I just wrote up a fairly long interview for the Washington Independent with Rep. Joe Sestak, the Pennsylvania congressman challenging Arlen Specter in next year’s PA-SEN primary, . He’s one of the few congressional Democrats who’s loudly in favor of the troop increase in Afghanistan. Here’s a sampling of what Sestak had to say:

Sestak said he thinks ultimately concluding the war on terms favorable to U.S. interests requires “a three to five-year effort,” though not necessarily at the elevated troop levels Obama will announce tonight. Yet when asked what a successful conclusion to the war ultimately looks like, Sestak described it as piecemeal elements measured by benchmarks he hopes the president will announce. “That should be measurements particularly [about] the top leadership of al-Qaeda,” he said. “We know who they are, we don’t know where exactly they are, but have we got the masterminds?” Additional elements of success, as Sestak describes it, include Pakistani action against their Taliban elements and “their efforts with our support in economic aid and other types of efforts” proceed to prevent backsliding; “neutralizing” the most-rejectionist and al-Qaeda-aligned Afghan Taliban; and “measurements of how many villages, provinces, towns have we been able to have buy-in from the local, not just the national, centers of gravity.”

I had just read and loved Matthew Yglesias’s take on the war tax, which you can read here, when I spoke with Sestak. So I asked him whether he supported the tax, and quoted him at length on it.

While he said that he doesn’t support Rep. David Obey’s (D-Wis.) version of a war tax, he supports “bringing it into the normal budget process” and offsetting spending with cuts to irrelevant defense programs. “Now, if that will take a tax, because we can’t find the programs — for example, the $79 billion given to oil companies, fossil fuel companies in tax cuts, incentives and those types of, I believe, … benefits that can help pay for this war — if we’re not willing to go there, then we should stand up and say, here’s how we should raise the revenues,” he said. “We should be paying for this up front.”

Read the whole thing, as they say.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman