Sunday, December 04, 2005

An Interview with Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy, one of the "Fighting Democrats" (Iraqi War vets running for office), is challenging Republican Michael Fitzpatrick for the 8th Congressional District, Bucks County, some of Northeast Philadelphia, and a sliver of Montgomery County.

He recently took the time to answer a few email questions. His answers show intelligence, values, a quick wit, and a sense of humor. My favorite quote in the entire interview is this: When I was in Baghdad, I didn’t wear the issued wrap-around sunglasses because I wanted the Iraqis to be able to look in my eyes when I was out and about.

Here is the full interview:

The 2006 edition of CQ’s Politics in America comments that the 8th Pennsylvania congressional district has a lot small businesses but no really large industries. Is this a matter of concern?

Small businesses account for more than 90% of the job creation in the US, so I’m glad that entrepreneurs and small-business owners have found the 8th to be a good place to live the American dream. The lack of large industry is part of a nation-wide problem. Industrial jobs are being shipped overseas because of unfair trade practices. I am absolutely for free trade as long as it’s fair trade. My concern is that people like Mike Fitzpatrick have been bullied in Congress into passing legislation like CAFTA that include no worker protections or environmental protections, and have therefore put labor and working families on notice that he is not on their side.

Along those same lines, the Intelligencer recently printed a story on daily demographic changes in the greater Philadelphia area. A significantly larger number of people live in Bucks County and leave it to work elsewhere than live outside it and work there. Does this have any effect on the issues you will track or committees you would want to be on?

Absolutely. The Greater Philadelphia area, and Bucks County specifically, is where I got my start—where I started my college education at Bucks County Community College. The issue is that while many young professionals are educated in our region, they feel the economic pull to work elsewhere—the so-called Brain Drain. We need to invest in the infrastructure of job creation here in our region. That is why I salute the Governor’s efforts to address this challenge and have pledged to him that I will take this battle to Washington DC as the Representative of the 8th Congressional District.

We have all recently seen the devastating effects of flooding. Bucks County is bordered on two sides by the Delaware River and crossed by the Neshaminy, Tinicum and Mill Creeks, and is the home of Lake Galena. The Sandy Run Creek is in the Montco section of the 8th district. What needs to be done by the county and by the federal government to minimize flooding risks and to be prepared should flooding occur?

The Delaware River Basin has been weakened by irresponsible sprawl and overdevelopment, and we need to bring New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to the table to address this issue. The runoff problem is aggregating our flood mitigation plan. People talk to me all the time about the problems they’ve encountered as a result of flooding, and the government’s response has been sub-par to say the least. We all saw the kind of job that FEMA did in New Orleans, but even here in the 8th, I hear horror stories about the inadequate response that residents have gotten from FEMA and other agencies. As the next Congressman, I will hold hearings to address this exact issue and reach across the table as necessary to accomplish a responsible flood plan that will not put my constituents out in the street when the next heavy rainfall occurs. I will also stand up to those who mismanage disaster response and hold them responsible for their actions—or inactions as the case may be.

Let’s say you are elected and have taken office. A genie tells you that you can magically pass one bill and have it become law. What would it be?

I’d pass a workers’ bill of rights, guaranteeing a livable wage, quality health coverage, and pension portability.

Being single while campaigning must have some benefits – you don’t have to keep apologizing for not being home for dinner. Are there also drawbacks?

I was blessed to come from an incredibly tight family—I’m the youngest of three—and I can’t wait to start a family of my own and frankly, while the military certainly put a crunch on my personal life, I feel like I am now again putting a certain aspect of my life on hold. With that said, though, the challenges that our nation faces under this Republican administration and Congress call for action. For me, that means making some personal sacrifices, but if those sacrifices help me bring about change, it will all be worth it.

My father was a drill sergeant and I spent part of my childhood around the military. If you have the right stripes on your shoulder you can tell people to do something and they will do it without question. Will you be able to handle the wheeler/dealer aspects of Congress, the trading and persuasion?

There are some things that I’ll never compromise—for example, my belief in the fight for the working families of the 8th District. I’m not na├»ve enough to think that I will walk onto the floor of the House my first day start giving orders, but one thing that I learned in the military was how to quickly and accurately assess a situation, then take immediate action. I’m a pretty quick study, which is how I went from a rowhouse in the Northeast to teaching at West Point, so I believe I’ll be able to spot those legislators that truly have the American people at heart. A large legislative body, where all members are more or less equal, is an entirely different animal than a military unit, and the “rules of engagement" are different. I know in my heart that I will be able to make that transition without ever compromising my principles.

The odd section of Montgomery County that is included in the 8th district used to be known as the Greenwood Gash. During the last election I heard it referred to as the Schrader Section. If elected what will you call it?

The Patrick Pinch? It doesn’t matter to me what people call it. What matters to me is that I am able to represent all of my constituents to the best of my abilities.

Realistically speaking, what can Congress do to encourage businesses to hire more people here in the U.S. and provide them with good benefits?

There’s more health care cost than steel cost in the price of a new GM car. We need a fresh approach to solving the challenges as true partners with American businesses and working families. We need to address the healthcare crisis in America. We need to ensure that our trade practices are fair and we need to stop giving tax incentives to companies who ship jobs overseas. Every one of these issues should be addressed by our elected Representatives before it’s too late.

