When she discussed Israel, Sam Bennett betrayed a serious weakness on matters of foreign policy. That weakness was magnified even more when the subject turned to Iraq. I was shocked when she claimed, falsely, to have written "A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq." According to Arianna Huffington, that document is actually the work of "national security experts and retired military generals such as Major Gen. Paul Eaton, the officer in charge of training the Iraqi military immediately after the invasion."
Bennett certainly has endorsed this plan, but it was wrong for her to claim authorship.
Congressman Dent, in contrast, demonstrated a surprisingly commanding knowledge of foreign affairs. Often called an "empty suit," he displays keen insight into our relationships around the world.
Question: Please describe your position and any evolution thereof towards the conduct of the Iraq-Afghanistan operation.
Sam Bennett: [Initial comment included a complaint about Dent's campaign, covered here.] "By the way, Charlie, if you voted one way on bills, it would be very simple. But everything we have said about your voting record is true, and we have the documentation for it.
"But onto Iraq. I've said this before. I'm from a military family. I lived in Saigon. I'm grateful to the men and women that have served this nation. With fourteen hundred casualties coming from Pennsylvania alone, this is a serious matter.
"My opponent went to Washington knowing there were no weapons of mass destruction and still voted with George Bush 100% of the time on the war in Iraq. A hundred billion tax dollars later, and he votes against mandatory rest periods for veterans. When those veterans come home, he votes against health care and job training for those same veterans.
"So what is my plan?
"Well, I believe actions speak louder than words and I wrote A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq and now, fifty-three other challengers have joined me.
"We need to get out of Iraq immediately with a phased drawdown of troops. Those troops that we leave behind in order to fight terrorism and help the Iraqi forces there, they need to be given adequate body armor and adequate rest periods.
"9/11 showed us that we faced a threat without borders and post-Iraq shows us that we cannot go it alone. "
Charlie Dent: "A few things again. My opponent has a hard time with facts. She just said she wrote a book about how to get out of Iraq. Well, when she was asked by a local blogger who the President of Syria was, she couldn't name Mr. Assad. She couldn't name the President of Afghanistan, President Karzai, with whom we deal quite a bit. So I really don't believe you wrote a book on how to get out of Iraq.
"I have read a book - the Iraq Study Group, written by [Democrat] Lee Hamilton, with whom I talk on a fairly regular basis, and James Baker, a Republican. That actually provided a blueprint to get out of Iraq.
"You said you supported it, too, but you support the polls that completely contradict what's in that document, whether it is arbitrarily legislated timelines for withdrawal. You talk about rest periods for our troops. It's not for our veterans, it's for our troops. To impose that kind of a rest period - twelve months - at that time, would have extended the deployment of men and women currently serving in Iraq. That's not fair to them. It would have treated men and women serving in Afghanistan differently than in Iraq.
"A few other things I need to add. We need to draw down that presence in Iraq, the combatant presence, and we will. The question is the pace.
"I met with General Petraeus for an hour and a half in Baghdad. I've been to Iraq twice. We are making gains in the security front. We are seeing some political reconciliation there. i was there the day they passed the debathification law, which was absolutely essential. Iran and Syria continue to be a problem in Iraq, particularly Iran.
"With respect to Afghanistan, I've been to Afghanistan and I'll tell you very clearly that we need more help from NATO. NATO is an alliance; it is a collective defense organization. If we fail in Afghanistan, NATO will fail. That would be disaster.
"I believe in NATO, I believe in it so strongly. My opponent likes placing operational controls on our troops. That's what she wanted to do in Iraq. Well, that's what NATO governments do to their troops operating in Afghanistan, whether it be the Germans or the Spaniards. We can't let the Americans and the Canadians and the Australians and the Polish and the British and the Dutch do all the fighting. We need to have less operational controls on our troops in Afghanistan, not more from NATO governments. It is time that we put more pressure on some of our friends in NATO to pick up the slack. We're going to have to add more troops and so will they.
"We can win this thing, and I believe we will."