The Trump administration is playing a game of checkers in a world of chess when it comes to foreign policy, threatening the safety and security of the United States’ allies in the Middle East, as well as the U.S. itself, Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, said at a luncheon meeting of Monterey County’s mayors in Pacific Grove on Friday, Jan. 3.
Panetta made the statement one day after top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was killed by an airstrike near Baghdad International Airport. President Donald Trump confirmed on Friday morning that he ordered the strike, claiming that Soleimani was plotting attacks against U.S. troops and diplomats.
A few hours later, Panetta was telling the mayors that while Soleimani was a dangerous threat, the move was questionable in terms of global diplomacy and safety of the U.S., its servicemembers and its allies in the Middle East.
“The attack itself is something we’re not going to lose sleep over. The fact (Soleimani) is no longer walking the Earth is a good thing, in light of the attacks he planned and the instability he created in the Middle East,” Panetta said. Despite that, he added, “this kind of strike is just a move on the checkerboard and not a well-thought out move on the chess board.”
Panetta said he’s waiting to hear from the administration what the “next steps are in this game with Iran.” He said he may end his holiday break a couple of days early and fly back to Washington, D.C. over the weekend depending on how events unfold.
“I do believe what we’re seeing today as we turn on the news and we saw the attack is basically an example of what I’ve been going through in Congress,” he said. “This administration has been something where you’re constantly dealing with chaos, because this administration likes chaos.”
And yet, despite all the chaos caused by Trump and his administration, as well as impeachment, Panetta urged the mayors to understand that, “Congress is getting things done,” pointing to 500 bills by the House passed in the three-week period that impeachment proceedings were taking place.
Impeaching the president was “not why I went to Congress,” and one of the hardest voting decisions he experienced, but he said, the facts presented showed that Trump “subverted the national interest for his own political interests.”
Panetta highlighted some of the bills passed on issues highly relevant to the Central Coast, like the National Defense Authorization Act, Farm Workforce Modernization Act, United States Mexico Canada Agreement and the 2020 budget.
The NDAA specifies the budget for the U.S. Defense Department and includes a wide array of initiatives, including one introduced by Panetta providing help for military families living in privately run rental housing, adding a tenants’ bill of rights, housing advocates and legal services when rental disputes arise.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act—co-sponsored by Panetta and supported by Democrats and Republicans alike in states that depend on imported labor—would provide a reliable agricultural workforce into the future.
He called the USMCA—a trade agreement meant to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement—a good deal especially for California. He said NAFTA, while beneficial in some ways for Salinas Valley agriculture, was not good in areas such as labor and the environment. He said the new agreement will enforce labor standards in Mexico and will provide for cleanup of polluted border areas, especially along the border of California and Mexico, among other benefits.