Every candidate talks about jobs, health care, and the environment. What are you saying that is different?

That I’ve seen first-hand the results of the Administrations disastrous policies in Iraq. I mean, if we’re going to win the War on Terror, we have to stop pursuing a foreign policy that breed terrorists, and we have to focus on eliminating the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. We have men and women who are dying overseas because of an administration that is too arrogant to give a responsible exit strategy and timeline of when they’re coming home. Thank God we finally have courageous democrats like Jack Murtha taking a stand on our behalf.

But that’s not all I’m talking about. I do talk about jobs, healthcare and the environment because, despite what the administration wants people to believe, Americans are hurting at home. They’re working two jobs just to put food on the table. In a lot of families, the second wage-earner makes just enough to cover out-of-control health care costs. And our failure to address environmental issues like global warming is already having disastrous results. Just look at the hurricanes in the past year. Any expert will tell you that warm water feeds hurricanes, and that this year’s devastation was caused, in part, by rising ocean temperatures.

What are the most important issues Congress will be grappling with in the next few years and what could you contribute to those debates?

First and foremost, the War on Terror and how we choose to confront terrorism, both at home and abroad. I’ve lived in Germany and Bosnia, and also in Iraq, and I can tell you that this is an International struggle. In Bosnia, the United States ended the worst ethnic cleansing since World War II. We were saving the lives of Muslims. Now, many Muslims feel we are an occupying force in Iraq which has become the rallying cry and recruitment pitch for Al Qaeda. Bobby Kennedy once said that if our enemies do not want peace, then there will be none. We must be smart and strong in our posture in the world.

I am also very concerned about the erosion of constitutional rights and civil liberties over the past few years. I taught Constitutional Law at West Point, and it makes me so angry to see our elected leaders in Washington—specifically the White House and the Republican leadership in Congress—pushing policies that erode the foundation of this country. The equal protection clause of the constitution is absolute. The right to privacy is absolute. The right to assemble is absolute. Yet time and time again, the administration has supported, and the Congressional leadership has supported nominees and policies that do not follow the constitution. With my background, I can add to this debate. And I’m not afraid to take a stand for what’s right.

What are three things about you or this political race that you wish the voters in the 8th Congressional district knew?

First, how dangerous Mike Fitzpatrick really is. He’s a guy who went to school with Rick Santorum and is cut from the same political cloth. The Republicans are grooming him to be Rick’s successor, and they’re going to make sure he has the money to run an aggressive campaign. If we don’t beat him in 2006, he will quickly become so entrenched that we will never get rid of him. It should be no surprise that Fitzpatrick votes with Tom DeLay 95% of the time when DeLay increased his campaign coffers by $15,000.

Second how important it is for Democrats and progressives to come together early in order for us to win. Many people want to sit on the sidelines and watch from afar. We need people to get involved today, whether it’s donating money,writing a letter to the editor, or signing up for the MurphyCorps—a group of supporters who not only volunteer on the campaign, but volunteer in the community.

Third, I’m an outstanding singer—where’s that Genie again?

The campaigning process can be grueling, especially with the constant need to raise money. Doesn’t it become tiresome and how do you keep from becoming too cynical?

When you’re in war, you see the best and worst of people. When I was in Baghdad, I didn’t wear the issued wrap-around sunglasses because I wanted the Iraqis to be able to look in my eyes when I was out and about. That helped me earn their trust, and it helped them know that I was sincere. Campaigns far too often follow the same script, bringing out the worst in people. I’m committed to maintain a positive approach which is evident through our monthly community service projects (the aforementioned MurphyCorps) and debate on the issues. This is just too important to me to allow myself to become cynical.

How many years of your life have you actually lived in Bucks County, or had it listed as your home of record? [Interview's note, I meant the 8th District not just Bucks County and that is actually what Murphy answered -- note that he was able to figure out what I meant not what I said, and answer in a way that didn't make me look bad. This is a valuable quality in an elected official.]

Although I have only lived in Bucks County since December of 2004, the 8th District includes the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood where I was born and raised. It includes Bucks County Community College where I began my college career in 1991. It’s where I played youth hockey since grade school. And it’s where I returned when I came home from 11 years in the Army. Bucks County is where I chose to make my home, and where I plan to raise my family.

If your campaign is remembered for one thing, what would you like it to be?


What one question didn’t I ask that you would like to answer?

How can I get involved?

Volunteer, join MurphyCorps, contribute, write letters to the editor, donate office supplies, e-mail your friends and family, sign up to help me knock on doors, phonebank, and work the polls on election day.

Oh, and my campaign manager says that home-made cookies are always welcome at campaign HQ.

Thanks to Patrick Murphy for his time and thoughtful answers.


Albert said...

a wonderful very localized interview. damn, you know your stuff.

AboveAvgJane said...


Thanks! A good liberal arts education with an emphasis on research really comes in handy sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Great interview! I'm especially interested in what this guy has to say, as I am in his future district (I hope).

I like what he has to say about issues affecting working people, especially considering how those issues spill over into family and quality of life concerns.

Thanks for digging out so much useful information.