Appel, Young split on how America should fight10/15/2014
Staci Appel says the United States should “always” fight foreign conflicts and terror with friends standing by the nation’s side. David Young says the country may be forced to throw some overseas punches alone, that the nation has to lead.
The two candidates seeking to represent a 16-county sweep of southern and central Iowa in the 3rd Congressional District — which includes Adair and Guthrie counties — offered strikingly different foreign policy philosophies in their second debate last week sponsored by KCCI-TV, The Des Moines Register and Simpson College.
About 300 people attended the debate at the Kent Campus Center on Simpson’s campus Indianola.
“The United States always has to work in a coalition with other countries,” said Appel, an Ackworth Democrat who previously served in the Iowa Senate.
That’s not always possible in a dangerous world, where the United States is looked to as a leader, and in the event of immediate responses to any crisis endangering American lives, said Young, a Republican and former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley.
“If there’s something out there that’s a threat to America, we don’t always need to wait for others,” said Young, who lives in Van Meter.
Young’s preference is for the nation to work in a coalition, but he wouldn’t make it an absolute.
“My job would be to make sure America is protected and her people protected,” Young said in an interview after the debate.
Foreign affairs — particularly the response to terror threats — consumed much of the beginning of the hour-long debate with Appel largely on the defensive for a remark about passports in the first televised exchange in Council Bluffs.
The one exchange that jumped out of the September debate centered on how to handle the passports of American citizens with suspected ties to terrorist organizations.
“I’d be urging our State Department to revoke the passports of those that they suspect who have admitted that they are part of terrorist organizations,” Young said. “Our State Department has that authority. Right now, they’re not doing it.”
Young’s approach — one supported by his former boss and mentor, Grassley, in an earlier interview with this newspaper — goes too far, said Appel.
“I would not be urging taking away their passports,” Appel said in September. “I think we need to make sure that we work through the system and look through it on a very diligent basis.”
The moderators of the debate Monday — KCCI’s Kevin Cooney and The Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich — pressed Appel on her response, which has been center stage in the campaign during much of the last two weeks.
“I do not support giving passports to terrorists,” Appel said.
Appel would not say whether she misspoke or changed her position.
“I think I was very clear,” she said.
Young said the September statement from Appel reveals lack of judgment in the heat of the moment, something members of Congress cannot escape when dealing with life-and-death issues related to foreign policy.
“This is more than a misstatement,” Young said.
Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford said the passport exchange was not a highlight for Appel in the debate.
“I think she was not strong in the way she responded to that,” Goldford said. “Probably some campaign handler told her, ‘Simply state your position and go on. Don’t look back.’ ”
Appel and Young did agree on increasing the minimum wage. Both support a hike from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. Appel said it would be her No. 1 priority. Young said the raise should be phased in and tied to small-business measures aimed at reducing any negative effects on employers.
Both opposed raising the retirement age of 65 for Social Security and Medicare. Young said means-testing Social Security, which could cut or eliminate payments to wealthier seniors, should be considered to shore up the system for the future.
Young has been critical of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, saying it hurts businesses and strips Americans of choices.
Appel offered an unequivocal endorsement of the sweeping health-care reform.
“I fully support the Affordable Care Act,” Appel said.
In an interview after the debate, Young said President Obama himself doesn’t fully support all elements of the law bearing his name, that changes have been proposed by Democrats and Republicans.
“I’ve not met anybody in Iowa, liberal Democrat or conservative Republican, who supports whole-heartedly the whole Affordable Care Act,” Young said in the interview.
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said he supports the Affordable Care Act, but would like to see modifications as well.
“Most of the changes I would want to make are on the progressive side,” Harkin said in an interview after the debate, which he attended in person. “We should have a public option, which I fought very hard for and didn’t get.”
Harkin said “most” of the Affordable Care Act is “OK.”
“It needs to be simplified more,” Harkin said. “It’s still a little too convoluted right now.”
Goldford said he believes Appel is on the record with statements about tweaks to the Affordable Care Act.
“Maybe she overstated it a little bit tonight,” Goldford said in an interview. “But I don’t think it was in any way harmful to her.”
Appel and Young both said climate change is tied to the actions of humans, and both would oppose legalizing marijuana.
On the latter, Appel said U.S. authorities should impose federal drug laws in Colorado where marijuana is legal.
Young said he is opposed to a federal gas-tax increase and wants to explore new revenue streams for infrastructure development connected to drivers of electric cars and other non-petroleum-powered cars and trucks, which now escape responsibility for maintenance of the roads and bridges they travel.
“I don’t think anybody should ride for free,” Young said. CV
Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.