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Inslee battles on two fronts

The war, the domestic agenda are challenges for the congressman.

Facing a Republican-controlled U.S. House, Senate and presidency is a breeze next to fighting rebels in Iraq, Rep. Jay Inslee says, as he embarks on his fourth term in Washington D.C.

“We Democrats will have some tough political challenges,” the congressman said. “But it’s nothing in comparison to the ones we sent our troops into in Baghdad.”

Inslee bested his Republican opponent Randy Eastwood in November with a hefty 64 percent of the vote in the 1st District.

Other Democrats fared less well, giving Republicans a dominance over the federal government not seen in over 50 years.

But Inslee pledged to carry forth his agenda to boost alternative energies, environmental protections and access to affordable health care while precipitating peace in Iraq.

“I join my constituents in their sense of rage over Iraq,” the Bainbridge Island resident said. “The war was based on false information, and I’m never going to forget that.”

Holding firm to his opposition to the war’s premise, Inslee said the U.S. is “up against a wall” in Iraq and must boost efforts to alleviate the daily violence.

“The president has made enormous mistakes in tactics and strategy,” he said. “Our troops were not sent with adequate body armor, mobile armor for Humvees and were not supplied with adequate intelligence.

“There were a host of misjudgments that have put us in a difficult situation as a nation.”

Inslee believes a speedy transition to democracy and a better-trained Iraqi military are key components for peace.

“Only Iraqis can win the war,” he said. “We’ve had a half-baked effort to train Iraqi troops. We’ve got to expedite the training program and bring our troops home.”

On the domestic front, Inslee hopes to enlist a broad base of support next month for legislation promoting the Apollo Energy Project, which would focus federal government resources to support the development and manufacture of new clean energy technologies.

Inslee said he’ll be well-positioned on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to “spread the project’s gospel” of breaking U.S. dependence on foreign oil, reducing greenhouse gases and creating millions of high-tech jobs.

The congressman will also make cleaning sewage from Hood Canal and creosote from Bainbridge’s Wyckoff site two of his top local priorities. He hopes to prevent ecological disasters similar to the recent Point Wells oil spill through tougher laws regulating tankers and transfer sites.

Inslee also hopes to prevent what he considers looming disasters in the American health care and Social Security systems.

“The president wants to eliminate Social Security and turn it over to his Wall Street friends, taking away a guarantee for the future that allows Americans to sleep soundly,” he said.

Inslee calls the recent focus on Social Security a “manufactured crisis” meant to hide the true emergency of dwindling medical coverage and rising prescription drug costs.

He advocates allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices with Canada and scoffs at critics who say drugs from north of the border are dangerous.

“Those nefarious Canadians could put mad cow disease in pills, but somehow I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he joked.

Inslee acknowledges his two-year term will be one of the toughest he’s faced, but remains optimistic he can cross the partisan divide.

As proof, he cites the president’s backing of hydrogen-based fuel technology and Republican Sen. John McCain’s support for portions of the Apollo project.

Inslee also highlights the administration’s support for his proposal to add 15 tsunami-detecting buoys to the six guarding the West Coast.

“I’m always looking for ways to work with the administration,” he said. “Much of what I’m calling for has wide support, at least with the people. Now the challenge is with Congress and the president.”

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