U.S. Rep. Moore addresses Afghanistan, slavery reparations, COVID-19
OGDEN – U.S. Rep. Blake Moore came to Ogden, meeting with a crowd of perhaps 200, taking questions and addressing everything from Afghanistan to slavery reparations to Mike Lindell to the COVID-19 vaccine.
It was a wide-ranging discussion, lasting two-plus hours, but events in Afghanistan overshadowed the discussion. An attack Thursday by a suicide bomber at the airport in Kabul as U.S. forces withdraw from the country killed dozens of Afghans and 13 U.S. troops, according to the Associated Press.
“It’s been a tough day,” Moore told the crowd at Thursday night’s town hall meeting, held at the Marshall White Center in Ogden. “To lose members of our military in addition to approximately 60 Afghanis today in a terrorist attack is an absolute tragedy. We have to be able to create a response to this.”
What sort of response emerges remains to be seen, but Moore, a Republican from Salt Lake City, said his office has been focused of late on helping facilitate the departure from Afghanistan of those trying to get out. “Right now the focus needs to be entirely on getting our folks out … With the terrorist attack today it’s going to be much, much more difficult,” he said.
He also directed tough words toward the administration of President Joe Biden, the motor behind the U.S. departure from Afghanistan after a presence there of some 20 years. He questioned why a “residual force” isn’t being left behind, charged the administration with lack of leadership and criticized the decision to set a specific deadline for departure of U.S. forces, originally Sept. 11 but since moved up to Aug. 31.
“If we telegraph (the timeline) to our adversaries, then they can sit back and take an opportunity to strike when they did,” he said. The departure date is “arbitrary and I would say ceremonial and that is not a way to run a military operation.”
Afghanistan, though, was only one of many issues addressed at the meeting, hosted by the Ogden branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Here’s what he had to say on other topics:
Climate change: He favors the move to renewable energy resources to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, he said in response to a question about climate change.
But he’s leery of moving too quickly. He expressed support for a timeline lasting perhaps through 2050 to get the transition going, but not as early as 2030 as pushed by some.
If the transition is too quick “we’re emboldening foreign countries,” he said, noting the growth of coal-fired power plants in China. He hasn’t seen a 2030 timeline “that doesn’t completely raise our energy prices for the middle class.”
Student loan debt: He expressed opposition to forgiving student loan debt in response to a query from a Weber State University student.
Such a move would “disadvantage a whole other side of folks. They’ve already paid it off,” he said. “Do they get reimbursed? I see no way to implement that on a scale.”
2020 presidential election: Asked whether a “forensic audit” should be conducted in every U.S. state of last November’s U.S. presidential vote, he referenced his decision to certify election results.
“I already certified the election, so that will have to serve as my answer,” he said, generating a mix of applause and jeers.
Asked his thoughts on a recent court decision allowing the defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems against Mike Lindell to go forward, he offered pointed criticism to the My Pillow chief executive officer. Lindell and others face legal action from Dominion for their unsubstantiated charges that the company somehow rigged the 2020 presidential vote.
“I don’t view Michael Lindell as a very credible source on this … I don’t believe he is a credible source,” Moore said.
Slavery reparations: “I don’t support reparations,” he said in response to a query from Jacarri Kelley, head of the Northern Utah Black Lives Matter chapter. He went on: “We need to be a society that can reckon with the ills and evils of slavery and do it to upraise folks…”
Kelley pushed back, noting reparations paid by the U.S. government to those of Japanese descent placed in internment camps during World War II.
“I totally understand you’re not going to like my answer, but I want to be able to be part of providing opportunity and looking for ways to be productive,” Moore said.
He further said he’s not a big supporter of many entitlement programs while also stressing the importance of dealing with intergenerational poverty. “I believe in safety nets and being able to build people. We have a major problem with intergenerational poverty and I would engage in that discussion as much as possible,” he said.
In response, Betty Sawyer, head of the NAACP Ogden chapter, said she wouldn’t drop the issue. “Just to follow up on that, we will follow up with you,” she said.
COVID-19: Moore said scientific data overwhelmingly shows the effectiveness of the vaccines against the COVID-19 virus, in response to a query about supposed deaths caused by the vaccine.
At the same time, in response to another question, he expressed opposition to mandating vaccinations among the general public.
“We have to make it available, we have to give credible information,” he said. He was vaccinated, he said, because he thinks vaccines are effective. But the public shouldn’t be obliged to get vaccinated.
Immigration: He expressed support for addressing illegal immigration through improved border security and streamlining the visa process for those wanting to come here to work.
“We need a strong workforce through immigration,” he said. Getting “the right type of workforce here,” he went on, will alleviate pressure on the border by illegal crossers.
He also expressed support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which gives younger undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents a means to lawfully remain and work. It was approved under the administration of President Barack Obama but faces legal challenges initiated under the administration of President Donald Trump.
“I’m supportive of DACA and I’ve been very clear about that,” he said.
Bipartisanship: “Congress can’t work together anymore. It’s very, very difficult for Congress to get anything done, so the executive branch has felt this need to take over and do a lot of executive actions,” Moore said.
Executive actions, though, aren’t the way to go. Congress, rather, should be the force behind policy making and lawmakers need to start working more together. To that end, he’s joined the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan body in the U.S. House meant to foster two-way cooperation.
“I do that because I believe it’s the right thing and I believe that it provides opportunities and I fundamentally believe that there’s more that binds us than divides us,” he said. “We have to get away from executive orders and executive actions so much.”