Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden presided over a raucous town hall meeting Tuesday on the Iraq War, trying to placate about 300 people whose anger targeted Wyden and his fellow Democrats in the congressional majority.
"January was the beginning of the troop surge in Iraq, but it was also when the Democrats took over Congress," said Joe Walsh, 65, one of dozens who rose and spoke during a public comment period. "Since then, 600 of our soldiers have died."
Wyden found himself in an odd position for someone who voted in 2002 against the war. He ended up defending Congress' record on Iraq in front of angry war veterans, students and soccer moms crammed into Hoffman Hall at Portland State University for a town hall during Congress' August break.
"I wish I could come on home and tell you that we had all the votes for all of Oregon's hopes and aspirations," said Wyden, pointing out that he was one of 14 senators to vote against funding the war last May.
The Senate overwhelmingly rejected a measure co-sponsored by Wyden that tied a partial pullout of Iraq by March 2008 to a Defense Department spending bill. Wyden also was one of 23 senators voting against giving President Bush the authorization to use force against Saddam Hussein's regime in October 2002.
But that record of trying wasn't enough for people wanting action now.
"I don't think he's doing enough," said Pam Allee, 61, passing out buttons in front of Hoffman Hall that said "Not One More Dollar." "We've elected him to lead, and he's forgotten who he really works for."
As the Sept. 15 deadline looms for the Pentagon's progress report on Iraq, Wyden was skeptical that any meaningful improvements on the ground in Iraq had been achieved almost six months into President Bush's troop surge. Gen. David Petraeus, commanding general of U.S. Coalition forces in Iraq, is scheduled to update Congress next month.
"I don't think that General Petraeus can prove that we are getting the job done," said Wyden.
Most of the town hall attendees were even more skeptical that any new course would be charted for Iraq anytime soon.
"The problem is that there are no quick fixes," said Katharine Ryan, 21. "What we really need is a new president."