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Blue America: Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY-08) — Released From Purgatory


[FDL is thrilled to welcome Rep. Jerry Nadler to chat with us this morning.  As with all Blue America chats, please stay on topic and be polite — any off-topic conversations should be taken to the prior thread.  Please join me in welcoming Rep. Nadler! — CHS]

It could have been because we were born within a year of each other and not far from each other (in Brooklyn) but I think the bond I felt yesterday towards Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-08) had more to do with his ideas and his outlook. You're about to meet him this morning because he's joining us here for a chat from Manhattan. I want to fill you in on a little background first.

He went to Columbia University in the late 60s, campaigning for Eugene McCarthy, along with his roommate Dick Morris. He was elected — with a margin of 73 votes — to the New York State Assembly at 29 and in 1992 he was elected to Congress in similar circumstances. He immediately became the progressive point person to keep the hated bankruptcy bill at bay. He managed to do that for 8 years — despite the fact that all the Republicans and almost a third of the Democrats favored it. In 2000 when it finally passed, he was able to persuade Hillary Clinton to talk her husband into vetoing it.

One of the blessings that came with the Democratic victories last November was that Congressman Nadler, a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, became chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution (immediately changing the name to the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties). I asked him what he's doing with his subcommittee. Half an hour later, I said I had enough material for my story. He was just getting started.

First, what he hopes to accomplish with the subcommittee: a reexamination of the restrictions on habeas corpus, a re-examination of the Military Commissions Act, an examination into "extraordinary renditions," properly defining "enemy combatants," a look at what this whole business of "national security letters" is all about, warrentless wiretaps, torture, speedy trials… oh, and a look at the whole concept of evidence obtained under coersion and duress.

"There's so much to undo," he explained. And even if Bush vetoes everything, he hopes to use hearings to help re-educate the American people about why things like habeas corpus are important even before we have a Democrat in the White House to help restore it. "I never thought I'd be in Congress when it repealed the Magna Carta!"

What's more, with the Democrats controlling the congressional agenda, instead of playing defense again hideous Republican schemes to penalize gays and minorities and take away rights, it is possible to move forward.  And Rep. Nadler hopes to do so by cleaning up the incredible mess made by the Bush Regime and its rubber stamp Congress and moving the public debate back towards the center.

Before the victories in November, Rep. Nadler often felt "very dispirited" going to work at the Judiciary Committee several times a week

"to know that no matter how horrible the proposal, no matter how good your argument, you're going to lose every single vote. And we were the first line of defense when they wanted to remove the right to sue for people in industrial accidents, to push through their anti-gay amendment, their 'fetal personhood' bills… I feel like I've been released from purgatory."

Now what about Bush's war? Jerry Nadler represents one of the most Jewish districts in the country — from Manhattan's upper West Side down through Chelsea, the Village, Wall Street, and over to Brooklyn all the way down to Coney Island.

I watched with dismay as other Jewish progressives around the country — from Henry Waxman in L.A., Shelley Berkley in Nevada, Tom Lantos in the Bay Area, Sander Levin in Michigan to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz in South Florida Robert Wexler — abandoned the Democratic Party on October 10, 2002 to vote with Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert to authorize the use of force in Iraq. But not Congressman Nadler. He was the only white Democrat in downstate NY to vote against the war and he helped draft the Spratt Resolution that could have prevented the war.

"Saddam was more of a nuisance than a menace. Iran was a menace and taking Iraq out of the equation unbalanced the Middle East to our detriment, as well as to Israel's."

Since then, as a member of the Progressive Caucus, he has been working hard to start the long, hard process of winding the war down. He was very instrumental in changing the terms of debate from "power of the purse" (which the Republicans and their media machine interpret to mean denying supplies to our boys and girls in the field) to funding the protection of the troops and the costs of bringing them home. He changed the rhetoric the Democratic leadership uses and helped convince them that timelines are essential.

Congressman Nadler isn't here to ask us to finance his bid for re-election. He usually garners around 80% of the vote — and last year, after his strong anti-war stand, it was 83%. But what I'd like to ask you to do is help fund the congressman's leadership PAC. Why? Because we want people like Jerry Nadler in leadership positions within the Democratic caucus.

To a great extent that is determined by his ability to help other Democrats running for office.

If you click on our Act Blue page, you can add one cent to your contribution to indicate to Rep. Nadler's committee that you want your donation to go to his leadership PAC.

Which reminds me…I did a story on one of the congressman's constituents last week, Jonathan Tisch, someone being touted by many Democrats as a good candidate to succeed Bloomberg as mayor of NYC. He wrote a book called Chocolates On The Pillow Aren't Enough — Reinventing the Customer Experience and he autographed a box of them for us to give away to the first contributors to Congressman Nadler's leadership PAC (in other words, if you want a book this week, add .01).

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Howie Klein

Howie Klein

Howie Klein spent much of his life wandering around the world living in places like Afghanistan, Nepal, Holland and Morocco. He moved backed to America when Richard Nixon resigned and promptly helped start the first punk rock radio show in the country and then a DIY punk rock record label. His adventures in the music business ended a couple of years ago when he retired as president of Reprise Records. He began blogging almost immediately, starting Down With Tyranny. Jane taught him html while he held one of her dogs at a party. He is a raw foodist, lives in L.A., swims and hikes every day, thinks Howard Dean could be a president as great as FDR and will never be completely happy until Bush and Cheney are behind bars.