By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Pearce said as a veteran he understands the challenges the country faces from terrorists and a strong stance has to be maintained.
“They (Islamic jihadists) have said they are going to annihilate us and they mean it,” Pearce said while attending a meet and greet session Tuesday morning in Portales. “We must understand that what we are fighting is far bigger than Iraq; it’s far bigger than you and I, it’s for the human race.”
Pearce, who said he was in favor of the troop surge in Iraq, pointed to the recent decline in violence there as proof the strategy had worked. He cautioned against too quick a troop draw-down, however.
“I’m told Iraq, Israel and other Middle Eastern nations friendly to the U.S. will fall if we leave precipitously,” said Pearce, a U.S. representative from Hobbs who is seeking the seat being vacated by Pete Domenici, R-N.M.
Pearce, who attended a fundraiser in Clovis later in the day, fielded questions during an hour-long meeting at Mark’s Restaurant.
“The immigration issue — why is that so difficult to find a solution to?” asked Portales resident Wayne Baker. “It seems like some kind of ID card could be used.”
Pearce suggested too many in Washington didn’t want to find a solution to immigration problems.
Pearce noted the U.S. had 55,000 people assigned to check people’s shoes at airports across the country but only 12,000 personnel assigned to protect the borders.
“Washington has it upside down,” Pearce exclaimed.
Pearce said the process for legal immigration can take 13 to 20 years, forcing many to come here illegally. He said the process needs to be streamlined, not just strengthened. He also noted the country’s social systems are already bogged down and amnesty or more immigration would add to that burden.
Following up on a question about Medicare, Pearce said he had supported President Bush’s plan to turn over a portion of Americans’ Social Security so they could invest it themselves. He said the proposal was met with skepticism by Washington and the public.
“It is our responsibility to deal with these problems and not just keep sweeping them along,” Pearce said.
Floyd School Superintendent Paul Benoit asked if No Child Left Behind had been the dream Congress had hoped for.
Pearce said it had worked to improve competency dramatically in some districts. He said some changes in the system were needed, but he stressed the importance of improving math and science competency. He said that, along with economic development, was the key to stopping drugs and other moral decline in New Mexico and other areas of the country.
“If we don’t fix our higher-level education, we’re going to lose our entire economy to India and China,” Pearce said.