Rep. Scott: Tired Of U.S. Getting Involved World's Disputes

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Republican Rep. Austin Scott held a town hall meeting in Thomasville, Georgia, Wednesday. Among the topics that constituents were there to talk about: Syria. Scott told constituents he doesn't plan to support the resolution authorizing U.S. military strikes in Syria.

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Much of the debate over a strike on Syria is taking place in Washington, D.C., while lawmakers are out of the capital on recess. Back in their home districts, they're hearing what their constituents think and are worried about.

Georgia Public Broadcasting's Adam Ragusea was at one gathering, a town hall meeting last night.

ADAM RAGUSEA, BYLINE: Thomasville, Ga., is the deepest of the Deep South. Beth Grant, a retired mental health counselor who lives here, points out that Thomasville is, or was, the end of the line.

BETH GRANT: Right before the Civil War, right before there were any railroad lines to Florida, this was as far South as you could get on the railroad.

RAGUSEA: Now it's the southern outpost of Congressman Austin Scott's territory. He's a Republican elected during the Tea Party wave of 2010, after legislators redrew the district. Down here, a lot of people seem to like their conservative man in the House. As they gather in the Thomasville Chamber of Commerce building for a town hall, Syria is not the first thing on their minds.

ERIC MORTENSEN: I'm singularly focused on the Second Amendment.

RAGUSEA: Eric Mortensen of Nashville, Ga., is retired Air Force. And why is Beth Grant here to see Congressman Scott?

GRANT: I've been real concerned about everything I've seen from him about science denial - not just climate change, but all kinds of science denial.

RAGUSEA: But when you ask them if they're thinking about the situation in Syria, Mortensen says....

MORTENSEN: Absolutely. I don't know who the bad guy is. I spent 30 years in the military. I don't know what the objective is. It hasn't been articulated clearly yet.

RAGUSEA: And same question to Grant.

GRANT: I tend to think that we need to make some reaction. And I guess I trust Obama to make a good decision on that.

DON SIMS: I just want to thank you for coming out this afternoon to be with us...

RAGUSEA: Local Chamber President Don Sims introduces the waiting congressman, Austin Scott.

REP. AUSTIN SCOTT: I'm going to talk about the economy just briefly, and then we'll go to your questions...

RAGUSEA: Sims dips his hand into a bowl of slips, and reads the first one.

SIMS: (Reading) What do you make of President Obama's claiming he didn't draw the red line in Syria? Now he says the world did.

RAGUSEA: The red line being the Syrian regime's alleged use of chemical weapons.

SCOTT: Here's what I'll tell you. I'm tired of the U.S. getting involved in every country's individual disputes. As sad as what happened is, I do not intend to support the resolution. The reason I'm hesitant there is, I would ask you to give me a little bit of leeway in that if we have intelligence that shows those chemical weapons being transferred to Hamas, where they could potentially be used against Israel, then I would be in favor of destroying those weapons.

RAGUSEA: Sims reaches in the bowl for another question, and you can probably guess who wrote this one.

SIMS: (Reading) Do you dispute the U.S. military, NOAA, the Weather Channel as well as 95 percent-plus of climate scientists, in their conclusion that climate change is pushed by human activity?'

SCOTT: Absolutely.

(LAUGHTER)

RAGUSEA: So Beth Grant did not get the answer she was looking for. But Scott does agree with her on one thing: With only nine legislative days coming when Congress reconvenes next week, he says...

SCOTT: There are a lot of things that we need to do to make things right in this country, that they're not getting talked about because we're talking about what's going on in another country - what's that?

RAGUSEA: A man in the back interrupts, saying that's why the Syria issue is important. We have to resolve it somehow, to think about anything else.

For NPR News, I'm Adam Ragusea in Thomasville, Ga.

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