It’s official: Jack Kingston doesn’t want to be vice president. Well, at least not unless times get tough.
"If they got real desperate I’d return the phone call," said Kingston jokingly about what he would do if asked to join the ticket for a 2008 presidential bid. "It is interesting because this is the first time in my life I felt like I at least know as much as the other candidates."
Kingston, who was in Richmond Hill Saturday speaking to a group of Boy Scouts at J.F. Gregory Park, said being a member of Congress is time-consuming enough.
"You know, having four children, it’s always a balancing act," he said. "I don’t see how any of those people spend time at home at all."
On the issue of Iraq, though, Kingston put his jokes aside.
"General (David) Petraeus was just passed unanimously by the Senate and it’s his plan to plus-up the troops and punch the way out and get the violence level down," Kingston said. "Congress really is not there to micromanage the war. We should have oversight. We should have input."
He said a recent idea by Democrats to cut war funding isn’t the solution.
"(Congress) is involved in the funding. But to direct the funding to set it up for failure, I think, is the wrong thing to do."
The Congressman also said setting a time-table for a complete withdrawal from Iraq - a plan most recently introduced by Democrats - isn’t the solution, either.
"What the proposal is…is to get out of there by December 2008 regardless of our progress. I think that decision really needs to be made by Petraeus in Baghdad rather than politicians in Washington."
He said he feels the back-and-forth among the parties in Washington isn’t appropriate, saying it’s only a plus for the insurgents.
"They know that we’re divided and they’re going to play on that division. I think we should do all the fighting and squabbling in Washington behind closed doors and not publicly, because there’s plenty of room for disagreement."
Kingston, a Republican representing Georgia’s First Congressional District - which includes Bryan County - while not a supporter of the withdrawal plan, said he hopes American forces can be out of Iraq before the end of 2008. He said that would require more training of Iraqi soldiers.
"I am on the Defense Committee. We spend hours and hours on hearings and I have lots of information on Iraq," he said. "I hope we could actually get out of there before (December 2008)." I’d love to see us ramp up the training of their troops and make it so that they have 400,000 Iraqi soldiers and then we can fade out.
"But if you put a timeline on it in a place like that all the enemy is going to do is lay low until you’re gone."
Overall, Kingston said he feels the war has been a mix of success and failure.
"I think we have executed the war great, the occupation poorly. We did not anticipate this occupation and that was a failure, not in intelligence, but in foresight," he said. "We had a failure in intelligence on going into it in terms of weapons of mass destruction, but once there we should have said ‘OK now here’s the plan, because the Sunnis and Shiites who have been fighting for a thousand years, we’re going to have to have to anticipate doing things a little bit differently.’ I think that we underestimated their divisions and their tribal differences."
Kingston said he thinks if U.S. forces are pulled from Iraq too soon it could create a bigger problem in the country.
"There are a lot of people (in Iraq) who are more loyal to their tribes than they would be to the concept of democracy, and we underestimated that," he said. "But to pull (our soldiers) out, to just pull them out suddenly could mean a civil war that could bring us back into a bigger disaster. A civil war would spill outside of Iraqi boundaries."