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Garcia Criticizes U.S. Approaches

Thursday, October 16, 2014
Hanover — State Rep. Marilinda Garcia, R-Salem, called for the United States to take a stronger stance in foreign affairs during a town hall-style meeting held at Dartmouth College on Wednesday evening.

In an hour-long discussion with John Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations, Garcia critiqued the Obama administration’s approaches to Iran’s uranium enrichment program, the threat posed by Ebola, and Russian aggression in the Ukraine. She also urged greater border security.

An “essential function of the government is to keep us safe,” she said.

Should she unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster in the November election, Garcia said, “my hope would be that we once again will feel safe” and that “we will, in fact, have as a nation a sense of pride in putting our national interests first.”

Garcia’s call for increased engagement overseas reached receptive ears in the warm basement of Dartmouth Hall, as evidenced by standing ovations at the beginning and end of the event and by applause in between.

A particularly loud cheer rippled through the audience of approximately 100 people when Bolton said “a new president would be a good place to start” in strengthening the U.S.’s position internationally.

In lieu of the opportunity to elect a new president in the immediate future, Bolton urged the audience to “elect people like Marilinda to Congress.”

That suggestion also elicited applause.

During the discussion, Garcia described a “lack of willingness from the commander-in-chief to get behind sanctions” against Iran as it continues to expand its enrichment of uranium.

The U.S. is currently in talks with Iran and officials told the news agency Reuters on Wednesday that the State Department is hopeful an agreement will be reached by Nov. 24, a target date to end the nuclear impasse. Iran and Russia, however, have indicated the deadline may be pushed back.

Garcia also faulted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying it was diverting resources to efforts such as studies about helmet safety and health initiatives related to bike paths rather than to developing protocols to address the threat posed by Ebola.

Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died Oct. 8.

Two of Duncan’s nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, have since been diagnosed with the disease. There have been about 4,500 total deaths in the current outbreak, according to the CDC.

She also questioned the U.S. response to Ebola in West Africa, specifically to what degree U.S. military presence is warranted.

“Is there a stated goal there?” Garcia asked. “Building hospitals and schools — is that hand in hand with our security interests?”

In an emailed response to questions about the strength of the U.S. response to foreign policy challenges, Rosie Hilmer, communication director for the Kuster campaign, said, “We’re very concerned by Rep. Garcia’s willingness to cut funding for vital efforts to contain and prevent the Ebola virus from spreading in the United States.”

Garcia expressed further concerns about the U.S. approach to Russian aggression in the Ukraine, where Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in February, saying that “actions we take or do not take — people read into those.”

The failure to support allies, including Ukraine, leaves other countries unsure of where the U.S. stands, she said.

Garcia said one way to protect the United States would be to secure the country’s borders.

In light of the threat of terrorism, the U.S. “ought to be in control of who is leaving and entering our country and under what auspices,” Garcia said.

Michelle Knesbach, president of the Dartmouth College Republicans, a group of about 40 students which hosted the event, was among those in the audience who liked what they heard.

Originally from Houston but now registered to vote in New Hampshire, Knesbach, a sophomore, said she agrees that the United States should be a “strong power,” particularly in the Middle East.

The audience included several other students, as well as members of Upper Valley communities, such as Larry Fuller, of Grantham.

He said Garcia, 31, is a new face and “would be different” than Kuster.

Fuller, a Republican, said he has been disappointed with Democrats’ handling of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He said he felt Kuster and other Democrats had been disingenuous with constituents when they first described the impacts of the act.

Fuller said Garcia seems very intelligent and thoughtful and that he appreciates her “strong positions.”

The next debate between Kuster and Garcia is slated to be aired on New Hampshire Public Radio and New Hampshire 1 News Network on Oct. 20 at 7 p.m.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

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