No one would accuse me of being a moderate in any regard. Not in work, not in play, not in love, not in politics. But I must admit to a certain curiosity about people who bring a more considered approach to their words and actions. One such person is David Price of North Carolina’s 4th Congressional district. I recently had the chance to interview him – to find out what he thinks about the state of affairs in Washington.
What's it like being in the minority party with George Bush in the White House? In all my nine terms in Congress, I've never seen as bitter and punitive a partisan atmosphere. Democrats in Congress have virtually no say in the major legislation that comes before the House. Bills are rammed through to appease the right-wing zealots of the Republican Party, giving the minority no opportunity to amend them or to vote on alternate legislation that would appeal to members on both sides of the aisle. Even more troubling is the utter lack of oversight. Instead of functioning as a co-equal branch of government, Congress is abdicating its constitutional responsibility to hold the Administration accountable - at a time when accountability couldn't be more critical.
You've been in politics a long time. Have you ever seen a more corrupt and incompetent government than we have right now? The President and his advisors don’t appear to understand - or perhaps care about - the legal and constitutional limits on the authority of the executive branch. As a consequence, it is difficult to know where to draw the line between corruption and incompetence, although there is surely a good measure of each.
In only five years, the Bush Administration has undone a decade of progress on bringing federal budget deficits under control. It has used the specter of September 11 to tread on civil liberties beyond what’s necessary to protect the country, and to justify a war of choice in Iraq. Yet the Administration has also failed to secure the country, as recently revealed in the debate over control of our ports, or to prepare for natural disasters. This Administration has taken a generally positive image of the United States abroad and turned it into a reputation for unilateralism and the disregard for human rights.
The Republican leadership in Congress has been a partner in most of these transgressions, defaulting on its responsibility to fulfill the oversight responsibilities of the Legislative Branch of government and trampling on the rights of the minority party in the process. While excess and abuse in the political realm have always been a threat to democratic government, the heights reached in the last five years are unprecedented in my lifetime.
A recent report shows you're holding down the progressive front in North Carolina, along with Mel Watt. How do you respond to 4th District voters who want you to be more aggressive? A few weeks ago National Journal released its composite vote ratings based on 2005 votes in three areas: economic issues, social issues, and foreign policy. I was ranked more progressive than 81.7 percent my colleagues. I am proud to share with Mel Watt the only 100% ranking among North Carolina's members by the NAACP, as well as a 94% League of Conservation Voters score shared by Mel and Brad Miller.
There should be no misunderstanding of my position on Iraq. I voted against the war, and I have been a persistent critic of the way Bush has conducted it -- without reliable intelligence, appreciable support from allies, or a workable postwar plan. I have also introduced legislation (H. J. Res. 70), directing the President to submit an Iraq exit strategy to Congress.
What's your position on impeaching George Bush? Would you vote for impeachment given the opportunity? I’ve called for a special counsel to investigate the Administration's warrantless eavesdropping activity – in cooperation with Zoe Lofgren and 16 other members. It’s hard to imagine any effort to hold the president accountable moving forward without the kind of factual record and legal determination envisioned in this demand. I’m pleased that MoveOn.org has now adopted our position on this question.
Of course neither impeachment nor a special counsel nor even congressional oversight has a prayer as long as Republicans are in charge. All of us need to think hard about how to gain maximum political support to turn out the current leadership of Congress in November.
How do you see other races in North Carolina? Do you think we can pick up a few seats? For the first time since 1994, the congressional races will be at the top of the ticket. National opinion polls suggest it could be a good year for Democrats, but we have to pick up seats in North Carolina if there is to be any hope of regaining the majority in Congress. The two best hopes for Democratic pick-ups are the 8th and 11th districts, where the partisan division is close, the incumbents are on the defensive, and strong challengers have emerged.
In the 11th, Charles Taylor faces a strong challenge from Heath Shuler, a football hero originally from Swain County. Heath offers a striking contrast to Taylor. He is running an energetic campaign with a strong grassroots focus, and he's made a strong start on fundraising. In the 8th, Robyn Hayes is once again in trouble. Although the area has lost thousands of textile manufacturing jobs in the last ten years, Hayes voted in favor of CAFTA - after stating that he was "flat out, completely, horizontally opposed" to it.
What are your top policy priorities going into next Congress? We must correct America's course fiscally and diplomatically, so that our country's policies reflect its true values. My top personal initiatives include:
a) my resolution demanding an exit strategy from Iraq
b) my call for a special counsel to investigate warrantless wiretapping by the executive
c) the Democracy Assistance Commission, which supports parliaments in emerging democracies (on which Price serves as the ranking Democratic member)
d) my teacher recruitment bill, the Teaching Fellows Act
e) my push to restore FEMA's capacity for disaster response and to better equip local first responders
f) the comprehensive congressional reform package I have proposed as a part of the "Gang of Four" with Reps. Barney Frank (MA), Dave Obey (MI) and Tom Allen (ME).
What's the most effective way for citizens to support you in pursuing progressive agenda? First, they can continue to keep in touch. The people of the Fourth District are engaged, committed, and above all, well-informed. Although we won't always reach the same conclusion about a particular policy question, it's integral to my job to know what's on their mind and to have the benefit of their perspective.
Second, they can help elect other progressive candidates to Congress. None of us on the Democratic side can do our jobs as we and our constituents would like as long as the right-wing Republicans rule the roost.
Third, citizens can band together in organizations supporting public education, housing, environmental protection, civil liberties and other critical issues - encouraging politicians who support them, pressing those who do not, and laying the groundwork for the political change we need.
David Price (campaign site) has primary competition this spring from two Democrat challengers, Kent Kanoy and Oscar Lewis (no website found). Plus there’s a Republican in the hunt, retired Air Force colonel, Steve Acuff (no website found), who promises to stand behind the so-called principles of the GOP . . . which I assume would be incompetence, a culture of corruption and complete disregard for the common good.
I appreciate Kent Kanoy’s calls for impeachment and I admire his gutsy run for office. But with all due respect, I’m supporting David Price and putting my energy into defeating Republican crooks like Charles Taylor and Robin Hayes. David Price is on the right side of the issues I care about. He may not be a firebrand or a hot-head like me, but I assure you, no one wants to see the Bush administration out of power any more than David Price does.
Note: All links are mine.