MARYSVILLE — Syria, the Affordable Care Act and the accountability of politicians were the issues foremost on the minds of area residents who attended a special community coffee session with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen at the Boondockers Cafe in Marysville on the afternoon on Thursday, Sept. 5, with the first question asking him how he planned to vote on Syria.
“I don’t know that it will come to a vote in the House, and I don’t know what an eventual resolution might say,” Larsen said. “What I’ve concluded, based on the unclassified information, is that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own civilians.”
When members of the crowd murmured their skepticism over the information Larsen had received, he reminded them that he’d voted not to enter Iraq based on what he considered the poor quality of intelligence in that case, “but it’s like night and day compared to what we have available to us in this case.”
Within the next few days, Larsen expected to receive classified information from not only the United States, but also the United Kingdom and France. In the meantime, he emphasized that his mind is not yet made up, not only because he doesn’t have all the information, but also because he wants to hear from his constituents, whose feedback he solicited on his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Rick-Larsen/20809300888.
“There are those who would say it’s not in our national security interests to get involved in a civil war, beyond the degree to which we’re involved in it now, by giving humanitarian aid,” Larsen said. “But the use of chemical weapons goes against the Geneva Convention and the Syrian Accountability Act. This is why I’ll be continuing to hear from you.”
Larsen admitted that he did not know how much American military involvement in Syria might cost, “so I’ll be asking that this week,” but he did take the time to distinguish between America entering Afghanistan after 9/11, which he voted for and still believes was justified, versus America entering Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, which he considered a distraction.
“Those chemical weapons very specifically targeted a suburb in Damascus that was the exact place the Syrian government needed to get at the rebels,” Larsen said, when asked if he was certain that the Syrian government was behind the attack. “In this case, one plus one plus one equals three. It’s too coincidental.”
“I have no doubt that what’s happening there is terrible, but many, many people believe there’s no purpose to be served in us getting involved in a war in which we’re not even sure who we should be backing,” said Marysville’s Kristin Cook, who collected seven pages of signatures in Edmonds, during the prior weekend, against military involvement in Syria, which she’d faxed to Larsen’s Congressional office.
Marysville’s Mark Hamers cited figures from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics that only 27,000 of the 963,000 jobs created in the past six months were full-time, and wondered if the Affordable Care Act was to blame for employers limiting their workers’ hours and making more of their positions part-time.
“The conclusion that the White House economic team came to was that this is due to the restructuring of the economy that occurred during the recession,” said Larsen, who noted that unemployment in Snohomish County was down to 5.6 percent, from a high of close to 10 percent during the recession. “What we need to be doing to develop sustainable jobs is to invest in transportation infrastructure and in education — not just K-12, but two- and four-year college programs as well.”
“Ever since I was in my 20s, and I’m in my 70s now, I’ve thought that we needed a health care system in this country, and the intentions behind the Affordable Care Act are great, but I think it overblew it,” said Marysville’s Ginger Van Mourik, who suggested starting with something simpler like free annual checkups instead, to catch serious conditions in time.
Ken Dammand of Tulalip commended Larsen on his efforts to overturn Citizen United, and wondered what he would need to do with a statewide initiative to do the same.
“If you do it, you’d better win it, because otherwise, it makes it a lot more difficult,” Larsen said. “There is a limit to the impact of money, because there’s more of you than there are people who are willing to drop $10 million on an election, but you can’t lose your energy because otherwise it really will be all about money.”