First term Congressman Daniel Lipinski (D-Western Springs), who represents all of Riverside and Brookfield and part of North Riverside, held a town meeting Saturday in the basement of the Brookfield village hall and faced questions from those advocating that the U.S. withdraw its troops from Iraq as soon as possible.

Leading the questioning was Laurel Lambert Schmidt, a Riverside resident who is one of the founders of the newly formed, and still quite small, Riverside Brookfield Peace Group.

“I feel the sooner we get out the better for us,” said Schmidt. “Start the process immediately. End all combat. Remove the combatants from Iraq. Start now. Our presence fuels the insurgency there.”

However Lipinski, a Democrat who was elected in 2004 to succeed his father, longtime Congressman William O. Lipinski, told the crowd that while he agreed that things are tough in Iraq, he did not favor immediate withdrawal or setting a specific date by which all American troops would be withdrawn from Iraq.

In October 2002, the elder Lipinski voted against a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

“I believe that we cannot pull our troops out until Iraq is stabilized,” Lipinski told the gathering. “I think it would be dangerous for U.S. security if we pull out our troops soon. For our safety and security we need to stay there. That is where I stand right now. I believe an arbitrary timetable, a specific timetable to take out our troops will not be helpful.”

In response to questions from others in the audience about Iraq, Lipinski said, “It’s a tough situation for me to be in. You’re either for Bush or for bringing the troops home right now. I don’t believe in either.

“There are no easy answers,” he added. “One thing everyone agrees on is that we want to get our troops home and get them home quickly.”

While Schmidt was not happy with Lipinski’s answers she was pleased with the dialogue.

“I thought it was a good discussion,” Schmidt said. “Perhaps if we keep up the questions and the presence and more and more people come out it will change attitudes and it will change his mind about what he does in Washington.”

Yesterday, Schmidt delivered petitions to Lipinski’s Chicago office to mark the 1,000th day of the war in Iraq and asking Lipinski to support resolutions introduced in the House of Representatives calling for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Schmidt said she has opposed the Iraq war from its inception and has worked with the Oak Park Coalition for Truth and Justice and Code Pink, a women’s peace group. But Schmidt felt a need to bring her activism closer to her home.

As a result, she helped to create the Riverside Brookfield Peace Group in September. The group currently has only five members, Schmidt said, but is looking to grow.

“We wanted a larger local presence. [Many think that] all the antiwar people and liberals are in Oak Park. They’re not. They’re all over,” said Schmidt.

Lipinski answered questions for more than hour on topics ranging from funding for stem cell research to gas prices.

Before the town meeting, Lipinski staffers met with a crowd of more than 100 senior citizens to explain the new federal Medicare prescription drug plan.