Saturday, June 02, 2007



Helping to elect Joe Sestak to Congress last year was one of Blue America's triumphs. Congressman Sestak has held up his end of the bargain, not just by voting the way he promised but my supplying the intellectual heft and energy on the issues he told us were most important to him. Today he makes his first visit to Firedoglake since he banished 19 year incumbent Curt Weldon in November.

Yesterday we began the discussion, focussing on the vote Rep. Sestak cast for the Supplemental. I suggest you read the comments in preparation for our talk with him today. When Congressman Sestak's office called and told me he'd like to come over for a talk, he was very aware that many of us do not agree with the way he voted. I know when I look at the list of the 86 Democrats who joined the Republican House caucus to approve the bill, I see a list of reactionaries who I neither like nor trust. Overwhelmingly it's a list of the worst of the Inside-the-Beltway Democratic Party, from the Rahm Emanuels and Steny Hoyers to the Jim Marshalls, Collin Petersons, Gene Taylors and Melissa Beans. And then there's Joe Sestak, a congressman who doesn't belong on the same list with that batch of barely better-than-Republican pond scum. The other Blue America freshmen on the list I had already written off as lessons learned-- Kirsten Gillibrand, Chris Carney, and Ciro Rodriguez-- based on their overall voting records. Seeing Joe on there broke my heart. This is an admiral who got to congress and immediately introduced a bill to end the occupation of Iraq. This is a congressman who looks anyone in the eye and tells them why a "date-certain" end to this catastrophe is essential.

A couple days ago we talked on the phone and he explained his position to me. It's not my position but I believe him when he tells me his rationale and I respect not just him, but what he did. He's getting 350 calls and letters a day and plenty are from constituents who are disappointed. After all, in the end, that vote is the same vote Curt Weldon would have cast. The context isn't though. And instead of playing it safe and voting with the 278 Democrats who knew the bill was going to pass, he asked himself what he would do if he was the deciding vote, if the yeas and nays were equally divided and he had to make the decision whether or not to call Bush's bluff in his heartfelt quest to end what he called on the floor of Congress a "tragic misadventure." When I asked him what he thought his most important accomplishment has been since taking office he said it was helping to move the Iraq debate to change from Stay the Course to what is the best exit strategy. He told also me he thinks the way the Democrats in Congress need to end the occupation is thru an authorization bill rather than an appropriations will. I'm going to ask him to explain that to us today.

One of the points that so enamored me of Joe's campaign originally was his approach to National Security. It goes well beyond a military approach to include health care, education and economic well-being. How can anyone expect to have long-term national security without a healthy, educated, economically prosperous population? Here's an Admiral elected to Congress who seems as passionate about Head Start as he is about anything else-- and he's introduced 3 amendments, each of which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, to help fix No Child Left Behind. "Getting children in a good academic environment when their cognitive reasoning is just beginning to develop is key to their future achievements."

As vice-chairman of the House Small Business Committee he's been working diligently to unbundle large contracting procedures that have given advantages to huge corporations at the expense of small companies. His focus in the committee beyond that priority has been to champion women's business centers and veterans' outreach centers, exploring plans to help small businesses with health care costs for their employees, and encouraging clean, energy-efficient technologies.

You can contribute to Joe's re-election campaign on his website either through ActBlue or by sending a check. He's going to be with us today for an hour and then he has another appointment. We'll use the second hour of the session to talk amongst ourselves about Blue America.


The q & a with Congressman Sestak (and Ambassador Joe Wilson) was pretty amazing-- really high level of comments and I'd recommend it strongly, as well as Teddy's follow-up post a couple hours later.

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At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The the FDL thread is dead, i think I'll give my two cents on whether Sestak should be a Blue America candidate for '08.

For starters, I'd say "no" on general principle.... IMHO, Blue America should be focussed on bring new progressives into Congress --- especially those for whom Blue America money can take from "also ran" to "viable candidate." (If we get closer to an election and there are progressive incumbents that need our help, that's when the decision should be made.)

As to Sestak himself -- I'd say "no" because he ignored my key question/point; the process by which this decision was made and implemented was antithetical to the kind of open and honest political processes that progressives MUST stand for. I have the feeling that Sestak maintains much of his "military" mindset -- i.e. "you do not publicly criticize the decisions of your superior officers. "

The democrats won in 2006 because of two issues -- Iraq and corruption. The supplemental, and the process by which it was passed, was a slap in the face of every person who voted for the Democrats expecting a firm stance on Iraq and/or honest and open government.

So if Joe Sestaks asks for your help in the immediate future, I hope you tell him that BA focusses on increasing the number of progressives in Congress at this point in the election cycle and that alone is a reason why he isn't getting on the BA page right now. Then tell him that progressives are not merely disappointed in his Iraq vote, but extremely disappointed in his acquiescence to back-room politics, and that we hope he shows more of the kind of independent thinking and action that we were expecting from someone like him.

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I called hundreds of voters for Joe Sestak working with the moveon GOTV effort, and this whole interview is a little distressing. It seems to me that these Democrats are not governing today, they are trying to ensure that they can still govern in 2008 by ensuring that Iraq remains an issue.

Yet there are many, many reasons that they could lose majorities and the Presidential race (from terrorist attacks to voter fraud), the biggest one being letting down the huge numbers of voters that turned out for change in 2006. Govern while you are in power, for the sake of your constituents in the armed forces and for the sake of this nation.

If Americans are dying, and if it is wrong, and if it causes Sestak such distress, his vote should have shown it.

As far as health care, education, and the economy, what a joke. "How can anyone expect to have long-term national security without a healthy, educated, economically prosperous population?" My question is, how can Sestak expect to accomplish these things in the near future while we are literally burning the funds that would pay for them in Iraq? While we waste the lives of a younger working generation that from the start had no chance of replacing the productivity of the baby boomers?

And his "accomplishments" - It's like going to a restaurant and ordering the steak, only to have the waiter return with the chicken and the fish. While they may be quite tasty, it was not what I ordered! And until I get what I ordered, I'm holding on to my check. You have 18 months. Don't waste it. Thanks.


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