Wednesday, May 17, 2006

CA-36: Our Exclusive Interview with Marcy Winograd

No less than two days ago, the liberal blogosphere was treated to one of the most glorious smackdowns we have seen between two competing Democratic candidates:  First, Representative Jane Harman--the self-proclaimed "best Republican in the Democratic Party"--came to the Kos kommunity with a half-hearted attempt at pandering to the base with a diary about her much belated message bill on NSA spying.

Then came Marcy Winograd, her progressive challenger in CA-36, who is everything Harman is not: straightforward and progressive.  Marcy posted a smackdown of Harman that very same day.  If you didn't see it, please follow the links.

Jane Harman's offenses are well-known (please see fellow blogger hekebolos' diary on the subject) and don't need repeating here.

Tonight, however, I would like to share with you the full transcript of a 45-minute long interview that my brother hekebolos and I conducted with Ms. Winograd herself at the Rose Café in Venice, CA.  

I believe that when you are done reading it, you will understand that this is a candidate who deserves our support every bit as much as other progressives fighting DINOs in liberal districts.  This is exactly the sort of candidate we can all get behind--and you won't find this interview anywhere else but your very own liberal blogosphere.  Just follow me below...

Q: The first question I have is about the traditional media.  Do you feel like the odds are stacked against you when dealing with the media?

A: Oh yes, without a doubt.  Media consolidation is one of my issues.  In fact, before I decided to run for Congress I was trying to get some public hearings here in Los Angeles with the FCC on the media consolidation issue, in regards to the LA Times merger with KTLA, and I've been active in organizing demonstration for the LA Times regarding the firing of Robert Scheer.  In terms of my own campaign, the LA Times has refused to cover it--not word one, the Daily Torrance and Daily Breeze has refused to cover it, not word one.

Q: Why do you think that is?

A: The reporter from the Daily Breeze went to an event with me and Cindy Sheehan, but there's still no article about it.  I'm hoping that will change.  Why is that?  You know, money talks, power and influence talks, Jane Harman's been around a long time and has a powerful position on the intelligence committee, and people, I think,  regardless of what sphere they're in, tend to be somewhat beholden to those in power.

Q: How do you plan on overcoming that disadvantage?

A: It's a big challenge, but we are trying to overcome that in making our own media to some extent.  That might include certain events, talking about issues she won't talk about, going to places she won't go, in terms of politics, we are buying cable ads throughout the district.  We started out with a lot of precinct walking and engaging people at the neighborhood level, and putting signs up in their yard--and then she plastered the district with those corporate signs.  And some of those--well, many of them--were torn down in Venice, despite the fact that we say on our website not to do that.  I heard that some people were ripping them in half and leaving them on the posts.  She had a press conference two days ago, kind of a gathering to launch the opening of her campaign.  I did hear that two teenage boys went up to her with Winograd signs and said to her, "how dare you take money from the defense contractors and then lead to us to war based upon lies?  You're disgusting!"  From what I hear, she reacted quite like a deer in the headlights.

You know, to some extent we're trying to use the internet.  We're not as savvy, certainly, as you, but we do have a listserv of about 600 people or more.  We've also been maximizing our use of the alternative media, people who are writing for alternative media.  My press person has a lot of contacts, so I've been interviewed by bloggers, and she's got me a 3 page spread in the Texas Iconoclast, which is George Bush's home newspaper.  And The Nation magazine did a good piece: my campaign was sort of the anchor, and then they talked a little bit about other campaigns.  Robert Kohl of the Tribune Media, he did a piece.  So we've gotten some really good play in the alternative media.  I was interviewed 3 days ago in an interview by the Washington Post.

In terms of making our own news, we were a very strong presence at the convention.  I got almost 40% of the vote, which is quite remarkable, given that I only entered this race two and a half months ago.  And she's a six-term incumbent!  And the fact that I couldn't even speak on my behalf!

Q: One of the reasons that you are even able to mount this challenge is that the district has been gerrymandered in such a way that the district is now much more liberal than it was before.  What do you think of gerrymandering?  Is that a problem that needs to be solved?

A: I would like to look at that.  I'm not sure gerrymandering is the answer--you end up with these imperial incumbents who are never challenged, have safe seats and no accountability.  It's a problem.

