On Saturday afternoon, Congressman Tom Lantos (D- San Mateo/San Francisco) made his routinely scheduled appearance in San Mateo at a Town meeting and endorsed President Clinton's recent releasing of more than 30 million barrels to cut down winter fuel costs, adding to that he plans to meet with the President and advocate for the release of an additional 30 million. He also brought a resume of bills he has brought to Congress on the behalf of public safety, the environment and health care in order to show the people of San Mateo "what he has done for us lately" on the national front.
In addition to this, he stopped to criticize what he called inexcusable partisan behavior on the part of Congress in not providing funding for the education of children with developmental disabilities - and took time out to make some subtle accolades to presidential hopeful Al Gore.
By and large, the event took the tone of national concerns and he took the task of bringing those national concerns home to his constituents. He made use of metaphor when steering clear of local concerns - siting that if a house is burning in one's neighborhood, you should not have to go the President in order to put it out.
30 million barrels
It is unconscionable, said Lantos, that people are being forced to make the "choice between heating their homes and eating their meals."
In advocating for the additional oil reserves, he did not pick any bones about pointing the finger at consumers for refusing to engage in conservation efforts. Specifically he pointed out the drivers and manufacturers of SUV's as eating into America's oil reserves. "The monsters you drive three blocks to get a carton of milk," he said in reference to SUV's.
"The rise in energy prices has brought the United Kingdom to its knees, and caused havoc in France and Belgium," Lantos added.
He also said it was the responsibility of oil producing countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to act responsibly toward their consumers.
In defense of Iraq sanctions
Before the town meeting at least one advocate circulated some writings criticizing Lantos' position on Iraqi sanctions.
The sanctions on Iraq, which according to critics, is responsible for the death of 5,000 Iraqi children per month, is a point that has divided the Democratic camp.
Lantos said that when he supported Bush in the Desert Storm War, he at the time, was one of the few Democrats who supported the action. He says his only criticism of Bush's action "is that he didn't finish the job."
The Budapest-born Lantos, despite criticism of his views in regards to sanctions against Iraq, has no apparent intentions to soften his view. When stating his case, he brought up some of the actions of Saddam Hussein, which were not limited to gassing his own people and allegedly murdering members of his extended family. Late May, while representing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC - ranked as the second most-powerful lobbying group on Capitol Hill], Lantos, Congressman John Sweeney (D-NY) and Congressman Joseph Crowley (S-NY) were forced to cancel a pro-sanctions event due to protest. They had planned to present a letter to President Clinton at an open press conference on the Capitol lawn, but were greatly outnumbered by anti-sanctions protesters. Later, Crowley was reported as saying the reasoning behind canceling the event was not directly due to the protest, but that they had rescheduled in order to get more signatures for their letter.
Lantos was also presented with an award from a local chapter of the Falun Gong for his human rights efforts in China.
The group was outlawed on JUL-22, 1999 in China. Chinese authorities soon after issued an arrest warrant for its leader, Li Hongzhi. According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the Ministry of Public Security in Beijing said the sect founder Hongzhi "spread superstition and malicious fallacies to deceive people, resulting in the deaths of many practitioners." He was also accused of organizing demonstrations without first applying for permits.
"Sect leader Li Hongzhi deceives the people to deify himself and he deifies himself in a scheme to take the place of the government and rule the world," the official People's Daily newspaper reported. "His motives are crystal clear," it said.
In an apparent violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which China recently signed, the government then arrested
hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners - some were sent directly to labor camps without trials.
The U.S. House and Senate unanimously passed resolutions last November which criticized the Chinese government for its crackdown of the Falun Gong and Lantos. true-to-form on Human Rights issues, was on the fore-front of this campaign.
Both resolutions urge the Chinese government to honor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that it has signed, to stop arresting, detaining and persecuting Falun Gong practitioners, to release all detained dissidents, and to respect the basic human rights such as freedom of belief and freedom of speech, according to the documents.
"When Congress resumes in January, we will present legislation to provide complete health coverage to all American children," Lantos said.
He added that he realized there was a population between the elderly and the young, who need health care, but added that the political will is not there for Universal coverage. "Those us who consider it a high-priority are going at it piece-meal. And we're taking care of the children first," he added.
He also referenced the recent deaths associated with negligence at a Burlingame nursing home. He said that after the situation occurred - the deaths of at least two elderly residents due to the lack of air conditioning in the facility - he approached nursing home executives.
They, in turn, refused to negotiate with him which led to the introduction of a bill recently signed by Davis making it mandatory to provide air-conditioning. Since the deaths at the Burlingame facility other relevant pieces of legislation have also been signed into law by Davis - such as the increase in financial penalties for nursing homes who are found negligent in someone's death.
Lantos went on to make a pledge to the San Mateo audience, which was comprised predominately of seniors. "I will be in the forefront every single time we move toward health care," he said, adding that the "notion that health care should reflect financial status" is terribly unjust.
Lantos is scheduled to be back in Washington D.C. Today.