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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) defended her vote against using force in Iraq last night and told a crowd at Harvard Law School (HLS) that the Bush administration is exploiting the Iraq issue for political gain.
The second-term senator was one of 23 to vote against a resolution earlier this month granting Bush wide latitude in dealing with Iraq.
“I have voted twice to use force, and I’m not afraid to use force,” she said, referring to measures dealing with Kosovo and following Sept. 11. “But to me, it’s a last resort, not a first resort, and I need to have answers to questions first.”
“To me, it wasn’t a hard call,” she said. “I had 20 to 35 completely unanswered questions.”
She also expressed caution about using force after North Korea’s revelation that it has a nuclear weapons program.
“I’m hopeful we can defuse things diplomatically,” she said. “Might doesn’t make right. Might should back up right.”
In last night’s speech, hosted by the HLS Democrats, Boxer accused the Bush administration of timing the Iraq debate for political advantage.
“The timing was because of the elections,” said Boxer, who is up for reelection in 2004. “It was all part of a grand plan by the Bush administration to get the Senate.”
Boxer, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chairs the subcommittee in charge of Superfund and other toxic waste management programs.
She urged audience members to not lose sight of domestic issues at election time and advised voters to consider issues such as minimum wage and Arctic drilling before voting.
“We need to win this election,” she told the audience of more than 100, which mainly consisted of law students and Democratic supporters. “We need to check and balance this administration that is wrong on the issues that affect our lives.”
Disillusioned Democrats should think twice before voting for a third party, she said.
“Think about the ramifications,” she said in response to a question about potential Green Party voters. “Don’t give up on the party. You will hand-deliver this country to the John Ashcrofts, the Clarence Thomases.”
“We have to get our message out, make [voters] understand what’s at stake,” she said. “It’s a matter of us campaigning, making a connection between the quality of life and who’s in office.”
E. Garry Grundy, a student at the Divinity School and the Law School, said he was pleased with the way Boxer handled criticism and questions about the state of the Democratic Party.
“She was very nurturing towards people like myself, Democrats who’ve become alienated,” he said.
But law student Leilani K. Knight found Boxer’s aggressive stumping for the Democrats unsettling.
“She was very hard on the Green Party,” Knight said, “and I don’t think it’s fair to say that Greens aren’t strong on social issues.”
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