Q: Campaign Finance.  It's not on your website; what do you think needs to be done, and do you agree with the equation of money and free speech?

A: I support campaign refinance reform and the California Clean Money Campaign.  If that were available on a federal level I would run a clean campaign.  It's tough when you're facing an incumbent with over $550,000 in her war chest, and her husband basically owns China.  So, you know, it's important.

Q: One of the most important local issues is traffic congestion, freeway sprawl, etc.  Some estimates say that traffic congestion in Los Angeles will double over the next decade.  What would you propose to do about that?

A: I would want to support the new Apollo Energy Act to provide corporate tax incentives to companies who invest in alternative energy and alternative infrastructure and means of transportation.  I would want to give serious economic incentives to cities that are greening themselves in terms of sustainable buildings and staggered work hours.  I think that public transportation should be a priority.

Q: What specific public transportation options do you recommend?

A: I think each individual city is probably different.  I would like to see us support buses and build light rail and subway systems.  I know that there are disagreements over which particular systems and projects to fund, but I don't think we should be fighting over a small share of a pie.  We should be demanding a much bigger piece of pie.

Q: Housing prices are out of control, and it's a huge problem in your district.  Talk to me a little about that.

A: It's a huge problem.  The root cause of that is severe drops in economics, in income levels.  You have to attack it to a certain degree from that perspective: roll back the tax cuts that Bush has implemented for the very wealthy, I would close some of the loopholes that allow corporations to get away without paying their taxes.  I also think we need to look at predatory lending practices on the part of the federal government that may make it difficult for people to survive in communities.

Q: As you know, Reagan deregulated much of the banking industry, leading to some of the lending practices we see today.  Is that an area you would be looking at, or are there other solutions in your mind?

A: Yes, yes, very much so, yes.  I would do whatever I could to close the income and achievement gap in America.

Q: In terms of affordable housing, one of  the things that is a problem is getting builders to actually construct affordable housing--what would you do to actually get builders to construct affordable housing?

A: Well, that's an excellent point.  You would have to give them financial incentives and tax credit breaks for doing that.

Q: Let's talk about election reform for a minute.  There are a lot of bills out there that propose to fix the problem.  Are there any bills currently on the floor that you support?

A: The Rush-Holt bill.  I support that.

Q: You have talked before about the parliamentary procedures available to Jane Harman when confronted with the NSA spying business: that she could have asked that a senator bring it procedurally before the Senate.  What if--as happened with Al Gore in the 2000 election--no Senator had agreed to step forward?

A: First I would have clarified the law.  I would have KNOWN it was against the law, for starters.  I would have--since I couldn't consult a constitutional lawyer, that is true--I would have looked at the law myself, the FISA law.  It's on the books, you can read it.  And then I would have informed Bush and Cheney that they were violating the law, and they needed to stop.  And if they refused to stop, then I would have blown the whistle.  It turns out, actually--and I've consulted Ellsberg on this--that you can actually as a Congressperson go on the floor of the House, and you don't have to be a Senator.

Q: Would you have done it through an anonymous leak, or would you--as Marcy Winograd--have gone public as a whistleblower?

A: I think I would have gone public.  You don't really know until you're in that situation, but I've never been one to shy away from that sort of controversy!  I guess the repercussions are that you might be denied a seat: you would never again sit on the House Intelligence Committee.

Q: You say that we need to pay more reparations for Iraq.  How can you guarantee the money will be spent wisely, if it's not being spent wisely now when we DO have troops on the ground?

A: Well, right now, who's providing the oversight?  The Bush Administration and its henchmen?  Give me a break.  I think that we should work through NGOs to provide that oversight.  The United Nations as well.

Q: How will you sell voters on pouring even more money into Iraq?

A: Well, I think it should just be sold to them in regards as, this is the way we need to stabilize Iraq.  If we don't provide them with reparations for peacetime construction, we'll be facing an even more dangerous situation as everything falls apart.  There will be no infrastructure.

Q: There is worse and worse news coming out of Afghanistan.  What would you do about that?

A: I would encourage foreign aid, and engaging Afghanistan with its neighbors in creating regional, stable alliances.  I would certainly invest in something other than the heroin trade there.

Q: Did you support the initial military action in Afghanistan?

A: I was very conflicted about that, let me tell you.  I remember having this conversation with my brother and he was very supportive of it, and I was just asking myself, "How is this really going to solve the problem?  Won't they just scatter and make it even more difficult to keep track of these people?"

