Photo by Tim Hadac
Moments after receiving a standing ovation from a town hall meeting audience, Carmen Cacciottolo, 86—a Korean War veteran—listens to praise and thanks from Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd). He accepted three long-overdue awards for his military service: the National Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal and the United Nations Service Medal for Korea. The medals were obtained through the intervention of Lipinski’s office with the Pentagon. Standing with Cacciottolo are comrades from the Argo Summit American Legion Post 735, who pinned the medals on his shirt.
Seating capacity in the Holiday Inn meeting room at 65th and Cicero was 68, but it was large enough to hold an elephant.
The elephant in the room on Saturday was President Trump — and perhaps not surprisingly, the first question at the town hall meeting hosted by Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) was about the nation’s commander-in-chief.
When asked about what his sharpest criticism of the president is, the congressman quickly brought up immigration.
“I thought it was a bad policy to separate children from their parents at the border,” Lipinski said. “Now, it’s a much more complicated issue than that; but that policy, specifically, which the president then backed off of, was clearly a bad policy.
“We have to get those children reunited with their parents, and make sure we have a humane policy that deals with the situation — especially with those people seeking asylum…we want to have asylum,” he continued. “This is not a situation where we can say, ‘Well, just turn them all away.’ We have to be smart about it.”
When asked about the flip side of the coin, Lipinski said he agrees with Trump about “standing up and saying that American workers have been taken advantage of through these trade agreements — by other countries, especially China. I’ve said that for the entire time I’ve been in Congress. I’m happy there’s a president who’s actually standing up and saying that.”
That said, the congressman said he has concerns about tariffs imposed by the Trump administration.
“Where the president is going with this is very confusing,” Lipinski said. “I don’t have a whole lot of confidence yet [in the Trump administration’s trade moves]…I don’t think a trade war is easy to win…we don’t want a trade war, but that doesn’t mean we do nothing. If we continue to do nothing, American workers will continue to be taken advantage of.
“But I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing that we put tariffs on some of these countries, especially China, who have had a policy of basically doing everything they can to cheat the trade rules and steal our jobs,” he added.
Since taking office in 2005, Lipinski has been a critic of both the Bush and Obama administrations on trade, criticizing deals he said have harmed the U.S.
Some want more ire
Several Democrats in the audience strongly encouraged Lipinski to play a more partisan, confrontational role against Republicans in Congress, as well as against the Trump administration.
One woman compared the current political situation in Washington to a war and likened Trump to Adolf Hitler. She called upon Lipinski to become “a warrior” in the fight against Trump and the Republicans.
They did not appear to get what they wanted from Lipinski, a legislator who most would agree will never be called a partisan firebrand. The congressman is a mostly centrist Democrat who has earned a reputation as a bridge builder in Congress — frequently reaching across the aisle to find common ground with centrist Republicans to move issues forward.
“I’ve always been about working together, and we have a president right now who is very divisive…others have joined in that divisiveness and I think that’s bad for our country,” he said. “We should be working together; and I think no matter what you think of the president…it’s important to focus on issues, rather than getting rid of the president or supporting the president. I was at a parade last week, where some people were coming up to me and saying, ‘Impeach the president,’ and others said to me, ‘Support the president.’”
Possibly alluding to congressmen who engage in high-profile street protests and get arrested as part of their activism — like longtime Cong. Luis Gutiérrez (D-4th) — Lipinski said that “being out on the street [protesting] every day…yelling and screaming…is not my job. Time is limited, and it takes time for members of Congress — a legislative body — to do the tough work to get things done.
“I’m not afraid to take a stand and say where I’m at, say what I think is right and wrong; but that’s how I see my job, as your representative,” the congressman added, as the audience applauded.
The town hall meeting was the first of four public events hosted by Lipinski across the district in a week. The final one, a senior citizens fair, is set for 10 a.m. to noon Monday, July 9 at the Louis S. Viverito Senior Center, 7745 S. Leamington, Burbank. For more details, call (773) 948-6223.