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Barbara Lee, Betty McCollum criticize war effort, tax policy, Africa HIV/AIDS funding cuts

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) along with Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) were featured guests at the July 14 “Conversations with Al McFarlane: Public Policy Forum at Lucille’s Kitchen”.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) along with Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) were featured guests at the July 14 “Conversations with Al McFarlane: Public Policy Forum at Lucille’s Kitchen”.

Lee was first elected to the House of Representatives for the Ninth District of California in a 1998 special election to fill the seat of retiring Congressman Ron Dellums. She currently is Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Task Force on Global HIV/AIDS, Whip for the CBC and a member of the CBC Minority Business Task Force. Lee came to Washington after serving in the California State Assembly from 1990 to 1996 and the California State Senate from 1996 to 1998. Throughout her political career, Lee has sought to bring her training as a social worker to bear on the problems and challenges that confront the East Bay area of California and the nation. She has worked to build bipartisan coalitions to provide for the basic and inter-related needs of Americans: health care, housing, education, jobs, and the quest to create livable communities in a peaceful world.

“We are at a critical moment in our democracy,” Lee said. “This [White House] administration, in the short time it’s been in office, has totally begun an effort to dismantle government, to dismantle all of our safety net programs. It promotes tax cuts for wealthy people while leaving out low-income individuals and, unfortunately, it has embraced the foreign policy of first strike. It has not said it would not use a nuclear first strike if a perceived future threat is part of their analysis as it relates to the security of our country. We’re on the wrong course. Our mission must be to take back the House, Senate and White House on behalf of the people of the United States of America.”

These last remarks immediately were met with enthusiastic applause. Lee clearly stated her support for U. S. soldiers stationed in Iraq, but criticized the means by which, she said, Congress abdicated authority in giving President Bush "a blank check to authorize the use of force against any nation, organization, or individual [it deems responsible for, or connected to,] the attack of 9/11. I want to be certain, before we put our troops in harm’s way, that there’s a real eminent and immediate threat,” she said.

Lee added, “as regards to Iraq, we’re beginning to see that the danger may not have been what we were told.”

McCollum agreed, stating, “This is an assault on what our nation stands for. Do we stand for hope, justice and opportunity, or do we stand for preemptive strikes when we don’t have all the information in front of us?”

Addressing the cost in terms of domestic concerns, she said, “There are consequences to choices. Do we have money for Head Start? Do we have money to provide affordable college tuition? Are we working for affordable housing? Are we working to [give] our communities better access to health care? We’re at a crossroads. Are we going to choose hope, opportunity and justice or are we going to choose tax breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations?”

McCollum brought the international picture into view, adding, “people are watching to see what choices the most free democracy in the world is making as its choices. Right now, I don’t think the international community is looking to us for leadership.”

Host Al McFarlane, addressing the AIDS crisis in Africa, remarked that upon Bush’s recent return from that continent, “[He’s] coming back, trumpeting that he’s going to be the global advocate for HIV/AIDS education [and] prevention and focusing American resources on solving the problem in Africa.” McFarlane asserted that those who are examining the process see, in fact, likelihood in the reduction of American funds allocated to combat HIV and AIDS.

Lee concurred. She said, “The President sh

July 21, 2003
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CONVERSATiONS W/ AL MCFARLANE