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Israel-Hamas war highlights top Democratic Senate candidates’ foreign policy differences

Just days after terrorists attacked America on September 11, 2001, Congressman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) rushed to give President George W. Bush broad powers to invade Afghanistan. ) was forced to make a decisive decision. her career.

As Lee considered her vote, she recalled a lesson she learned from her previous job running a community mental health center. She says, “Don’t make important decisions when you’re sad, grieving, angry, or confused.”

Mr. Lee told the Times in a recent interview that he determined that authorization as written “could set the stage for eternal war.” After intense deliberation, she decided to cast her no vote as the only councilor who opposed the bill.

Twenty-two years later, Mr. Lee, Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank and Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine have joined the ranks once held by Dianne Feinstein as a key figure in foreign affairs and national security for decades. He is now the leading Democratic Party vying for the U.S. Senate seat. policy.

California voters now have to choose between candidates with vastly different foreign policy approaches and experience.

Lee’s immediate reaction to the attack on Israel by Hamas militants this month was much like her reaction to 9/11.

“I believe that our country has a responsibility to call for a ceasefire and for the whole world to come together to stop the escalation of what is happening in the Middle East. If possible, peace is possible,” she said at a candidates forum held the weekend of the attacks.

Sif made another sound.

“As Israel experiences 9/11, the only sentiment I would like to express is unequivocal support for Israel’s right to security and self-defense,” he said.

Mr. Lee and Mr. Schiff’s decades of work on foreign policy issues contrast with the relative inexperience of Mr. Porter, a three-term congressman whose career in Congress has focused on domestic issues. be.

In his response at the forum, Porter pivoted to a more hawkish line about Iran, much like what some prominent Republicans said in the aftermath of the attack.

“I stand with Israel during this time and condemn the loss of life for both Palestinians and Israelis who are victims of this terrorism,” she said, adding, “The United States is allowing terrorism to spread and illegally He refused to act.” “A strong enough stance against Iran,” which supports the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

When asked what specific Iran policy Porter was referring to, the spokesperson cited President Trump’s withdrawal from the treaty aimed at reducing Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Lee and Mr. Schiff have long had disagreements over foreign policy.

Mr. Lee voted against the war in Afghanistan, authorized the Iraq war, and voted against the Patriot Act, which expanded government surveillance powers. Schiff voted for all three. (He later said he regretted voting for Iraq.) Mr. Lee opposed the Obama administration’s 2011 missile attack on Libya, but Mr. Schiff supported the attack with conditions.

Mr. Schiff has voted to approve final passage of the last seven annual defense funding bills. Mr. Lee has long pushed for cuts to Pentagon spending, but he voted against all of them. (Porter voted against the last two spending bills, but voted for them during his first two years in Congress.)

Mr. Lee told the Times before the Hamas attack that Mr. Schiff was “part of the status quo thinking” in Washington on foreign policy, adding that Mr. Porter “just doesn’t sit in Congress and is not a member of foreign policy.” “I don’t have any background to rely on.” long enough. “

In an interview shortly before the Hamas attack, Schiff declined to directly compare his record with that of his opponent. But he emphasized his long track record as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and the opportunities it gave him to meet world leaders.

“I have been deeply involved in both foreign policy issues, national security issues, and intelligence issues,” Schiff said. “I think it has given me a wealth of experience to address and address some of the most important national security challenges facing this country.”

Mr. Schiff’s years leading the House Intelligence Committee prepared him to prosecute Mr. Trump in his first impeachment trial. Diplomats and military officials have testified that the then-president tried to pressure Ukraine to launch an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for U.S. cooperation. It was a necessary weapon to protect the country from Russian invasion.

“He has done a very good job in terms of impeachment,” Lee said of Schiff.

Mr. Lee participated in foreign policy debates on Capitol Hill in the 1980s as a senior staff member for Ron Dellums, a longtime Oakland congressman who was then chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. During that time, Mr. Dellums led a bipartisan effort to seek sanctions against apartheid-era South Africa.

In recent years, she has been able to win allies in her quest to rein in the president’s expanding war powers. This is partly due to elements of both parties moving her way. Lee helped draft the Democratic National Committee’s national platform in 2016, pushing the party’s official foreign policy stance in a more dovish direction. Her once-lonely campaign to repeal the authorization of military force in 2001 and 2002 received strong bipartisan support.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) said Lee’s views on war and peace were a key reason for his decision to support her.

“I see Barbara Lee as the strongest voice against endless wars, not just on the campaign trail but in Congress as a whole,” he told the Times.

Mr. Schiff is leading the Senate race with support from the delegates, with 22 of California’s 40 House Democrats backing him, compared to 3 for Mr. Lee and 3 for Mr. Porter. There were 0 people.

Many of his colleagues cited his foreign policy experience and his work leading the Intelligence Committee as key reasons for supporting him.

“That was a big reason why I decided to support Adam,” said Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove). “There are only 100 senators. So foreign policy experience is very important.”

