Henrietta, NY --- At this time last year he was a political unknown, and now many consider him the “front-runner" to be the next congressman in New York's 29th Congressional District.
In a long interview to introduce Republican Tom Reed to the voters of the NY-29 he explained his views on the War in Afghanistan and the War on Terror. In the process it could be said Reed learned a lesson in choosing words carefully when dealing with the media!
It was a moment that caught our attention; a quote in the midst of an explanation.
"It is a War on Terror because Al-Qaeda is still out there,” Reed said. “There are still terrorists out there (and) they don't want to sit down at a table. If they want to -- great. I would love to have those conversations."
We all know context is always key to any conversation and quote, so Reed’s explanation continued like this:
“…I would love to have those conversations, but the reality of the world is they don't,” Reed said of terrorists. “They want to kill, take us out and destroy America and kill us. So if that's the mentality, that's when that necessary tool has to be deployed; that's why we support the war in Afghanistan.”
This begged an immediate follow-up question.
“I don't want to mischaracterize you. You would sit down at a table with terrorists?” I asked.
It was then that Reed muttered a “well” and our photographer mentioned as how he needed to change tapes as it was seconds away from running out. “OK,” Reed said.
There is no question the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are important issues to the voters of the 29th District. Reed's predecessor Eric Massa was among the most outspoken opponents of the War in Afghanistan; Massa even took to the House floor on that war’s 3,000th day and delivered a passionate call for our country to withdraw its troops.
That, however, is not Reed’s position at all.
“To me, the mission has not been completed,” Reed said just prior to his attention-grabbing quote. “The former Congressman (Massa) took the opposite position when he said we should retreat right now and bring the troops home."
Less than a minute later, after a brief swap of tapes in our camera, I picked up precisely where our interview left off.
"I have to ask to make sure you're not being mischaracterized here. You would sit down and negotiate?” I asked.
“No,” was Reed’s quick response; followed by an explanation that clarifies his position.
"There are people in the world you can have, in my opinion, a conversation at a table, where you can use diplomatic means and say, 'ok, let's solve our problems,'" Reed explained. “What I was trying to say and articulate was in the terrorist world, those people are not there."
Of course, context is key in all of this, and we raise this point because we know in the world of high-stakes political campaigns quite a lot can be taken out of context.
The Democrat likely to challenge Tom Reed is 28-year-old Matthew Zeller.
Zeller, a Rochester-area native with Southern Tier roots, spent a year as an embedded combat mentor training the Afghanistan National Army and Police agencies. Zeller’s yet to formally launch a campaign, and Reed’s interview on April 1st was conducted prior to the April 5th decision by Democratic Party Chairs to endorse Zeller’s candidacy.