A comment made by U.S. Rep. James Gibbons in March that got little attention when he made it is now attracting criticism.

As part of coverage of a March 19 antiwar protest march through downtown Reno, Associated Press reporter Martin Griffith asked Gibbons if he would vote for war again if he had a chance to do it over. Gibbons said, “Absolutely … We never got anywhere as a country by sitting on the sidelines. You have to fight to keep freedom.”

That quote was trimmed from the story in most places where it appeared, but it is now circulating among political activists.

Reno Congregational minister William Chrystal, a former military chaplain whose son served in Iraq, responded, “It’s been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. I wish politicians were better students of history and more thoughtful and reflective human beings. If they were, we wouldn’t be mired in Iraq today, nor would we be looking for the next overseas ‘monster’ to destroy.”

Chrystal quoted U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams’ 1821 statement that the U.S. “goes not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”

“Too bad more people don’t follow his advice,” Chrystal said.

Democratic candidate for governor Dina Titus, who will face Gibbons in November’s election if they both win their primaries, said she was taken aback by his statement.

“With all that we now know about the war, the fact that Jim Gibbons would not reconsider his vote is mind-boggling. Once again, he confirms he is a follower, not a leader. Jim Gibbons’ blind allegiance to the president is very disturbing, and his failure as a member of the House Intelligence subcommittee to separate political fiction from fact is downright alarming.”

Reno resident Rebecca Thomas, whose son Josh is serving in Iraq, said she didn’t understand Gibbons’ comment with its reference to sidelines and getting somewhere. “He speaks as if he’s in a movie. Real lives are at stake. The least he could do is make an effort to respond with thought and real information. As a citizen, I find his response flippant and insulting.”

The Gibbons comment is reminiscent of one made by John Kerry that drew sharp criticism during the presidential campaign. At the Grand Canyon on August 9, 2004, Kerry said in response to a reporter’s question that he would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing war even if he had known that George Bush’s rationale for the war—weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—was bogus. Kerry responded, “I’ll answer it directly. Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it is the right authority for a president to have, but I would have used that authority effectively.”

Although the Gibbons quote appeared in Griffith’s March 19 Associated Press article, it was cut everywhere the story ran except the Las Vegas Sun. The Las Vegas Review Journal has the story posted on its Web page, but the quote—which appeared in the 13th paragraph of a 20-paragraph story—is missing. It was even cut from a synopsis of the Griffith story on the socialist People’s Weekly World Web site and on an anti-Gibbons Web page, though those sources may have depended on newspapers for their versions of the story.

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Dennis Myers

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...