MOULTRIE -- While touring the construction site of the new Moultrie Police Department Thursday, The Observer caught up with Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, to get his views on a few major issues including the war in Iraq, terrorism, transportation monies and the upcoming G8 Summit.
"This 9-11 commission has become nothing more than a political witch hunt, and we've got soldiers in the foxholes being shot at. This isn't time to play 'caught ya.' This is time to say if there's something to do better, let's do it. But the big concern right now isn't what happened in August 2001, it's what's happening in Bagdad in April 2004," he said.
A few months ago, Kingston ventured to Iraq to get a first-hand look at what American soldiers are facing.
"The soldiers I talked to and visited in the hospitals are very mission-focused. They are very proud of what's going on, but they are extremely frustrated at what's being shown in the news, saying there's a lot of people against us, but there's still about 80 to 90 percent of people for us," the congressman said.
Meanwhile, as of April 2, CBC News found that only 37 percent of Americans think the result of the war was worth the loss of life and other costs of attacking Iraq. This is the lowest percentage recorded since the question was included in CBS News polls last July, according to information from the news agency's Web site.
On the issue of transportation dollars, most of Georgia's congressional delegation, except Rep. Mac Collins, recently voted against passage of a national transportation package that includes eagerly awaited $55 million in transportation grants for four-laning Ga. Hwy. 133. The money might still come through, but funding for the project, although hugely important to this area, pales in comparison to cuts Georgia faces overall, Kingston said. It was what he perceived as unfair in the formula that caused him to vote against it, he said.
National projects are expected to rise from 7 to 16 percent, he said, meaning Georgia (considered a "donor state") would receive only about 90 percent of 84 percent of what it pumps into the federal highway trust fund through a gas tax. The proposed funding formula would reduce Georgia's cut close to $350 million over the next six years, he said.
Kingston hopes that by working with other states that got the short end of the stick, Georgia might fare better in conference. If congressmen from Michigan and Florida can see it Georgia's way, the White House -- which has threatened to veto the package -- might sympathize in an election year with donor states' plight, he said.
Regardless, Kingston said he would use his position on the House appropriations committee, along with fellow Georgian Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, to advocate funding for Hwy. 133.
Kingston's hometown, Savannah, is hosting the upcoming international G8 Summit, which is expected to bring in $200 million to Georgia. Leaders of the world's major industrial democracies -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. -- will meet to discuss economic, political, and security issues.
It's also a magnet for protesters and curiosity-seekers.
The federal government allocated $25 million to cover the costs to Georgia's law enforcement agencies during the summit. Potentially, even officers from Moultrie and Colquitt County could be called on to assist to secure Georgia's coast, Kingston said.
As of April 7, no groups have formally signed up to protest, probably holding out for bigger press if they get arrested, the congressman said.