Whoever wins the seat will replace a senator who has played a key role on foreign policy, privacy and civil liberties issues for decades, but at times surprised his fellow Democrats. There is also.

Feinstein served as the top Democrat on the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee from 2009 to 2016, often taking a more interventionist course than many members of her own party.

She voted to authorize the Iraq War and was a major supporter of the Patriot Act. Feinstein has been one of the most staunch Democratic supporters of the U.S. intelligence community for much of her career, and has been a Republican advocate for expanding the government’s ability to secretly monitor Americans’ phone calls and emails without a warrant. He stood by his side and supported granting immunity to telephone companies that allowed the U.S. government to listen in. She on calls between terrorist suspects and people in the United States. When former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of the government’s vast data collection operations, Feinstein accused him of treason. She is also an ardent advocate of drone strikes, and blocked President Obama from transferring control of the drone strike program from the CIA to the Department of Defense.

But she was also a key figure in defending President Obama’s agreement to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and led the mission to investigate and declassify a report on the CIA’s secret torture program. Without her work, this document would never have seen the light of day.

Schiff is perhaps the closest of the three candidates to Feinstein in terms of worldview and experience.

The two men worked closely together as top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees. In the run-up to the 2016 election, they urged the Obama administration to publicly accuse Russia of interfering in the election.After being rejected, they Joint statement In late September 2016, Obama officials declared they had seen evidence that Russia was trying to influence the U.S. election, weeks before finally saying the same thing.

“It’s too late,” Schiff lamented.

In recent years, the foreign policy differences between Mr. Schiff and Mr. Lee have not been as sharp as they were early in their political careers.

Lee has fought like this, severely restrict Schiff hasn’t gotten that far in the CIA’s long-running drone strike program, but in 2015 introduced A bill that would put the program under the control of the Department of Defense. Mr. Schiff also supports Mr. Lee’s efforts to repeal the 2002 law authorizing military force in Iraq. The initiative has strong bipartisan support, including Biden, and passed the House in 2021 when it was in Democratic hands, but has not yet become law.

Schiff worked across the aisle to reform the Patriot Act and eliminate the warrantless wiretapping program. He also said that the lessons learned from voting in favor of invading Iraq based on misinformation provided by the Bush administration were to inform the U.S. Intelligence Collection Agency’s report to inform opposing views and avoid “groupthink.” He said that it served as an opportunity to push forward with calligraphy reform. .

“Seeing how the administration could mislead the country and use intelligence to do so was a very powerful motivator for me to work on reforming the intelligence community,” he told the Times. told.

Both Mr. Schiff and Mr. Lee criticized the Biden administration’s response to the disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan, but praised the decision to do so.

The three leading Democratic Senate candidates generally strongly support U.S. military aid to Ukraine, but voted against supplying the country with cluster munitions.

The candidates also overlap on some issues regarding Israel.

At the forum, Schiff criticized Israel’s recent “movement away from democracy,” alluding to the expansion of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to undermine the independence of the judiciary. He pointed out that he was doing so.

Mr. Lee has consistently voted in favor of funding Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. But she was also one of 16 House Democrats who voted against a nonbinding resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that seeks to block investment in Israel. Co-host A bill that would ban U.S. aid to Israel’s annexation of land in the West Bank and the detention of Palestinian children.

Israel’s re-emergence as a global flashpoint has once again highlighted the differences between the two countries.

Mr. Schiff continues to defend Israel with all his might.

“It is important that Congress work quickly to provide Israel with the security, humanitarian, and intelligence assistance it needs to defend itself and safely recover its captured hostages,” he said in a statement. Ta. “Words matter, and we are being watched closely by our adversaries as well as our allies around the world. It is more important than ever for the United States to stand together with Israel.”

Mr. Lee recently letter Members from the Congressional Progressive Caucus to President Biden have expressed deep concern about Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip and called for an end to the siege and the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to deliver life-saving supplies.

“Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas, but it must do so within the framework of international law,” she wrote. statementcalled on the United States to “protect innocent civilians and ensure humanitarian assistance is provided.”

Porter released: 5 minute video Days later, she touted her support for Israel, strongly criticized Iran, and only briefly mentioned the suffering of Palestinian civilians.

“We cannot give in to Iran’s efforts to undermine our long-standing special relationship with Israel.”

Porter’s district includes a large Iranian-American community, which has long spoken out against the Iranian government’s brutal crackdown on women and other protesters.

Porter’s campaign declined to make her available for interviews, but cited her work on foreign policy, including her efforts to cut defense spending and the ownership of defense contractor stocks by senior Pentagon officials. He cited his success in pushing for an amendment to ban the law.

At the forum, Porter was asked about his lack of foreign policy experience, and he said he had skimmed it.

“I’ve worked and always have worked. I was a professor, so I take doing homework pretty seriously,” she said. “I am committed to continuing to learn.”

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