Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Thursday night he was concerned by President Donald Trump’s decision made earlier this week to withdraw U.S. forces from Syrian territory now under attack by the Turkish military.
The Kurds who controlled the border region were American allies who helped the U.S. drive the Islamic State terror group from territory it once held across Syria and Iraq. Cheney, 78, said he worried the withdrawal could undermine the relationship between the U.S. and its Kurdish allies.
The declaration was part of a wide-ranging conversation Cheney had with former Gov. Scott Walker at Eaton Chapel on Beloit College’s campus Thursday night. The conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom hosted the event.
Walker asked questions sent from the crowd via text message on other issues of national security, climate change, the Trump impeachment inquiry and other topics.
While Cheney said he supported Trump in 2016 and voted for him, he said he doesn’t agree with him on everything, including some issues related to U.S. relationships with international allies and adversaries.
The former vice president said it’s important to give Trump credit for opening dialogue with North Korea but that it’s critical for administration officials to understand who the “bad actors” in the world are.
Cheney also called Russia a significant threat to the U.S. and its allies. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aspirations are worrisome and that he, unlike Trump, will always view Putin as a Soviet intelligence officer.
On the trade war with China, Cheney said there was merit to placing tariffs on Chinese goods but that there will come a point where it goes too far, especially when it comes to tariffs on agricultural products.
“I’m a free trader and I don’t like tariffs,” he said. “You can overdo it, and I think we are about there.”
Cheney touched briefly on a variety of other national issues:
On Trump’s impeachment inquiry:
On climate change:
On gun control:
On LGBTQ rights:
“Freedom means freedom for everybody, and it’s a very important principle and proposition to follow,” Cheney said.
On “Vice,” the satirical biopic about the vice president:
As with the scheduled appearance at the college by former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince, the event attracted a number of protesters. Protests led to a cancellation of Prince’s talk, but Cheney’s event went off without interruption.
With attendees lined up outside to enter Eaton Chapel, protesters nearby held banners that read “End Imperialism” and “Try Cheney for Mass Murder.”
One protester who was handing out fliers said they were trying to keep the protest civil.
One man, David Stocker of Rockford, Illinois, played his guitar and harmonica and sang his original song, “Desperate Dick Cheney.”
“I came all the way from Rockford in the rain to sing this song for Dick Cheney,” he said.
Members of the Young Americans for Freedom group sang “The Star Spangled Banner” to try and drown out Stocker’s performance.
Gabe Gonzalez, chairman of Students for an Inclusive Campus, said his group organized a block party to oppose the event.
Other students and alumni also tried to capitalize on Cheney’s visit to raise money for RAICES, a nonprofit offering legal help to immigrants and refugees.
Kate Olson went to UW-Madison to study civil engineering and construction management.
After graduation, she pursued her profession for more than two years before deciding to train to become a carpenter.
On Thursday, Olson stood under a red and white awning and welcomed more than 300 high school students from four counties to J.P. Cullen’s Construction Career Fair.
Masons and concrete finishers, iron workers, electricians, heavy equipment operators—all the major players in the construction field—were there and eager to tell students and teachers about their work.
Students learned about the trades and participated in hands-on activities, such as working in a portable welding booth, brick laying and pouring concrete.
This is the fifth construction career fair held at J.P. Cullen, said Joe Schwengels, internship coordinator for the company.
“The No. 1 goal is to highlight the quality careers available in the trades,” Schwengels said.
Many students and their parents are unaware such careers can provide good wages and benefits—better wages than many jobs that require college degrees.
Pete Stern, the apprentice coordinator for Iron Workers Local 383, echoed Schwengels’ comments.
Stern wished more parents would have attended the career fair to see what opportunities are available.
For the past two to three decades, school counselors and leaders have tended to push students toward college, Stern said.
“I don’t think school counselors realized that these are family-supporting jobs,” Stern said.
Apprentice iron workers start at about $21 an hour.
He thinks attitudes are starting to change. The student debt crisis is forcing students and families to rethink their post-high school plans.
Stern has seen more apprentices in their late 20s and early 30s with college degrees coming through his office door. They couldn’t find jobs in their fields or found their chosen professions didn’t suit them.
Olson enjoyed her work in construction management, but she said the hands-on component just appealed to her more.
“I just enjoyed the field side. I liked the activity and the camaraderie that happens when you’re working together,” Olson said.
She picked carpentry because it allows her to see a project to completion.
“Carpenters are one of the trades that are at the site from the very beginning of the project to the very end of the project,” Olson said. “I like to be able to see all phases.”
Olson likes the materials she works with, and the work itself.
“These are the kind of things that I grew up doing,” said Olson, who grew up on a small farm outside Orfordville.
Why aren’t more young people going into the trades?
“I think college is seen, culturally, as a sign of success,” Olson said. “And that’s just not a great message.”
That’s a message companies such as J.P. Cullen are trying to change, Schwengels said.
The Cullen family, which still runs the business, started an apprenticeship committee more than two decades ago. It was an effort to connect skilled trades people with high school students and teachers.
In addition, the company is committed to its own apprenticeship program, Schwengels said. It hires and trains about six youth apprentices each year. Those students become part of the state Department of Workforce Development Youth Apprenticeship Program, which runs apprenticeships in professions ranging from the construction trades to health science.
It’s not an easy path.
In construction apprenticeships, students start during their junior years in high school. Each apprentice is assigned a mentor, and the two-year program involves 1,350 hours of paid, work-based learning and six semesters of related classroom instruction.
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