(Host) Congressmen Peter Welch faced a crowd of anti-war activists yesterday who challenged him to do more to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq.
The Veteran’s Day meeting at the Aldrich Library in Barre was confrontational. Palmer Legare of Cabot pressed Welch to answer a series of yes or no questions about the war.
(Legare) "Are you afraid of the questions?"
(Welch) "I’m not afraid of any question you want to ask. Here’s what’s fair."
(Legare) "Congressman Welch we’ve allowed you time after the questions to speak without interruption for ten minutes. That’s the agenda. And the first question of the day: is will you vote against any and all bills that include funding for the Iraq War."
(Host) But others in the crowd of about 70 people wanted Welch to speak, and the meeting turned briefly into a shouting contest.
(Unknown man) "Why do you want to put the man on the spot like that? That’s ridiculous. That’s absolutely ridiculous. The man should have an opportunity to speak and then you ask a question."
(Welch) "Let me be clear. I have no problem being put on the spot. I have a responsibility to every Vermonter, not just the ones in this room. And I salute the Vermonters in this room for your activism."
(Host) Welch called the demand to answer yes or no questions a stunt, and said he was doing everything possible to stop the war. But he reminded the audience that President Bush vetoed a bill that had set a goal for troop withdrawal.
The House failed to override the veto, he said.
(Welch) "That’s the reality. And we can waive it away. And you can assign full responsibility to me for everything bad that’s happened in not getting us out of Iraq, if that’s what you want to do to indulge yourself. But the reality makes a difference because when we figure out what tactics to take we have to know what the situation is."
(Host) Welch has consistently voted for legislation that set firm deadlines for troops to come home. But some activists criticized him for voting for a budget resolution that continued funding for the military and other government programs.