Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ask Boehner: Investing in Our Security, Passport Rules Reinstated

I occasionally use this column to answer questions from 8th District constituents. You may submit questions to askboehner@mail.house.gov. My office is available to help constituents and you will find contact information at the end of this column.

I’ve heard that you made a comment during a television interview about our troops in Iraq but I’ve heard it from so many different places that I was hoping you could tell me what you said and why you said it.

During a live interview with CNN while I was traveling in Iraq to thank our troops for their hard work, I was asked about the money we’re spending in Iraq – an amount the show’s host quoted as $2 billion to $3 billion a week. This is a lot of money. But when we look at this money in the context of the investment we’re making to defeat al Qaeda, protect our interests here and abroad, win the global War on Terror and provide the equipment and resources our troops need to do their job, that investment is well worth the price. However, any attempt to put a dollar figure on what our troops are doing in Iraq does a disservice to their sacrifices that will make us, our children, our grandchildren and generations to come safer.

Unfortunately what’s happened is certain parts of that interview have been cherry-picked and spliced to create an entirely new meaning to my words. Now, as anyone who’s watched recent elections can tell you, negative attacks are part of politics – and that’s true, to a certain extent. What’s not acceptable are partisan attacks aimed at our troops and their families, and character assassinations on the brave men and women who volunteer to serve in our country’s military. Recently, a political group that is pushing for precipitous withdrawal from Iraq bought a full-page ad in a national newspaper attacking the character of Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, and implying that he’s somehow betraying the nation by reporting on progress in Iraq. Elected officials – those of us who choose to run for office as the path to making a better world for our children – understand that people and groups who don’t agree with us may resort to misleading attacks. But the men and women who bravely serve in the armed forces do not deserve such a heinous assault on their character.

During my trip to Iraq , I had lunch with Ohio soldiers in Baghdad and also met with Col. Michael Garrett, a 1984 Xavier University graduate who now serves as the commanding officer of Forward Operating Base Kalsu. After returning from Iraq , I met with five Ohio families who lost their sons there. These families came to thank me for my commitment to supporting our efforts in the global War on Terror. These families wanted me to know that they’re committed to winning because they want their sons’ sacrifices to be worth something.

I’m including here a transcript of the complete question and answer from the CNN interview so you can see what I was asked and how I answered:

Excerpt from CNN Interview transcript, September 10, 2007:

BLITZER: Mr. Leader, here is the question. How much longer will U.S. taxpayers have to shell out $2 billion a week or $3 billion a week as some now are suggesting the cost is going to endure, the loss and blood the Americans who are killed every month, how much longer do you think this commitment, this military commitment, is going to require?

BOEHNER: I think General Petraeus outlined it pretty clearly. We're making success, but we need to firm up those successes. We need to continue our effort here because, Wolf, long term the investment that we're making today will be a small price if we're able to stop al Qaeda here, if we're able to stabilize the Middle East . It's not only going to be a small price for the near future, but think about the future for our kids and their kids. This is a very important effort on the part of the United States to secure our national interests and to secure our security interests, especially when it comes to al Qaeda, who has been our number one enemy here in Iraq .

My family is planning a Thanksgiving trip to Mexico and we remember hearing that the new passport rules were no longer in effect. Do we still need passports?

Yes. Beginning Oct. 1, anyone age 16 and older traveling by air to Canada , Mexico , the Caribbean and Bermuda will need a passport. Due to an extensive backlog, the State Department temporarily relaxed that requirement but the rules will soon go back into effect. While the State Department says the standard application process will take 10 to 12 weeks and the expedited process two to three weeks, my office found that the standard application was taking 12 to 16 weeks and expedited applications were taking three to six weeks. Even though the State Department will have processed much of the backlog, I still encourage anyone planning to travel by air to Canada , Mexico , the Caribbean and Bermuda should apply for a passport as early as possible. Information may be found at http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html.

If you are an 8th District resident and have questions about either of these issues – or other issues with the federal government – please contact my office toll-free, 1-800-583-1001.

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