Kind seeks sixth term in Congress
In the past 10 years, Ron Kind has learned that a willingness to listen and the ability to identify shared interests, despite party affiliations, are among the skills that make a good congressman.
"Democracy is a lot of hard work. That's what I've learned," said Kind, 43, during an interview last week. "It requires a lot of listening."
Kind, a Democrat from La Crosse, has represented Wisconsin's Third District in the U.S. House of Representatives since he was first elected in 1996.
"I think we need much more listening in Washington across party lines," he said. He believes an emphasis on one-party control blocks progress.
That's why he has helped organize the Upper Mississippi River Congressional Caucus and is active in the Rural Health and the Congressional Sportsmen's caucuses.
Working with colleagues from both parties in these committees, away from the "super-charged atmosphere" of Washington politics, encourages cooperation, said Kind.
"You get to know your colleagues better that way."
War on terrorism
Kind suggests doubling the size of Special Forces to destroy Osama bin Laden and terrorist networks like al Qaeda.
He is and has been critical of President Bush's stay-the-course policy in Iraq.
The arguments for keeping troops in that country indefinitely are "falling more and more on deaf ears," said Kind. Even Republicans are standing up and questioning the advisability of maintaining troops in Iraq rather than requiring the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own country, he said.
The United States needs to hand over power more quickly, said Kind, who hopes the process will move ahead after the elections.
Kind first visited Iraq in the fall of 2003.
"I walked away with the conviction we had a very small window of opportunity," he said. He hasn't changed his mind.
This past Sept. 11 Kind lunched with troops who had recently returned from Iraq. One of them commented on the numbers of soldiers lost to death and injury while working to maintain supply lines to the forward troops.
"That doesn't make any sense," said Kind of losing soldiers who aren't in actual combat.
Many Iraqis are resisting occupation by foreign troops, but "They've got to figure out what kind of country they want to create," said Kind.
He suggested enlisting the League of Arab States to provide security and support as Iraq moves ahead. Other Arab countries have a huge interest in what happens to Iraq and are also concerned about the spread of Iran's influence, he said.
Kind referred to an argument by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that the U.S. can promote reform in the Middle East by reducing the demand for foreign oil.
Friedman says when oil prices drop, movements toward reform advance.
When they're raking in high oil profits, "the (Middle East) regimes just consolidate their power, and no reform takes place," said Kind.
Muslim countries have the world's youngest populations. In Iraq, said Kind, the average age is 18 and in Iran it's 17.8.
Without economic reform, young people living in squalid conditions have no hope or opportunity to be successful either through education or employment, he said.
"It's no wonder they're being radicalized and used against us," said Kind.
"What's happening in the region now can't be solved by our military," he said, urging a different kind of assistance.
While pulling out American resources might be unwise, it does matter "what type of money, where it goes and who controls it," said Kind.
Because the money the U.S. spends on foreign oil is often used against us, it would be wise to break our addiction to those fuels and begin investing in people, said Kind.
He suggested partnering with the European Union to promote educational reform in Middle Eastern countries.
As an example of how that can work, he cited a program in Mozambique where a $5 school entry fee was dropped and 500,000 new students enrolled.
The problem of illegal immigrants is more complicated than it might sound, said Kind. "It's not as simple as securing our borders -- which we have to do."
He said it's not as easy as directing local law enforcement to identify illegal immigrants, round them up and ship them out.
First, local agencies don't have the resources to do that and secondly, "Forty per cent of undocumented workers (originally) came into this country legally," said Kind.
"I don't care how high you want to make the fences or walls, we're going to have immigrants."
Reducing the country's dependence on foreign fuels is crucial for national security, the economy and the environment, says Kind.
Last week he met with students on the UW-River Falls campus to discuss his "Greenest Generation Challenge."
Kind is encouraging students on Third District college campuses to compete against one another to "be more creative in (your) thinking when it comes to energy issues."
While he challenges students to come up with their own plans for conserving fuel, Kind asks them to embrace such basic habits as turning off lights when they're not needed.
He said it is incumbent upon the United States to lead the way in conserving energy and fighting pollution. He suggests increasing mandates for using bio-fuels and a renewed commitment to research and development of clean energy sources.
For more information about Kind's campaign, go to www.kindforcongress.org.
Democrat Congressman, 3rd Congressional District