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Dingell weighs in on State of the Union and Ukraine crisis

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell
Michigan House Democrats
Congresswoman Debbie Dingell


Rep. Debbie Dingell

Debbie's Blog

Rep. Debbie Dingell on Facebook

2022 State of the Union Address

"Read Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' Republican response to the State of the Union"

"Rashida Tlaib offers fiery progressive response to Biden's first State of the Union address"


David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and we're making time today to get a federal perspective on important issues and explore impacts here at home in Michigan and Washtenaw County. I'm David Fair. And joining us on the other end of the WEMU line is 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell, and welcome back to the airwaves of WEMU.

Debbie Dingell: David, it's always good to talk to you. Happy Friday!

David Fair: On Tuesday night, President Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union address, and despite the situation in Ukraine, spiraling inflation, and consumer costs and failure to get Build Back Better passed into law, he struck a tone of optimism and avoided a lot of the harsh rhetoric for his opponents that have become a hallmark over the previous four years. Was that the right approach in your estimation?

Debbie Dingell: I think that the president did a very good job on Tuesday night. He began the speech trying to unify us on the subject of Ukraine, talking about Putin's very unprovoked, illegal invasion of Ukraine. And Republicans and Democrats supported him. And he concluded the speech with a unity agenda, which I hope we can agree on, and the issues that he talked about in the middle of the speech were really important issues like making it in America. For us in the Midwest, it was a very important speech, bringing our supply chain home, increasing our manufacturing capability. I think that, from what I've seen and people I've talked to, he tried to bring people together, tried to unify us. And while we have very serious issues ahead of us, there are things when we work together that are good for this country.

David Fair: It's been very interesting to watch and kind of gauge the reaction from different perspectives. After the address, we saw and listened to the traditional response from the opposing party. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds delivered the Republican response, and she took issue with Biden's leadership and administration on a number of issues. But regardless of party, it was a pretty traditional opposing party response. What was nontraditional was the response delivered by your Democratic colleague, Michigan's 13th District Representative Rashida Tlaib. She spoke for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and on behalf of the Working Families Party. She spoke highly of Biden's Build Back Better agenda. She, as expected, called out Republicans for standing in its way, but also targeted, what she says, are corporate sponsored Democratic obstructionists. What was your impression of her response?

Debbie Dingell: First of all, David, I want to make a point. This was not something untraditional. The Working People's Party have had members for a number of years give a response to the State of the Union. Whether I agree with whether we need to have that or not, it's each person's and party's right to do so. And I think that there was a lot of sensational press about what Rashida was going to say, and she was very positive about President Biden's agenda and the issues that we still need to talk about. So, I think there was a lot of misleading press, which happens at times. There were other reactions to the speech as well. There were a number of other members that did it. We live in a country with free speech, but I do wish at times that we have a little less sensationalism and a few more facts. I think, you know, I really do believe the president did a very good job Tuesday night. I think he made it clear that he and we in the Congress are taking concrete actions to lower the costs for people in this country. That inflation is real. He showed empathy and understanding that we've got to work on for economic security together and that we've got to fight for the working men and women and families of this country. So, I think that that's what that night accomplished. And quite frankly, while there have been some partisan snipes, I've been impressed with the unity of most people and some of the really critical issues we are facing right now.

David Fair: And while there is the call for unity and that was the message of the president on Tuesday night, there is--and I do not mean to sensationalize--a fight for the identity of the Democratic Party that seems to exist between progressives, moderates, and centrists. That all plays well for those wishing to return full control of the legislative branch to Republicans. So what is the Democratic Party strategy from this point forward as we head toward midterms?

Debbie Dingell: So, David, I agree with that. I don't think you're trying to sensationalize it. I think there are times that the Democratic Party is very good at having a circular firing squad. I am working very hard. I am one of the chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. Our own state of Michigan has two members that deeply respect each other, but have very differing viewpoints: Elissa Slotkin and Rashida Tlaib. They talk to each other. They try to express their viewpoints without hurting the other. They recognize that their districts are different, and that's what we as Democrats have to do. I think the president was very clear. One of the things I felt very good about Tuesday night is that nobody should be talking about defunding the police. I think people take phrases and use them out of context or use them to try to pit it against each other. I can tell you that this year I am going to try to be bringing us together, not dividing us further. I think it's very important that this election year not use fear and hatred to divide us further. I think we are, right now, trying to work together. And really, it's values. Get unified in what our values are and be able to all talk about things on the same page. And that is what we're working towards. We have a retreat next week, and I'm working very hard to bring everybody together.

