City tarred with White brush?

Published on Thu, Jan 9, 2003 by Meg Olson

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City tarred with White brush?

By Meg Olson

Former Blaine City Council member David White is angling for his Warhol-alloted 15 minutes of fame through a campaign to recall Senator Patty Murray. However, Blaine’s current government is a little testy after receiving correspondence for White at city hall, apparently from people under the impression the city is behind the recall drive.

“It’s unfortunate that a private citizens’ actions have publicly placed the city of Blaine and its relationship with Senator Murray in such an awkward situation,” said mayor Dieter Schugt. “Senator Murray has been an advocate for Blaine and for Whatcom County.”

As the Northern Light goes to press on Wednesday, January 8 White is scheduled to appear on national television. He has been invited as a guest on the FOX news commentary show The O’Reilly Factor to talk about why he has started a petition demanding Murray resign because she has “failed to live up to the ideals of this country.”

While Schugt said he doesn’t begrudge White his moment in the spotlight, he would prefer Blaine’s name be kept out of it. “Unfortunately the media and other individuals have misconstrued his prior involvement with the city council and the city of Blaine has become unintentionally involved,” he said.
The city has received a dozen letters and emails regarding White’s recall petition.

The comments that got White, in his words, “all wound up” were made to a group of high school students in Vancouver, Washington on December 18. As part of a wide-ranging discussion that touched on terrorism, the possibility of war in Iraq and education funding, Murray asked the students to consider why Osama bin Laden remains so popular in “many countries riddled with poverty,” and around the world. “He’s been out in these countries for decades building roads, building schools, building infrastructure,” she said according to a transcript of her remarks published in The Columbian newspaper.

“Her statements would be treasonous if anyone else said it,” White said. “It’s a bunch of lies. None of it is true. He hasn’t built anything.”

According to the U.S. state department’s fact sheet on Bin Laden in the 1980s his organization imported heavy equipment into Afghanistan, built roads and hospitals and funded training camps where thousands came to be trained to fight the Soviet Union. Michael Swetnam of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, a guest on The O’Reilly Factor when the show first covered Murray’s comments December 26, was quoted in the Associated Press as saying her remarks were “kind of a generalization but mostly accurate.”

Schugt, who lived in the Middle East in the mid-1980s, said Murray should be applauded for encouraging youth to critically study and discuss world affairs. “Osama Bin Laden was considered a hero in that part of the world. That’s reality. That doesn’t meant what he’s done is right. He’s a bad guy. But we’re at the top of the mountain and we’re going to get shot at. We need to recognize that and stay the course with our hearts, not just our guns.”

Murray’s communications director Todd Webster said the Senator was not praising Bin Laden but asking students “to consider why our enemies are popular in other parts of the world. What can we do in the world and should America be doing more. It’s a discussion we ought to have.”

White, however thinks U.S. foreign aid policies are not grounds for discussion. “We are the most giving nation in the world,” he said. According to the non-partisan Council on Foreign Relations think tank the U.S. foreign aid budget as a percentage of gross national product ranks them last among the world’s wealthiest countries. However, in actual dollars the U.S. in the world’s leader in economic aid. Israel is the top recipient of U.S. aid, followed by Egypt and Colombia.

White admits his new petition and pending television appearance are exciting times. “I’m surprised this has mushroomed as much as it has but there’s a lot of sentiment out there,” he said. So far his petition has garnered over 300 signatures. An online petition by another group also asking for Murray’s resignation claims to have over 30,000.“I just don’t want to go on national television as wound up as I am right now,” he said.

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