Putnam Would Welcome A Presidential Visit

Don’t count Congressman Adam Putnam among Republicans distancing themselves — literally or figuratively – from President Bush and the war in Iraq. He’s still the boyish-looking true believer in a safe, District 12 seat where the competition is as likely to be independents and write-ins as Democrats.

In a recent appearance at the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa, the three-term U.S. Representative from Bartow made it clear he wouldn’t merely welcome a campaign appearance by the president, he would be “thrilled” at the prospect. “I’d be delighted to have the president,” he underscored.

What’s more likely, however, is that the president will cherry pick a few Florida districts where he may be able to make enough of a difference to help Republicans keep their (15-seat) majority in the House. Putnam, the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, expects the president to campaign for “one or more” Republicans among: District 9 (where Mike Bilirakis is retiring); District 13 (where Katherine Harris is running, as it were, for the U.S. Senate); and District 22 (where incumbent, South Floridian Clay Shaw could be vulnerable).

On Iraq, Putnam did concede the obvious – there have been horrendous screw-ups – but he’s more inclined to lay blame on Paul Bremer (former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority) for de-Baathification scenarios than the president for overall policy implosions. He also feels that economic development, which isn’t the military’s charge, is a critical element in stabilizing Iraq. And the requisite first step, he maintains, is getting Iraq’s parliament to allow direct foreign investment.

Other Putnam takes:

*The chances of Connecticut Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman as an independent candidate: “He’s going to win.”

*Immigration: “I hear more about this than any other issue. The border has too long suffered from ‘benign neglect.’ But I don’t agree with the ‘Great Wall of Mexico’ approach. It would require illegal labor to get it done.”

*Passport system: “It needs work — still doesn’t include biometrics. Maybe give everybody a Visa card. They track everything down. Let Visa figure it out.”

*North Korean and Iranian tactics: “North Korea is starving, and they use the bomb for leverage. (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad gives a wild speech, the oil markets go up and he gets more money.”

*Europe’s peace-keeping role: “If they don’t want us to go it alone, they need to pony up.”

*Repeal (54 cents-per-gal.) tariff on ethanol from Brazil? “Yes.”

*Amenable to gay adoption? “No.”

*Mass transit: “You can’t (road) build your way out of congestion. I support regional rail. Problems don’t end at the Tampa city limits.”

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