said that the U.S. has been able to attract “the best and the brightest” from other countries.

Moran opposed the proposal in a House bill that would make it a felony to be in the country illegally and penalize Americans who aid the estimated 11 million or more undocumented workers in the U.S. “I feel very strongly that it should not be a felony to help a family in need,” said Moran. “That’s wrong and I think it’s un-American.” Clapping erupted from the audience after Moran’s response.

Moran also talked about dependence on foreign oil. Lisa Qualls of Reston asked Moran what he thought about drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

“I don’t want to go into ANWR because it doesn’t help us that much,” said Moran.

THIS NOVEMBER Moran will face one of two Republican challengers — Mark Ellmore, 47, of Alexandria and Tom O’Donoghue, 41, also of Alexandria, who are running in the June 13 Republican primary.

The race for the 8th district will also include independent challenger James T. Hurysz, 57, an Arlington quality control manager.