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Smith: Bush re-election will resolve water dispute


Published August 5, 2004

By BROOK REINHARD - H&N Staff Writer

Sen. Gordon Smith pledged Wednesday that a solution to the Basin's water problems would be found within the next four years - if voters re-elect President Bush.

Smith, speaking at a Klamath Falls reception for community leaders, praised the president's policies in the Middle East, bemoaned the partisan bickering in Washington, honored the sacrifice of Klamath Falls Marine Bryan Kelly, and spoke of his struggle to pass suicide prevention legislation after his own son's death.

"Whether it's water or war, we'll end up on the winning side," said Smith, one of the two U.S. senators who represent Oregon.

This drew a comment from Klamath Water Users Association Executive Director Dan Keppen, one of about 40 lobbyists and leaders who came to hear Smith speak Wednesday.

"Aren't water and war the same thing, senator?" Keppen asked.

"Well, they have been known to merge," Smith said. "My pledge to farmers and to Native Americans is there will be a solution that will leave room for both."

Smith said in an earlier interview that finding common ground would take a few more years of leadership from the president's administration.

"I suspect in the second term of the Bush administration, a resolution can be reached and passed by Congress," he said. "They'll get fixed if we get him re-elected."

The Republican senator is making stops around Oregon this week, taking advantage of the Senate's August recess. He visited Medford and Lakeview on Wednesday before coming to Klamath Falls.

He spoke at the reception for community leaders at the Oregon Institute of Technology and toured the new Klamath Open Door Family Practice clinic, which was built with federal funding secured by Smith and his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Ron Wyden. He was scheduled to appear at events in Salem and Portland today before returning for a week of rest in his hometown of Pendleton.

Smith used his visit to reinforce Bush's foreign policy, and to remember Kelly, a 2001 Klamath Union High School graduate who was killed in action July 16 by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

"If you ever need a reminder that freedom isn't free, you have the life and service of Bryan Kelly," said Smith, after he presented a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol to Pat Kelly, the Marine's father.

The Republican said he voted for intervention in Iraq because he believes pre-emptive action can make the world more secure.

"We have a real prospect of creating a world that will be safer for your children and grandchildren," he said. "Some people are critical of our nation, but I want to remind you that little would be done in foreign policy without American intervention and the U.S. military.

"We didn't start the war on terror. But we're going to finish it. And we're winning it. You mark my words: What happened in Japan, what happened in Germany, what happened in Korea, will happen there as well."

Smith said little has taken place in Washington lately because of the divisive political climate.

"I'll have to tell you in the Senate this year, politics have taken the place of policy," he said.

Then he added his own political remarks.

"I'm looking forward to serving in the 109th Congress with Bush as our re-elected president," Smith said. "I'm not here to be partisan, but it is a partisan season."

On a more personal note, Smith spoke of his family's loss a year ago, when his 21-year-old son Garrett committed suicide after years of battling bipolar disorder.

Smith sponsored legislation in July called the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act. After his emotional appeal to colleagues on the Senate floor, the bill passed the Senate without a single "nay."

"I've learned a lot about suicide in the year since we buried Garrett," he said Wednesday.

The legislation would authorize $82 million in federal grants that would help states and tribes develop suicide-prevention strategies and boost mental health programs at college campuses.

Smith said a version of the bill has gone through committee in the House, and he expects it to pass the House Sept. 7 and the Senate on Sept. 8, the one-year anniversary of his son's death.


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