I met Wayne Dudding last night. He's running for Congress - Pennsylvania 18th District.
A few local bloggers were invited to a meet-and-greet with the candidate but as it was a last minute thing, only Johnny Mac and yours truly were there. It made for a far-reaching and yet close-knit discussion.
Full Disclosure: Dudding's wife Fran and I work in the same office and have known each other for a couple of years.
Chomping on some pizza (initially plain and then mushroom and olive), Dudding held forth on his number one reason for entering this race: The Iraq war.
We can do a lot better, he said. He began by saying that he's in favor of getting the troops out as soon as we possibly can. It's the "as soon as we possibly can" part that's tricky. While praising General Petraeus a number of times in the evening as having done a great job, he said that a military solution won't solve the problems of Iraq.
Only when some progress has been made on the non-Military issues in Iraq (the economy, reconstruction, government and so on) will it be possible to bring the troops home. Rushing them home too soon would only increase the danger they face. There are no easy answers. And this is where the American Government needs to do better. There's no single unified department to run the reconstruction. The infrastructure needs to be rebuilt. The Iraqi police and military needs to be rebuilt. The caliber of diplomats the US sends over there needs to be upgraded. He said that nowadays, the diplomats are rotated in every 90 to 120 days and so the Iraqis aren't even speaking to them - why bother when a new diplomat will be standing in the same place in three months.
In general, he doesn't think we should be occupying any country - it's "against America's values," - and occupying Iraq has only enhanced al-Qaeda.
The war was about oil - and by shifting the nation's energy dependence away from oil, we'd greatly reduce the possibility for fighting another war for oil. The nation's dependence on foreign oil needs to be reduced, he said.
The conversation swept far and wide, from Nigerian oil prices to the limitations of laisse-faire economics to the "disgrace" (his word) of Abu-Ghraib.
Healthcare needs to be tackled, he said. One possibility is to have the government pick up the tab for catastrophic issues and then offering to everyone a set of options (one being a government run single payer system) for everything else.
Speaking about his candidacy, he said that most people can spot BS and that the voters are looking for someone of substance, so perhaps a guy with 27 years in the military might have something to say about Iraq, a chemical engineer might have a few ideas about energy independence and someone with an MBA from CMU would be able to speak on the economy.
AND he has an iphone!