David Fair: Once again, this is 89 one WEMU. We're talking with 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell. And, on the matter of unity, there is an opportunity in the midst of a crisis. We're nearly two weeks into the Russian invasion of Ukraine now. In your estimation, has the Biden administration and NATO taken the right geopolitical approach in addressing the wartime aggression of Russia?

Debbie Dingell: You know, this is a very, very complicated situation. Analysts throughout the world are very strong about how united the allies are, how quickly people came together to impose economic sanctions. Even Switzerland, which normally is known for its neutrality, has imposed financial sanctions on Russia. I think many don't understand the complications of what it would mean. I mean, all of us are emotionally reacting to looking at this very unprovoked--this cannot be justified--President Putin's attack on the Ukrainian people. And we see they are so strong, their courage, their strength, they are not going to give in. They are going to fight. And President Putin was not prepared for this, and we're all cheering them on. But sending our military assets into bomb, for instance, the truck brigade that we're all seeing would escalate this to a place that we do not want to be. We do not want to be in a military war directly with Russia, nor do our NATO allies. So we are trying very hard to make sure that we are giving Ukraine all the support we can through both economic sanctions, making sure that they have the military tools that they need, and many other ways. But this is a very volatile situation that could escalate more quickly than anybody realizes. Yesterday's bombing of the nuclear plant was terrifying. Now the fire is under control today, but it's a reminder that we have somebody with nuclear weapons at his disposal. He's already threatened them several times. We need strong diplomatic efforts. We need steady leadership. And that's what we must be very careful of right now.

David Fair: We are watching all of that from a distance, but we are not without impact here at home, either. We've seen corporate America join the government and taking a stand against Russian aggression and the sanctions and business withdrawals are most certainly impacting the Russian economy. But it's also impacting the American economy. Last week, I paid $3.35 per gallon to fill up my car. This morning, it was $3.81 per gallon. You and I were fortunate enough to be able to absorb that, but there are all too many who cannot. In California, gas prices already over $5 a gallon. That's on top of the rising cost of consumer products and inflation. We know Vladimir Putin is willing to let his people suffer to carry out his vision. How is the American government going to respond to the hardship that we're going to endure here at home?

Debbie Dingell: Well, it's very terrifying. And you and I both know, I mean, inflation is very real, and I want you to know that I'm not exempt from it in any way, shape, or form as I'm trying to move. It's almost terrifying right now and adding to gasoline prices to it. This week, we announced an increase with our ally countries of the amount of oil--an increase in oil--that will be produced and be released both in the United States and by our allies. Many people are calling, and we are under serious discussion of not buying Russian oil. If we do that, there will be a direct consequence of increased gasoline prices. There are things we've got to look at in the short term and look at the long term. Our L and G facilities--liquid and natural gas--are at full production. There is room to increase them. We have two plants about ready to come on board. People are saying get the permits done. The permitting is all done. They have to be built. We're looking to see how we can increase, where there's any capability to increase the production of natural gas. All of those options are being looked at, what the implications are, et cetera. Longer term, you know, I remember having this discussion a decade or two ago. We have to lessen our dependance on foreign oil. In the early 90s, when I would stand at gas lines--people don't remember this--for four or five hours because of the Arab embargo. We need to develop alternative sources of energy. We need to develop renewable energy. We need people to not poo-poo it and say it's not going to be strong enough. We have the technology. We have the capability. We have to, for the long term, get that strategy. And, for the short term, all options need to be on the table.

David Fair: We will continue the conversation in weeks to come, but thank you for the time today.

Debbie Dingell: Thank you, David. Please be safe. Everybody be safe.

David Fair: That is Debbie Dingell on 89 one WEMU FM and HD one Ypsilanti.

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Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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