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Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Kline, Defense, and Immigration Policy

There are two parts to this post. Part one is a speech Kline gave in May 2005. Part two is some analysis. Folks who aren't especially interested in Kline's speeches should jump to the bottom.

As I mentioned in the previous post, last May Kline participated in the discussion about the annual Defense Authorization Act. But just barely, it turns out.

In more than 150 pages of discussion in the Congressional Record, Kline only contributes one time, to oppose an amendment which would empower the Secretary of Defense to assign members of the armed forces to assist the Department of Homeland Security in its border patrol duties. Here is the full text of Kline's speech:

Mr. Chairman, I thank my friend for yielding me this time, and I rise in opposition to the amendment put forward by my good friend, the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Goode). While I support his intention with all my heart to provide increased border security to our Nation, I would remind my colleagues that we have been taking action in this Congress, and will take more, to increase the number of border patrol, and as my friend, the gentleman from Texas, said, to pass a REAL ID Act, and to take steps where professional law enforcement officials are stepping up to provide security for our borders.

I oppose this amendment because of my fear of what it does to our Armed Forces at a time when we are stretched incredibly thin. I think back to my days on active duty, and my son's service now on active duty, and how hard they are training for this war on terror, how much time they are spending deployed, and to think we are now going to ask more of them.

My colleague from Arizona mentioned 8,000 miles of border. I am afraid that in our eagerness to defend the border, we will call more and more on our men and women in the Armed Forces and put them in a very untenable position where they are poorly trained to do a job that should be done by professional law enforcement officers and taking them away from their primary mission and stretching them ever thinner in their primary duties. So, reluctantly, I oppose this amendment.

I agree with Kline here. To say that our armed forces are "stretched incredibly thin" is an understatement, and I further agree that border patrol is a law enforcement matter, not a military one, at least until there's an organized assault on our borders. Of course, this speech also undermines Kline's attempt to position himself as tough on illegal immigration in the fall campaign.

But there's a larger issue here. The heart of Kline's appeal as a candidate is his 25-year stint in the USMC and the strong support for our troops and veterans which that implies. And Kline is well-positioned to deliver that support, as he sits on the Armed Services Committee.

But where, exactly, is the support? With the election still almost 9 months away, we've already seen charges and countercharges about the votes Kline has cast for and against veterans. But whether Kline or Rowley presents the most accurate picture of Kline's voting record, voting is a passive activity --- not what one would expect from a fighter.

Congress debates and passes a Defense Authorization Act every year. That means there has been a protracted debate about defense and veterans issues at least three times since Kline took office, but Kline has not once stood up to make a strong argument for the needs of our troops or veterans during any of them.

Leaders lead. Leaders who list their support of the military as their chief qualification need to put their support into action, rather than simply voting "aye" or "nay" on the legislation that passes before them.


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