Interview with Rep. Alan Grayson / Watching the Hawks – 2015-04-09 00:50:35
“Not Every Problem in the World Has a Military ‘Solution'”
Advice from the Military-Industrial Complex
Interview with Rep. Allan Grayson / Watching the Hawks
Congressman Grayson joined the inaugural installment of “Watching the Hawks,” a new national cable news show. In a far-ranging interview, he discussed what is wrong with Congress, why even many Democrats are afraid to take on the military-industrial complex, whether military spending actually creates jobs, the division of authority between the President and Congress regarding military action, the likelihood of more infrastructure spending, and more. Enjoy:
Tyrell Ventura: “Whether you love him or hate him, the Representative from Florida’s 9th District definitely isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Congressman Grayson, thank you for joining us today, and stepping into the Hawk’s Nest, on our inaugural show. Thank you, sir.”
Rep. Alan Grayson: “You’re welcome. I’m hoping that by the end of the show, you’ll all love me.”
TTV: “Well, Congressman, recently we’ve see some pretty amazing stories of alleged corruption coming out of Congress, from the Wall Street Journal announcing today that federal investigators are possibly preparing criminal charges against [Sen.] Robert Menendez of New Jersey, to the wild tales of [Rep.] Aaron Schock, and his somewhat hilarious and, well, shocking political expenditures.
You know, with congressional approval at this all-time low, and people looking at Congress and saying, ‘You guys can’t get along, and now you’re using your campaign money and everything else for fraud,’ how can Congress start cleaning up these messes?”
Rep. Alan Grayson: “Let’s look at the system. The system is that we have a lot of career politicians, who move up the ladder, one rung after another. If they get the nomination of their party, and they are in a district where 60 percent of the voters are from their party, they’re going to get to the next rung. That’s the system that we have. It doesn’t bring us the best or the brightest. It brings us the hacks. And some of those hacks turn out to be corrupt hacks.
That’s the fundamental problem. We have many, many districts that are not competitive. And we have many voters who don’t have the time or the interest to learn about the candidates. They simply vote their party. The result of that, with the gerrymandering and the unlimited supply of money that the Republican Party has today, is what you see, which is a Republican-controlled Congress full of hacks.”
Tabetha Wallace: [Discussing the military industrial complex, and referring to the fact that many liberals are afraid to take on the military industrial complex because they will be attacked as being weak on defense, what Congressman Grayson called the “blood libel.”] “As a Democratic member of Congress, how prevalent is this fear, and how does it play into decision-making when it comes to the defense budget?”
Rep. Alan Grayson: “It’s crucial. We have Democrats who have been running scared of the idea that their weak on defense since at least McGovern [running for President in 1972]. And you remember how hard President Kennedy had to overcome that stigma in the 1960 election. So it’s been a real problem for us, ever since the Communists lived under our beds each night, and came out each night around three o’clock in the morning.
This is a chronic problem, and we have to get past it by realizing that not every problem in the world has a military solution. Sometimes the military makes things worse. For instance, let’s take Iraq. That’s a good example of that. Things are far worse today than they were under Saddam Hussein’s regime. It’s not even a close question.
Ordinary people are living lives of utter depredation and fear every day. We didn’t solve that problem. And we just have to get over this idea that every time we see something in the world that we don’t like, we bomb it.”
TTV: “Some defend military spending, by justifying the jobs it produces. So how do separate job cuts from military spending?”
Rep. Alan Grayson: “Well, there is a simple answer to that, and I’m speaking as a former economist. I was an economist for almost four years, and the only member of Congress who can actually say that. When you put people to work making bombs, what you end up with is bombs. When you put people to work making bridges, what you end up with is bridges. When you put people to work making schools, you end up with educated children.
Military spending to create employment is an utter dead end. You might as well have half the population digging ditches, and the other half filling them in. The important thing is to unleash people’s work, their time, their creativity, what they have to offer, so that they can serve others.”
Sean Stone: [Detailing misspent military spending on weaponry, and further questionable military actions.] “What’s happening in Syria now? Is this being done with the oversight of Congress?” [Asking what Congress can do to stop the president’s unilateral action there.]
