(ADDED 2:58 PM: Unedited WSB video of entire hourlong event)
Full house at C & P Coffee (WSB sponsor) for U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott‘s “coffee chat” Q&A event (the empty seat in our iPhone photo is the one he was sitting in). He opened with what he promised would not be a “speech,” saying this is a session of Congress “like no other” because of people he said were recently elected with the philosophy of “dismantling government.” So far he has fielded questions and challenges including “Why won’t you defund the war” to alleviate domestic funding challenges (he says he has opposed it but “the people” will have to force a majority of reps to make that happen), and to a question about why corporations are paying little or no tax, he acknowledged, “We’re crushing the middle class.” The event is scheduled to continue for another hour, and there’s still room to squeeze in; right now he’s talking about health-care reform.
11:02 AM: It’s actually wrapping up now. We are rolling video on the entire event and will post it here as soon as it is is uploaded back at HQ. (P.S. Though the group event is ended, Rep. McDermott is dealing with a long receiving line of people who want to ask him questions one-on-one.) This isn’t the first political gathering at C&P Coffee – owner Cameron Moores tells us state legislators have been here before, but she was thrilled with the turnout. (In fact, ex-state-senator-turned-County Councilmember Joe McDermott and State Rep. Eileen Cody both were in the crowd today. Also there, Diana Toledo, who ran against McDermott last year and told us she’s planning to do the same this year.) 2:58 PM: Added the video (top of the story). Longer summary to come.
ADDED: As promised, the longer summary – after the jump:
2011 = 1959.
That’s how longtime Seattle U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott says he sees it.
During his West Seattle “Coffee with Your Congressman” gathering on Saturday, he answered more than a few questions with his opinion that people power is the only solution.
The Democrat acknowledged that the other side of the political spectrum has provided a “template” for this, but he doesn’t agree with their philosophy.
In his brief opening remarks before taking questions from the standing-room-only crowd (maybe 50 by our informal count), he called this “a session of Congress unlike anything I have ever seen … populated by a large mass of people elected last year with no philosophy except to … dismantle a government. What you are seeing is a determined effort to actually undo everything that we think of as the government. … They say they’re going to take out ‘Obamacare’ [health-care reform], family planning, National Public Radio, everything else.”
But not military expenditures, which is what the very first question was about: “When are you going to vote to de-fund the wars …” considering “we don’t have any money here at home for anything?”
McDermott retorted that he has “opposed the war effort” and did not want to be “lumped together” with those who did not. “I think we ought to be out of Afghanistan … we never knew why we were there.” From his first war-question reply, he segued into a call for supporting campaign-finance reform, saying that after “the Supreme Court elected George (W.) Bush,” ensuing decisions allowed “corporations (to) put all the money they want into campaigns.”
Along with grass-roots revolt, campaign-finance reform was his repeated suggestion for solving what questioners saw as some of the problems, including corporate tax breaks. “The lobbyists don’t talk to me; they know I vote no …” And he went on to criticize President Obama for “his willingness to fold” in the face of business interests’ opposition to reform proposals: “Frankly, it hasn’t made a whole lot of difference, having Obama as president, in terms of taxes … We’re crushing the middle class.”
So if someone is opposed to Republicans’ goals, but not seeing Democrats challenging them, what to do? McDermott predicted a third party would arise, from grassroots organization. “I kid with the staff that sometimes I think we are in 1959 – you remember the sixties? People stood up and said, ‘we are through with this’. … I’d like to stop the war, but the fact is, it’s going to take the people to stop the war.” And, he offered later, to enact election reform: “If we don’t do this, all hope is lost,” though later he allowed that he saw hope in the Wisconsin protests.
Other issues that surfaced during the hourlong Q/A session included problems at Seattle’s Veterans Administration Medical Center – “That place is not broken, it’s shattered,” warned a representative from Veterans and Friends of Puget Sound – which led to another musing from McDermott regarding the fighting in the Middle East: “My opposition to the Iraq war is (based on) what happened in Vietnam. If you have seen a movie once, you don’t need to see it twice. If you asked people what’s happening in Iraq/Afghanistan … a story on TV is (less than two minutes) long. If I get a quote, it’s 19 seconds. Afghanistan has dropped off the radar. Iraq has dropped off the radar. My view is that nobody wants to look at the tail of the war” – such as veterans’ problems – “after the parades are over and everybody comes home.”
On health-care reform – his view of what’s been enacted so far boiled down to (paraphrasing) “it’s better than nothing – he said, “Pay-for-service medicine has got to be adjusted some way. The public cannot continue to pay whatever the doctor asks.” McDermott, who started his career as a psychiatrist, did also take some pride in the fact some progress is being made; it was at the top of his list when he was asked at one point, “What, in your time in Congress, are you most proud of?” Ultimately, he suggested, states will provide the solution.
On mortgage finance/foreclosures – he sees more trouble on the horizon because of refinances coming due in another cycle ending next year: “We’re going to see this movie all over again … we have failed to deal with this situation.”
On discrimination and bias: “What’s going on with Muslims in this country is awful … but not new; it happened to (every immigrant group) … We have to get back together. NPR reported that in 2040, we’re going to be a ‘brown country,’ and there’s certainly a lot of people who don’t like that. But the fact is, we’re all immigrants, everybody came from somewhere. We’re strong because the best, the brightest, the strongest, the toughest, came here.”
Overall, as many of his answers came back to insisting citizen action was the only hope for solving so many problems, he observed, “What’s missing … is a sense of the common good.” If America is on an everyone-for-him/herself path: “The country will come apart … we will have chaos in the streets.”
-Tracy Record, WSB editor