WASHINGTON – Sufficient reason exists to believe that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is a threat, but U.S. military action in Iraq should not begin until all efforts to gain world support are exhausted, said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., a member of the House International Relations Committee.
"Go to the United Nations, get a resolution. I hope to get a resolution that calls for highly intrusive, unconditional, unannounced inspections that authorize force if the inspections are not allowed to progress," the third-term congressman from the San Bernardino Valley told Foxnews.com.
"What we know now is, Saddam will develop nuclear weapons in the future unless we take action," he added.
Sherman's hierarchy is "first choice, inspectors, second choice military action," but he does not want to place a timetable on when the United States ought to take matters into its own hands should the United Nations fail to pass a resolution or should Saddam refuse to cooperate, as expected.
"I would not feel comfortable unless we made all of the effort possible with the United Nations," he said.
His only opponent in the November election, however, thinks Sherman is too wishy-washy on Iraq and has not shown a strong impulse to bolster the U.S. military and intelligence services since taking office in 1998.
"He's saying we should assure the world that we won't attack Iraq before resuming weapons inspections. That's the same policy that led us to the situation we now have in Iraq and the rest of the world," said attorney Robert Levy.
"Brad Sherman is not a person who can be relied upon to strongly support the interests of the United States in our defense," Levy said.
"We need to do things swiftly, we need to go into Iraq immediately, and if the rest of the world doesn't agree, so be it," he added.
While Levy is more than willing to talk U.S. policy on Iraq, Sherman, 47, said he's wary of making it an election issue. He does believe that a resolution taking a multilateral approach to Iraq would be roundly supported by Democrats ahead of the election, but he's not speculating about that now.
"I don't think you have to rush it or delay it because of the election. I think ultimately, the timing should be based on foreign affairs, not political considerations," he said.
But how quickly to proceed in Congress on a congressional resolution has been a heated debate for some time. President Bush stated Friday that unless Congress passes a resolution of its own on Iraq in short order, voters will have to choose representatives who will leave national security up to the international community.
For his part, Sherman, an accountant by trade and former tax board member in California, said he doesn't want the November election to be a mandate on Iraq. He would rather focus on domestic issues, in particular Social Security, education, health care, and corporate responsibility, particularly the Enron scandal.
"I don't want this election to be a referendum on Saddam Hussein, but let's talk about [Enron CEO] Ken Lay."
That type of discussion could work in his favor in the newly re-apportioned 27th Congressional District. Formerly representing the 24th District that included most of the suburban Los Angeles San Fernando Valley in Ventura County, Sherman has had to trade 420,000 voters from affluent areas like Malibu with 430,000 new middle-class voters in the central Valley area, adding to his Democratic base.
But even if he wants to talk domestic issues, he may find that his constituents are still hooked on the Iraq discussion.
Carolyn Smith, campaign office manager for the Democratic Party of San Fernando Valley, said that Sherman has nothing to worry about when it comes to their outlook on the crisis. Like Sherman, they are supportive of the president, but cautious about immediate invasion without global support.
"I think Brad's statements speak for most of the people that I've talked to in the valley," she said, calling his stance "wise."
That doesn't sound good for Levy, who claims that his internal polls show "an extremely close" race. Unfortunately for the Republican candidate, however, Campaign & Elections political oddsmaker gives Sherman an 80 percent chance of keeping his seat.
"We expect him to win by a very large margin," Smith said.
Sherman said that even if Iraq takes up the election, he is anxious for the debate in and out of Congress.
"I think hearings are the appropriate forum for the administration to make its case to the American people," he said. "My colleagues will vote their conscience."