With less than 24 hours until election day, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) visited Cornell Monday to participate in a town hall style forum focusing on Middle Eastern policy.
Reed –– the Congressional representative of New York’s 29th District since he was elected in November 2010 –– said he was not using the forum, which was hosted by the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee, as an opportunity to campaign. Rather, he said he participated in the event to connect with students and hear their views on controversial issues like Middle Eastern relations.
“I’m only 40. I’m not an old timer. I like going to junior high classes and college campuses and seeing if you think [Congress] is on the right track,” Reed said. “If there’s something we could be doing better, then I’m interested to hear what you can offer us. We can’t lose that optimism in America.”
During the event, Reed — who was joined by his two sisters, daughter and nephew — said he was eager to hear the opinions of audience members. He emphasized the importance of political activism among young people, comparing their enthusiasm to the freshman class of conservative Congressional representatives who came to office in the 2010 midterm elections.
“Look at the voting record of the [House of Representatives’] freshman class,” Reed said. “If you look at the votes, it’s surprising how many freshman members did the right thing during critical votes. That’s good. That’s leadership.”
Reed said he hopes these new members of Congress will help eliminate much of the political stalemate that has plagued the legislature, as well as assist in bringing people together to solve some of the nation’s most pressing issues.
“Two years after 2010, we’ve realized that we are in a precarious situation. This is not campaign rhetoric. There’s a fundamental problem coming down the pipeline that needs to be solved,” Reed said. “There are bomb-throwers on both sides, Democrat and Republican. It’s our job as new Congressmen — and as the public — to call them out.”
Adam Schlussel ’16, a member of CIPAC, said he appreciated Reed’s frankness during the forum.
“I appreciate his honesty, especially his desire to have a united front in D.C.,” Schlussel said. “All the different voices are coming out right now and creating a problem. The world sees how fragmented we are.”
Much of the forum focused on foreign policy in the Middle East, with Reed speculating on Israel’s future prospects and stressing the need to prevent Iran from becoming a threat.
“A nuclearized Iran is unacceptable,” he said.
Still, Reed said his primary goal as a member of Congress is to eliminate what he called the Obama administration’s ambiguous foreign policy position toward Israel.
“There is … a concern that the United States’ position is not as clear as it needs to be,” he said. “Once the Middle Eastern actors make calculations based on this uncertainty, I think the U.S. will join with Israel and react. That would set off a catastrophic chain of events.”
Reed said he believes a lack of national unity will hurt efforts by the United States to prevent the development of Iran’s nuclear program.
“The doctrine of inconsistency is on full display,” Reed said. “Iranians in particular are using the Libya situation to justify why they should possess a nuclear weapon.”
Saying that Congress must rally around the executive branch, Reed also emphasized the need for whichever candidate is elected as president to take a firm stance on issues of Middle Eastern policy.
“We need a consistent, firm declaration from the White House,” Reed said. “Some Congressional members like to speak out and send inconsistent messages to get a headline. But that’s irresponsible.”
Original Author: Harrison Okin