Congressman-Elect Chris Carney [D-PA]
Chris Carney is a heavily be-medaled Navy officer and former Pentagon senior adviser whose résumé and strong opinions about how the war has been handled (poorly) have ingratiated him to voters in his rural Pennsylvanian district. In fairness, though, it also helped that his opponent, Don Sherwood, who didn't even face an opponent in 2004, allegedly strangled his mistress during what he claims was just an intense back rub.
Obviously, your opponent's back rub gone awry was an embarrassment to his campaign, and a huge boon to yours. Perhaps his situation is different, but do you generally feel as if we give too much weight to personal scandals like this when deciding whom to vote for?
In some cases, yes, but Mr. Sherwood ran on this values issue every time he ran. And in the meantime, he was having a five-year affair that basically started right after he got down to Washington. It's very interesting, my wife and I were talking about this a few weeks ago, and she said, "You know, five years is not a mistake"—which is what he said it was in a commercial apologizing for the affair—"five years is a commitment." And she's right! Those are not the values of the 10th district, certainly. And this is not a partisan thing—people just don't put up with that kind of hypocrisy.
What did you find to be the most distasteful campaign ad or tactic employed this election cycle?
The robo-calls that were made at, for example, two o'clock in the morning on the day of the election. They call you up and say "vote for Chris Carney"—and the National Republican Congressional Committee apparently did that in tight races across the country. It's just despicable and smacks of how desperate they were to hold on to power.
If you could ensure the passage of one piece of legislation in your first year in office, what would it be?
The minimum wage increase. We need to start helping the middle class and working families.
And raising the minimum wage is the best way to help middle-class families?
Well, that's one of the ways to do it. We also need to provide access to education, student loan programs, grants, and aid. Of course, health care is very critical, and one of my priorities when I'm in Congress will be trying to find ways to reduce the cost of health care for working families. It's just an absolute crusher.
What issue that has escaped congressional inquiry over the last six years would you most like to sic congressional investigators on?
War profiteering. It really bothers me that in my district, which has a fairly low mean income, people struggle everyday to make ends meet, and tens of billions of dollars have gone unaccounted for in Iraq. That's just horrible, and I'd like to know where that money went.
Which sitting Members would you most like to seek out as mentors?
Jack Murtha [D-PA] is one. On the Senate side, Joe Biden [D-DE] is another. Their strong national security stances are important to me.
Do you think it's still appropriate to hail Karl Rove as a genius?
Yes, he certainly got the vote out for us. He did a great job getting Republicans to come out and vote for me.
Do you have a strong, visceral reaction to political attacks on the service of people like you, people with extensive military backgrounds?
I do, certainly. It's a situation where if you want to politicize or even impugn someone's service to their nation, that's unconscionable. It smacks of desperation. And it proves that they are not the strong party on national security if they're willing to politically impugn their opponents who did serve and were in combat zones. It's incredible that they'd stoop to such measures.
So how do Democrats prove that they're reliable on national security issues? That they have a vision more compelling than, 'Hey, we weren't the ones who mucked this up so badly in the first place?' "
By electing guys like me, who have experience on these issues, who've been there, who know the questions to ask of the Administration. This Congress, the 109th and 108th, really gave up their oversight roles and their accountability roles and just let the president get away with whatever. They rubber-stamped it, and that's not going to happen in the 110th Congress. I promise you that.
And, by the way, those in uniform will appreciate the fact that Congress has their back. They will appreciate the fact that we will not be going to war unprepared, underequipped, without a plan, and without an exit strategy.
Do you think they're pleased with Secretary Rumsfeld's stepping down, too?
I think it's very interesting that just before the resignation, the Military Times newspapers all called for his resignation. It did speak to the level of support that Secretary Rumsfeld had.
Fifty words or less: What the hell do we do in Iraq?
We absolutely must focus on training the Iraqis to take care of their own security—and for every fully trained Iraqi battalion, an American battalion comes home.
Does that mean that we have to send more troops in the short-term?
It means sending the right troops, the troops who do the training. The sad fact is that we haven't always sent trainers to do the training. Just ordinary rank-and-file soldiers have been doing the training. And God bless 'em, they're doing a very difficult job under very difficult circumstances. But we need true military trainers to do the training.
What was your immediate reaction to John Kerry's "botched joke?"
I was appalled. I was angered. As a service member—as someone who's still in, by the way—I couldn't believe he would say something so stupid. Even in jest. I'm still, frankly, kinda cheesed off at him.
What would you have done on Wednesday had you lost?
Okay, hypothetical: Let's say I'm a lobbyist and I wanted to curry favor with you—Washington Wizards tickets?
To curry favor with me, you don't need to offer perks…
Nah, I just need you to be honest.
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