Warner warns against extremism, takes a moderate approach

Warner warns against extremism, takes a moderate approach

U.S. Senator Mark Warner, D-Virginia, made quite the entrance at Vinosity Wine Shop on East Davis Street on Friday afternoon, racing in nearly one hour late because of a flat tire on his way to meet a group of about 50 professional women. Yes, even senators get flat tires. 

“Oh wow, gosh,” the Senator said out of breath. “I apologize!”  Mark Warner was elected to the U.S. Senate in November 2008, and serves on the Senate Finance, Banking, Budget, and Intelligence committees. The former Virginia governor got right down to business as women were armed with plenty of questions and they had about 30 minutes left to get them in before Warner had to get to his next event.

Questions ranged from unfunded mandates from school board members and teachers, to foreign policy and Iraq, to campaign finance reform and mental health. 

Because he sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the senator was asked if he could talk about foreign policy, particularly Iraq, and about veterans in the state. 

“I was outraged, when we think about the sacrifice our men and women made for Iraq and the billions of dollars we spent on the Iraqi Army, and 50,000 of them around Mosul got up and walked awayâ?¦,â? Warner said raising his voice. â??And now they want us to come in and help.”

But he said before we do anything, before we move too much further with this Maliki government theyâ??ve got to change some things.

“They’ve got to show some heart in his own country,â? the Senator added. “He has to show a willingness to unite the country and not just favor Shia over Sunni, that’s not the middle of a civil war we want to be in.”

Warner went on to say that one thing he learned from being on the Intelligence Committee is that intelligence is needed, that facts on the ground must be obtained before any decisions are made.

Warner also touched on the Veterans Administration, he said he was glad General Shinseki resigned because too much focus was on him and not on fixing the culture. 

“If you work at the V.A. it is a ‘duty’ for you to honor the people you work for,” Warner said. “I’ve had problems with them, when I first got into the Senate they were not treating women veterans the same as men, coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, they were saying because women didn’t have a combat pin they shouldn’t be treated for PTSD.”

Warner said he’s been to Iraq and Afghanistan and there was no front line. He said it took them a year to get the V.A. to treat women fairly.

Linda Hawkins, works with the local community services board, and told Warner they have had to cut funding.

â??I would like to know how you feel about mental health funding and what is going to be done, I donâ??t think the average person has a clue about what we do,â? Hawkins said. â??We need help form the government for our local facilities, I donâ??t see a whole lot being done.â?

She spoke of untreated individuals with mental illness. Hawkins said there are a lot of walking wounded. While not injured, her son who was at Virginia Tech when 32 students were gunned down, was clearly affected.

Warner said he would support additional funding for mental health care.

According to Warner, the two big things that nobody wants to talk about are entitlements and tax reform.

â??The truth is, if weâ??re ever going to get our country back on the right balance,â? he said. â??Debt keeps going up. The Democrats are going to have to recognize that reform is needed in Medicare and Social Security.â?

Warner said only 16 cents of every tax dollar paid to the U.S. government funds “domestic discretionary” needs like mental health, environment and early education. The House business plan would take it down to about $.04 cents.

â??Medicare and Social Security are great programs, but we need to make sure that those programs are going to be there for our kids,â? said Warner adding that there are fewer dollars now than what it was during the Eisenhower administration.

Working across the aisle is an asset that Warner believes he has capitalized on.

â??Whether Republican or Democrat, extremism on either side isn’t going to get things done.â?

Warner will face Republican Ed Gillespie in the November general election.