Q: What would you have done, or counseled?

A: First of all, I would have signed onto the International Criminal Court, and arrested whoever the perpetrators were.  I would have tried the perpetrators--either literally or in absentia.  Because I think that we had an opportunity to really galvanize the world behind us--and instead, we really moved in the opposite direction and fractured world support for the United States.  I would have put the emphasis on the economic support for Bin Laden, and drying up his funding.  In the end, the best intelligence you have is human intelligence.  And when you create instability with unilateral wars and threaten people and go after them with bombs and kill innocent people, I'm not sure that helps you in the long run.  When you talk about precision strikes, how precise are they, really?

Q: Many have criticized the U.N. for dragging its feet on the issue Darfur.  At what point would you encourage the use of U.S. troops to stop the genocide occurring there?

A: I'm not sure the troops are the answer.  I would try to work with the NGOs on that.  I tend to favor negotiation and diplomacy over force and occupation.

Q: Let's move to immigration...

A:  Well, I think right now we have some pretty unrealistic quotas, particularly in regard to people coming from Central America.  One of the first things I would push for is higher quotas, because obviously they are not high enough with the numbers that are coming.  I would support a citizenship program, maybe every four years, for people that come here, work and pay their taxes.  I would hesitate to talk about supporting open borders, but I would like to see less criminalizing of immigrants, and more of a coherent policy of paths to citizenship based on how well they do what they're supposed to do.

Q: What do you think the requirements should be?

A: They should have a job, and be able to actively demonstrate that they have held a job--and maybe some community service as well.

Q: There is some talk of an English-language learning requirement.  Would you agree with something like that or not as a path to legalization?

A: That's definitely something to think about.  I do think that might be a good idea.

Q: A few questions about defense and the money being spent on defense.  First thing I wanted to ask is about the military-industrial complex: you have talked some about converting military manufacturing plants to domestic uses.  How realistic is that?

A: We've got to start talking about that at some point.  I have never heard that notion talked about my Jane Harman ever.  It's all about saving the bases with her.  I've been working with others to get people around the table to talk about this.

Q: This is really innovative to me.  Did you come up with this idea yourself?

A: There are some businesspeople talking about it.  It wasn't for humanitarian motivations--more for business reasons.  That's how it has to be pitched.  There have to be economic incentives.  I've called Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and some others to see if we can get around the table to talk about it, but so far I haven't gotten any response.  There has to be an incentive for them to be interested.  If they knew that certain parts of their budget were going to be cut, maybe they would have incentives to invest in alternative energy and mass transit technologies.  Right now, we're just rewarding them for not expanding their portfolio.

Q: You've talked a lot about investing a lot more money into education especially, but also Medicare, Social Security and another desperately needed social programs.  How do you balance the need for that spending with reducing the deficit?

A: I think I would start with rolling back those tax cuts, eliminating the corporate loopholes, and reducing the defense budgets.

Q: What types of defense spending would you cut?

A: Things like Star Wars, missile defense shields, you know.  It only escalates the arms race and doesn't defend us against anything.  There's a study that enumerates the various weapons systems that are basically just completely useless wastes of money.

Q: Even during the Clinton years, we had a runup in the gap between the rich and the poor.  What kind of policies, in addition to repealing the Bush tax cuts, would you push proactively?

A: I think that inclusionary housing, and incentives to developers to provide public housing is important.  And we really ought to improve our education system at the end of the day to closing this gap.  We really need to focus on education ALL of our citizens, not just a few.

Q: Do you have anyone you support right now for California governor?

A: I like Phil Angelides.  I think he's shown a large degree of social responsibility with his investments.  I like what he says with alternative energy, he points to Brazil as a model of a country about what can be done with alternative energy.  That gives me hope.

Q: Any outside choices for president in 2008?

A: Not Hillary Clinton! [laughter]  I would like to hear more from John Edwards.  He seems to have some sense of passion, and closing the gap between the rich and the poor.

What say you, my fellow progressives?  I know I like what I hear.

If you do, too, PLEASE consider visiting her website and, if you have any extra change burning a hole in your pocket, contributing to her campaign.

Because I, for one, don't want to see Venice Beach elect "the best Republican in the Democratic party" ever again.


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