Udall criticizes Bush administration

Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson
U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., speaks during a Friends of Democracy luncheon Tuesday at the Memorial Building.

Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., told members of a largely Democratic audience that the Republicans in Washington are not doing enough to help Americans, but also said Democrats need to do more if they hope to change that.

Udall was the guest during a luncheon organized by Friends of Democracy, an institution a little more than one year old.

Udall was in the area for a meeting involving Cannon Air Force Base and a ceremony later in Portales to award belated medals to Vietnam veteran Tom “Mack” Tucker.

During the informal session, Udall spoke on what he perceived as failures of the administration of George W. Bush and what he hoped would be a successful second chance for Cannon Air Force Base.

Udall said that since the base was put into enclave status, the state’s congressional delegation has sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld encouraging a personal visit to Cannon.

“We felt this was something to be proceeded on on an urgent basis,” Udall said. “We’re going to have some tough questions for the new Air Force secretary, so we can determine where the secretary stands on issues involving Cannon.”

With most in the audience concerned about high fuel prices, he said the new energy bill didn’t do enough to help people at the pump.

“We failed to set fuel efficiency standards,” Udall said. “We failed to take any action to drop gas prices in the short term. That’s what we ought to have done, but the folks in charge didn’t see it fit to do that.”

Udall was also critical of the Bush administration regarding Social Security and the war in Iraq. He avoided making any type of commitment to a question from Meb Bolin of Portales, who said the president misled the country into war and that Udall should help bring forth impeachment charges.

After a mixture of laughs and cheers, Udall said that one of his duties as a House member was to act as an independent juror should an impeachment process ever come through.

“Those of us that are House members need to be careful and not get too far in the front and say, ‘These are the facts,’” Udall said. “We find the facts with everything we do in (impeachment) hearings.”

Udall said a more realistic solution for people upset with the current administration is to organize grassroots efforts. He said Cindy Sheehan, who is camping out at Bush’s vacation residence in Crawford, Texas, has singlehandedly changed the debate on the Iraq war. Similar measures, he said, could help the Democratic Party in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

“We’ve got to make sure that when ’06 comes up, we’ll have more voter turnout,” Udall said.

Jim Lee, the chairperson of the Roosevelt County Democratic Party, said Udall’s visit was part of a commitment to smaller local parties from party representatives.

“His presence in itself is very good for morale,” Lee said. “Tom is recognizing (the local party’s) efforts and supporting that.”

The House is out of session until next week, at which point Udall will head back to Washington, D.C.