FAIRFIELD — The chance to remove chemical weapons from Syria and avoid U.S. military action is an absolutely remarkable opportunity and “good news for the world,” Rep. John Garamendi says.
“Once you unleash the dogs of war you’re not sure where they’re going to go,” Garamendi said. “You’re not sure who they’re going to bite.”
Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, spoke during a telephone town hall he took part in Wednesday night. He represents the 3rd Congressional District, which covers much of Solano County to include Fairfield, Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base.
Computer-generated phone calls contacted about 60,000 constituents for the event that involved questions callers posed to Garamendi about Syria. He said he opposed U.S. military action in the Middle East country and supports having the United Nations remove any chemical weapons from Syria.
“Wars often seem simple, until they’re not. Diplomacy often seems impossible, until it works,” the congressman said in a statement prior to the telephone town hall session. “Let’s give diplomacy a chance.”
Garamendi, who took a red-eye flight Sunday to Washington, D.C., to attend classified briefings about Syria, said before the town hall that anti-war protestors have not been silent about the possibility of U.S. military action in Syria.
“They’re not staying home in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re doing in Fairfield.”
State Assemblyman Dan Logue, who is running against Garamendi for the 3rd Congressional District seat, said Wednesday that the anti-war protests that usually occur over U.S. military action haven’t happened because protestors support President Barack Obama.
“They’re basically standing down,” Logue, R-Chico, said. “They’re reluctant to criticize.”
The assemblyman also said that Garamendi should have offered a traditional town hall and appeared in person in the district.
Jim McCully, a member of the Republican Central Committee for Solano County, agrees that a telephone town hall by the congressman is inadequate.
“I want to see a person’s eyes,” McCully said. “I want to see their mannerisms.”
Donald Lathbury, a spokesman for Garamendi, said the electronic events cost between $2,000 to $4,000 depending upon the number of people contacted. Telephone town halls are particularly important for a congressman who represents rural areas because the events allow more public participation, Lathbury said.
Garamendi said he has had eight recent traditional town halls but that a telephone event can be set up much more quickly. People appreciate the electronic events, he said, citing comments he’s heard after them.
“Every time I go into a store somebody would say, “I love that town hall,’ ” the congressman said.
Curt Cerveny of the Telephone Town Hall Meeting company in Golden, Colo., said the events extend political participation to the 80 percent of the public who doesn’t attend traditional town halls. Republicans started the technology about a dozen years ago but Democrats now use the electronic events as well.
They’re “talk radio on the phone,” Cerveny said.
Garamendi said he agrees with the description, but hopes his electronic gatherings are “without the bombast” of such radio.
A caller Wednesday, who identified himself as Timothy in Fairfield, said it’s ironic that as the U.S. marks the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, many people want no U.S. military action in Syria. The U.S. ignored terrorism before 9/11 and then was stunned by the attacks, he said.
Garamendi, noting it’s been 12 years since 2001, said the country faces a decision about how to act.
“Here we are once again facing a question of, ‘What do we do?’ ” he said.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or email@example.com.