Sunday, February 11, 2018

Briefing with Congressman Tom Garrett and Afghan and Czech Ambassadors

Tom Garrett Hamdullah Mohib Hynek Kmonicek Monticello
Fifth District Congressman Tom Garrett on Friday hosted several diplomats on a tour of Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello. After the tour, he and two of them – Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib from Afghanistan and Ambassador Hynek Kmonícek from the Czech Republic – answered questions from the local Charlottesville news media.

Garrett explained that even though, as a slaveholder, Thomas Jefferson was a flawed individual, the Declaration of Independence that he drafted was a “brilliant” document that led to freedom not only in the United States but around the world. Both Ambassador Mohib and Ambassador Kmonícek acknowledged that they learned things about U.S. history and Jefferson himself by taking the tour of Monticello, and that there are lessons they could convey to their compatriots back home.

(Ambassador Kmonícek joked that, where he comes from, a 200-year-old house is considered new.)

You can see the entire press conference here:

Congressman Garrett also answered questions about current domestic policy. Tyler Hawn of the Charlottesville Newsplex asked him about the budget bill that was passed late in the night and signed Friday morning by President Trump, and whether the process was frustrating. Garrett replied (starting at the 9:28 minute mark in the video):
It’s ironic that we stand at the home of Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence, which was signed by people who knew when they put their name on that paper that if they were captured they would be killed. We’ve devolved into a political class with the inability to say “no.”

I voted against the National Defense Authorization Act even though people would describe me as a hawk, because thirty-plus years ago department of defense agreed with other federal agencies to be audited – it’s never been audited.

To continue to spend and spend and spend is a symptom of a political class without the courage to do what they think is right when it’s too difficult and standing for reelection having done what you said, even when it was difficult or uncomfortable, is the hallmark of who we are supposed to be as a people.

I voted against that. I think President Trump was wrong to capitulate on heightened spending. He can spin it however he likes. We need to draw lines and assure that taxpayer dollars are being spent efficiently and on the core functions of government. We’re not doing that. It wasn’t OK when President Obama spent profligately. It’s not OK when President Trump does it. So, yes, I’m frustrated.
Garrett also answered a question (about 10:40 in the video) about pending immigration legislation and how it will affect participants in DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
That’s going to start in the Senate, for sure, because that’s the chamber where I think they can get something out. I’ve spoken with dozens of DACA recipients – dozens may be low – they can prove it because they’ve filmed me. I’d love to have a solution for DACA. I don’t think deferred action is the proper long-term solution but I’m not going to vote for anything until we secure our southern border.

To do the same thing again and again and expect a different result is the definition of insanity. And I’ve said this to these people with whom I’ve spoken: I think border security should be this AND that, not a this THEN that. We tried this in ’86 with a this-then-that and it failed. And I haven’t had any of the people with whom I’ve spoken who are DACA recipients have a problem with that.

So, I think if we set aside some of the hyperbolic rhetoric that we can get something done but right now people need to step back from the rhetorical edge, acknowledge the existential reality to the young people who are DACA recipients, and also acknowledge that it makes no sense not to take action to secure our southern border.
There are plenty of other gems in the conversation, from both the ambassadors and from Congressman Garrett, who said he would like to do more programs like this, perhaps three or four times each year, bringing ambassadors from Washington to Charlottesville to visit both the University of Virginia and Monticello.

In addition to Tyler Hawn of the Newsplex, Pete DeLuca of NBC29 covered the press event in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Gallery at Monticello's David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center.

This article was previously published, in slightly different form, on Bearing Drift.

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