Las Vegas Sun

January 16, 2022

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Angle to the right

The U.S. Constitution does not guarantee life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness even though Assemblywoman Sharron Angle says it does.

The language is found in the Declaration of Independence.

And Vietnam is not the only war theater from which the United States has withdrawn, as Angle also said in a Sun interview.

U.S. forces pulled out of Lebanon and Somalia since the end of the Vietnam War.

In the pantheon of untruths, those are relatively minor. Yet they reflect Angle's habit of assert, assert, assert.

Certainly in this era of poll-tested, stay-on-message politics - when candidates so refuse to state their true beliefs - candor is refreshing. And Angle, a Republican in the race to replace Nevada Rep. Jim Gibbons in Congress, is nothing if not frank. If only her commitment to facts matched her candor.

In a 90-minute interview last week, Angle made many sweeping pronouncements - on the war in Iraq, stem-cell research, immigration and the growth of government.

On these issues, she made claims that experts across the political spectrum - right, left, center - dispute, often with blunt language.

Nevertheless, by all accounts, Angle, a down-the-line conservative who has been in the Nevada Assembly since 1999, has a good chance of becoming the district's next congresswoman. The Reno resident is well funded by conservative organizations in Washington, including the Club for Growth and a group of conservatives in Congress.

Angle, 56, and a former educator, is running well to the right of her two Republican primary opponents, Secretary of State Dean Heller and former Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons, wife of Jim Gibbons, who is a candidate for governor.

The winner will face Democrat Jill Derby, a university system regent.

Angle has been advertising on TV since April, and the Club for Growth is now running attack ads that tag Heller and Dawn Gibbons as liberal Republicans. Nevada's 2nd Congressional District is deeply red, with President Bush winning the mostly rural district overwhelmingly.

On Iraq, Angle firmly supports current administration policy. Bush has said he expects the American presence to continue unabated in Iraq well past the 2008 election.

Angle said violence against American troops is on the decline and that Iraqis are taking more casualties, which she said is a sign of progress because it shows they are assuming more responsibility for security.

June saw 60 American deaths, down from 76 in April but up from 31 in March.

At least 1,500 Iraqi civilians were killed in May, up 50 percent from May 2005. There were also 35 abductions on average per day in May, according to "The State of Iraq," which is compiled by the Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank.

Larry Diamond, a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution and a former adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, called the argument that increasing Iraqi deaths are a sign of progress "idiotic."

"Most of the rising Iraqi casualties are civilians, not security personnel," Diamond wrote in an e-mail interview. "How can that be a good thing, or any sign of their taking more responsibility? Much of this is a rising level of sectarian violence. By this logic, the more Iraqis die, the better things are because they are assuming more responsibility. Really, I cannot imagine a more stupid and irresponsible statement."

Angle said Iraqi women have newfound freedoms since the American invasion.

Michael O'Hanlon, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who compiles "The State of Iraq," said Angle might be confusing Iraq and Afghanistan. He noted that although all Iraqis have more political freedom following the fall of Saddam Hussein, women have suffered setbacks in Shiite-dominated areas, where Islamic radicalism has actually led to new curbs on their freedom.

Women are being forced to wear the head scarves and to dress with extreme modesty in many parts of southern Iraq.

In his book "Squandered Victory," Diamond describes an incident where a Shiite religious militia broke up a picnic of Iraqi college students late last year, physically harassed the students for holding hands and drinking alcohol, and then shot a girl for the crime of wearing jeans.

"Then there are widespread reports of girls being kidnapped by criminal syndicates," Diamond wrote in an e-mail.

By comparison, women in some parts of Afghanistan have enjoyed new freedoms from the harsh restrictions imposed by the fundamentalist Islamic rule of the Taliban before they were driven from power by the U.S.-led coalition forces.

Angle said that in Iraq, "We're seeing the rise of a democratic middle class."

In fact, recent reports indicate that doctors, lawyers, professors and a sizable number of middle-class Iraqis are fleeing the country. In the last year, the state issued new passports to more than 1.85 million Iraqis, or an estimated one-fourth of the country's middle class, according to a report in The New York Times.

"We're seeing infrastructures built in that country that they didn't have before," Angle said.

The number of Iraqis with telephone service has increased nearly tenfold since the war. But oil and electricity production are still below prewar levels, according to "The State of Iraq." Moreover, American officials have conceded that reconstruction efforts are all but over.

Angle makes other claims that are difficult to verify: That terrorism in Iraq has meant less terrorism in Israel and the United States; that the U.S. government has acquired intelligence in Iraq that has helped fight al-Qaida and terrorism elsewhere.

She has an optimistic view of the American presence in Iraq. "People want to be free, and to present us as occupiers is truly a slap in the face of what America is all about. We've always said, 'Give us your tired, you poor,' " she said.

On illegal immigration, she advocates a policy of "deportation through attrition." Illegal immigrants will leave if their children born in the U.S., who she calls "anchor babies," are no longer automatically given citizenship.

Angle also favors a crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Also, she says, those employers could be starved of their workforce by deporting any illegal immigrants who run afoul of the law.

"These guys all get deported, because, you know, they went out on the town and all got picked up for felony DUI, you say, yeah," Angle said, laughing. "That's it. We're not going to house you in our prison system, and you know, you're done. You're out of the country. He doesn't have a workforce for that next day."

The comments were typical for Angle, who speaks her mind.

The "underlying agenda" of those who advocate federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research is "abortion and abortion clinics," she said. (She's the only anti-abortion candidate in the primary.)

Told of the comment, Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, a stem-cell researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, said, "Nothing could be further from the truth. Those of us committed to exploiting the use of stem cells are doing so with the exact opposite in mind - to develop treatments for our patients and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans and people all over the world."

Like many Republicans, Angle faces the awkward position of decrying the growth of government while her own party has controlled both Congress and the White House.

So who's to blame?

Activist judges, Angle said.

What about No Child Left Behind and the new prescription drug benefit - massive programs passed by the Republican Congress and signed by the president?

"It isn't all at the foot of the courts," she conceded.

The problem, Angle said, is that true conservatives like her haven't really had power. Now, she said, it's finally time.

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