Appearing on WFPL News, U.S. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., discussed his views on the growing conflict with Iran, the U.S. presidential race and reforming the way congressional seats are drawn in the Kentucky General Assembly.
The U.S. has imposed severe economic sanctions on Iran. The nation has launched war games to practice defending its borders and nuclear sites as inspectors from the United Nations begin a new round of searches in and around Iran’s uranium-enrichment plants.
Yarmuth doesn’t believe Iran poses a threat to the United States, but he insists the Obama administration should take steps to stop the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear program with direct diplomacy before an escalation of violence.
“I don’t think we should overreact, but we need to … I think the sanction approach and trying to generate some diplomacy with the Iranian government over this. We’re not talking to them yet. We need to be talking with them as well…what we have to remember is the Iranian people are very pro West. It is probably our best chance to nurture a democracy in that party of the world,” he says.
U.S. officials have estimated that Israeli air strikes against Iran could begin as early as spring while Iranian leaders have declared their nuclear policies will not change.
On domestic politics, Yarmuth remains confident that President Barack Obama will win re-election later year, and he says the Republican candidates are outside the mainstream.
Polls show the president’s approval numbers trending upward and they place Mr. Obama ahead of all four potential GOP challengers in a general election face-off.
Meanwhile, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is either ahead or tied with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in Romney’s home state of Michigan. Surveys show that GOP voters are evenly split between the two with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Congressman Ron Paul in the basement.
Yarmuth says Santorum’s surge has pushed the entire field to the right as other candidates try to match Santorum’s views on social issue.
“Rick Santorum by himself is so far out of the mainstream of American thinking that he not only would get annihilated—he should be annihilated in the general election,” he says. “Mitt Romney has in order to stay atop of the Republican primary has gone way to the right and made himself much less appealing to independent voters.”
Yarmuth says he would prefer Gingrich be the GOP nominee because he appeals to a “narrow segment” of general election voters.
The three-term congressman also commented on the debate in Frankfort over redrawing Kentucky’s six congressional districts to reflect new census data. Both sides claimed the other’s maps favored incumbents, but eventually legislators approved new district lines.
Yarmuth’s Third District still covers most of Jefferson County, but many Republican-leaning precincts in the East End have been cut off. He says having a neutral panel draw the districts would help take the politics out of the process.
“Probably from a public perception it would give the voters more confidence that it was an honest redistricting. Anything that helps restore or add credibility to the process of the system would be good. And I think taking it out of the political arena would work,” he says.
In a release to supporters, Republican congressional candidate Brooks Wicker says the new district map favors Democrats and threatens the viability of GOP challengers. But Yarmuth says the map was proposed and supported by Republicans in the state Senate.
The congressman also talked about the payroll tax cut deal, the rise of Super PACs and his efforts to “get money out of politics” through a constitutional amendment.
For the full interview, click below.