Rep. Alan Grayson: “Well at this level, frankly, the President often acts unilaterally. But we do have to authorize wars. And the President has been edging up into [Congressional constitutional] territory now for several years. Somehow or other people have gotten comfortable with the idea of drone strikes in areas where we are not at war, like a place like Yemen.
We have not declared war against anyone in Yemen. And yet people seem to think that it’s okay for us not only for us to arm one side or the other, but actually to launch weapons of destruction from US drone planes. We kill many people, including at this point a list of over 200 children, available on the Internet.
So, in fact, a lot of these situations are ones where the President is going right up to the very edge of what he can call his constitutional power, and often making mistakes. Because, frankly, the rest of the world is playing chess and we’re playing checkers.
I was one of the few people who recognized two years ago that if we went to war against Syria, and we destroyed the command and control structure of the chemical weapons being held by the Assad regime in Syria, they would fall into other hands.
So if that had actually happened, that misguided misconception that by bombing we’d make things better, if that had actually happened, then today we wouldn’t be watching ISIS beheading people on our TVs, we’d be watching them gas people.”
TW: “Is there any talk in Congress of addressing crumbling infrastructure needs with job creation?”
Rep. Alan Grayson: “Yes. In fact, this week you will see the Progressive Caucus’s budget voted on, and it will draw its usual 100 votes, out of 435 of us. But the Progressive Caucus budget does exactly that: It puts people back to work in America not making bombs, or as Eisenhower said, robbing from children (that’s what Eisenhower called military spending: robbing from children) but instead puts them to work meeting human needs.
Whether it’s taking care of seniors, whether it’s rebuilding our bridges and our schools (the way we promised to do in Afghanistan), whatever it might be, whether it’s health needs, education needs — whatever it might be. It’s an honest budget that takes the unemployed and puts them back to work doing things that are useful and beneficial to all of us, meeting our human needs.”
TW: “What should the average American know about how their Congress works, and what they can do to make it work for them?”
Rep. Alan Grayson: “The answer is that the one or two people at the top determine the entire agenda. When Nancy Pelosi was in charge here in the House, every week we had a major bill that actually was going to pass the Senate, going to be signed by the President, and would make a difference in the lives of ordinary people. She always believed that if you improve people’s lives, you’ll get more votes. You do it on its own merit, but in fact, you’ll get more votes.
That’s the way this place was organized by the people at the top then. Since John Boehner took over, it’s been one wasted week after another, putting out “messaging” bills. Whether it’s repealing Obamacare, whether it’s authorizing the Keystone Pipeline for the 35th time, whatever it might be, it’s basically just trying to placate the baying wolves of the right wing , rather than doing anything constructive or anything that might actually become law.
We’ve almost reached the point where we have forgotten that we are legislators, that we’re supposed legislate, we are supposed to make laws, not send messages.”
SS: “Why did so few lawmakers show up for the 2013 drone strike victim hearing?” [Only five Members of Congress joined Rep. Grayson for his ad hoc hearing on drone strikes.]
Rep. Alan Grayson: “I think people try to avoid the things that are unpleasant. In fact, a great deal of self-deception takes place in everyone’s lives, and not just people up here in Washington D.C. If it’s a bad thing, and we don’t think we have a solution for it, we simply stop thinking about it — unless of course it’s ISIS, and then we can’t stop thinking about it.
But the fact is that it’s sad. It’s sad that I had to do that [myself], because every committee in Congress completely ignored all the drone wars that we were conducting in one country after another (some of which is classified and I’m not even allowed to tell you about it).
A high US official said that for every single person whom we kill with a drone strike, all these intended victims, the ones who are these “insurgents” (or whatever they’re calling them these days), for every single one of them, we make 50 more enemies that join these forces against us. Think about that. Does that seem like a good ratio? Does that seem like a winning strategy?”
TTV: “One last question: Have you made a decision about running for the Senate?”
Rep. Alan Grayson: “No I haven’t. I’m waiting to see what The People want.”
TW: “I think that The People would be very pleased to see you [in the Senate].”
Rep. Alan Grayson: “You move to Florida; I want your vote. [Smiling.] It’s a great show, thank you very much.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.