At the outset of a debate Saturday night with 2nd District Congressman Wayne Owens, Republican challenger Genevieve Atwood said her staffers had warned her the incumbent "will clean your clock" on foreign policy.
Even still, the geologist and former state legislator said, "the public ought to know.""I think there are other areas (other than foreign policy) where I could serve my nation or my state better," Atwood told the approximately 120 people who attended the debate on U.S. relations with the United Nations, sponsored by the United Nations Association of Utah and held in the Salt Lake County Commission Chambers.
Owens, whose foreign-policy credentials include a seat on the congressional foreign affairs committee, was the heavy favorite in the debate with Atwood.
The incumbent responded to the questions on Eastern Europe, South America, the United Nations, the Persian Gulf, energy policy and human rights with confidence - all areas of expertise and interest to the three-term congressman - and complained lightly at the end of the debate that no one had asked questions about Cambodia, Pakistan or Angola.
But Atwood, responding to a question about the Palestinian uprising and Israeli human rights abuses, provoked the night's only fireworks when she jabbed Owens with a suggestion that he is unduly influenced by pro-Israeli interests, who have contributed about $86,000 to his campaign.
"And they don't just give (money) to Wayne just because they like the sound of his voice," Atwood said. "I'm not saying they buy a vote. But they do buy access to some extent."
Owens retorted, "This is not a debate on campaign war chests."
Returning to the question posed, Owens needled Atwood about her response that Palestinians "probably" deserve political independence. "Palestinians do not probably have a right to self-determination, they absolutely have a right to self-determination. And if you think . . . the Jewish lobby likes that statement, you're wrong," he said testily.
Further, Owens said, Atwood's recounting of an anecdote told by an Owens aide about the incumbent angering a lobbyist and losing a $10,000 contribution proved his independence from outside interests.
"You didn't get the story," he said. "I said (the money) be damned."
To a question about Lithuanian independence, both candidates said that while the republic deserves a special status, it is probably in the world's best interest that the Soviet Union not fall apart. Owens carried his answer a step further, advocating a significant cut in military spending in favor of a new Marshall Plan of American assistance for Eastern Europe.
Regarding whether the United States was correct in withdrawing support from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Atwood said that the United Sates was consistently getting outvoted by smaller countries. Reform would never have happened if the United States hadn't withdrawn financial support, she said.
Owens disagreed, saying that the U.N. wasn't established as an agent of the United States, and that supporting the U.N. is vital now because of the need for international support for a resolution of the Persian Gulf crisis.
To a question about the effectiveness of the Monroe Doctrine, especially under the Reagan administration, Atwood responded that economic aid in the form of free trade is "almost a necessity" in the Southern Hemisphere and that military aid should be downplayed.
"It's awfully hard when we're sending troops to look as if we're peaceful," she said.
Owens, however, said the Monroe Doctrine is a "macho response" and has "served as the excuse and bludgeon" to support "banana republics." Owens added that he never voted to support the Contras in Nicaragua.
The two candidates agreed that Saddam Hussein should be driven from Kuwait but not via a shooting war.