Democratic Congressional Candidate Alan Grayson on Iraq Reckoning: "We'll Put People in Prison"

by: Matt Stoller

Fri Jul 25, 2008 at 17:50

One of the most exciting candidates I've met this cycle is Alan Grayson, a high profile trial lawyer who has been suing defense contractors for fraud, and is now running for Florida's eighth district in central Florida.  I spent some time with him at Netroots Nation, and took video.  Usually I have to push candidates to become more aggressive, in Grayson's case, he pushed me.  Grayson is part of a new crew of progressive professionals, people like Darcy Burner and Donna Edwards with a tremendous track record of success in fields other than politics who are crossing over into the progressive sector out of a sheer revulsion of where this country is headed.  It's different than the civil rights era of liberalism and the single issue liberalism of the 1980s, much more fearless.
Matt Stoller :: Democratic Congressional Candidate Alan Grayson on Iraq Reckoning: "We'll Put People in Prison"

Because of his track record suing defense contractors, Grayson is completely uninterested and unintimidated by ridiculous arguments about secrecy and national security.  He thinks that war crimes have been committed, that people need to be put in prison, and that we absolutely cannot let bygones be bygones with the 2000-2008 era.  He's also running a good campaign with one of the best commercials I've ever seen (see below), and doing it without any help from the DC establishment.

I recommend you read or watch the interview.  The type of members we're going to get in Congress next year is far more aggressive and ideological than the ones we elected in 2006.  Jeff Merkley for instance has come out against Obama and Senate Democrats on FISA and filibusters, and over 60 candidates have endorsed the Responsible Plan to End the war in Iraq, including Merkley and Grayson.

Democratic leaders, who tend towards a bipartisan approach to solving problems, are going to be in for a shock from the left.  People like Grayson aren't just going to speak out, they are going to organize within Congress, something the current progressive caucus doesn't do.  That is in fact both their quickest route to power and what they believe in.

And here's the interview:

Alan Grayson: I'm Alan Grayson, and I'm the Democratic candidate for Congress in Florida's district eight.  And I'm the attorney of record in every single case now pending in Federal court involving war profiteers in Iraq.  These are cases in which I represent whistleblowers.  The Florida civil rights association named me Humanitarian of the Year for my work in this regard, taxpayers against fraud named me lawyer of the year, and I've been featured in Vanity Fair magazine, in media like CBS evening news, 60 minutes, and even Dailykos, imagine that.

I'm running because I'm fed up with the government mismanagement, the Bush administration's shameless pandering to war profiteers.   I think they set out on a deliberate course to make this war good for the people who were their friends.  And I want to try to hold them accountable when I'm in Congress.  When I'm in Congress... the Bush administration's worst nightmare is going to be me with subpoena power because I know everything that they've done, and I'm going to hold them accountable for it.

Matt Stoller:  But wait wait, let me just interrupt you there, the Bush administration's gone in 2009.

Alan Grayson:  Oh but all the people they set up as the new kings and queens of America are still around.  What Eisenhower said, that we need to fear the military industrial compex, has become true because they have manufactured a five year war that they want to perpetuate for a generation or even a century so that they can keep lining the pockets of their friends, the war whores.

Matt Stoller:  So, people are going to say, let bygones be bygones, or let's have some sort of truth and reconciliation commission, what do you think needs to happen?

Alan Grayson:  We don't need truth and reconciliation, we need punishment.  We need people to be held accountable for all the mistakes that they made that have screwed us up in this war and screwed us up in this economy.  The economy is falling apart, the chickens are coming home to roost.  You cannot spend $10,000 for every man, woman, and child in America for a war that never should have taken place in the first place.

Matt Stoller:  But be specific, what do you mean by punishment?

Alan Grayson:  We'll put people in prison.  We'll take away the thing that they care about the most, their money.  They stole, they hurt the troops, they killed people, they hurt the taxpayers year after year and they've destroyed this economy.  They're not going to get off scot-free.

Matt Stoller:  Who's 'they'?

Alan Grayson:  The people who have been running this government and their assistants who have been running companies like Halliburton.  Think about it, we have a Vice President who was the head of Hallburton, who got a $23 million parting gift from them when he became Vice President.  And he was the one who instigated this war and made Halliburton the largest army contractor in existence.

Matt Stoller:  But wait a minute, Democrats, not a majority of Democrats, but they just immunized the telecom and cable companies that were wiretapping.  Why would they hold any of these war profiteers accountable?

Alan Grayson:  I can only tell you what I'm going to do, what I'm going to try to do.  I'm going to be just one of four hundred and twenty five, but everybody understands that the country has to move in a different direction.  And I'm the one whose going to say this is the direction I think we should be moving in.  We need to hold people accountable, no more corporate welfare.  No more people who think they can benefit from other people's sadness, their disabilities, their problems.  That's not going to be feasible any more in the new America.  In a new America, all boats will rise, and we'll judge things, as Darcy Burner just said a few minutes ago, by what is good for everybody, not what's good for the friends of George Bush.

Here's the video:

Howie Klein tipped me off to Grayson's spectacular ad.  Grayson puts a suitcase full of cash in front of the camera and says it's a million dollars worth, and that in Iraq, we've lost $9 billion dollars worth, enough money to fill an entire airplace hangar.  As he's saying this, the camera pans back and reveals he's standing in an airplace hangar.  Then the camera pans back and reveals he's standing in an airplane hangar, at which point he says that this is enough cash to pay for health care, dental care, and medicine for everyone in Florida.

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That is an awesome ad (0.00 / 0)
No doubt.  When he close the briefcase, that's my favorite part.

When I watched the video, I thought "no way", but when I watched the ad... (0.00 / 0)
In the video, I see one guy, a good guy probably, who thinks he knows what he's up against and doesn't.  Someone who overrates their own ability to accomplish things, and underrates their opponents' abilities.

That kind of confidence can do you a lot of good, especially in the environment of a courtroom where both parties are constrained in how they can act.  I can see that guy being a damn successful crusading attorney, which apparently he already is.

I couldn't see him winning a Congressional race.  I saw him getting gutted by editorial boards, in broadcast network interviews, etc.

But, then I saw the ad.  That is a damn good ad.

So there's a sliver of hope I guess.

(Plus, he's self-funding, in what I'd guess is an R+3 district.  McCain collapse = anything's possible.)

Wow! (0.00 / 0)
This guy is really impressive. I have to support this guy.  This is the first candidate for federal office that I have heard talking about punishing the Repig criminals. He's saying what I have been waiting to hear. Alan Grayson.  A name to remember.

Wow (4.00 / 1)
OK.  If anyone here can convince me this guy has a snowball's chance in hell of winning, I'll give him $1000.

With Democrats like Childers winning in Mississippi... (4.00 / 2)
anything is possible.  Childers won in a district that re-elected Bush by 25 points.  This is definitely a wave election where a lot of Republican incumbents are going to lose.  Additionally, Obama has the money to do serious field operations wherever he wants to and since Florida is one of those states, he will provide serious help for all down-ticket Democrats.

It is not often that somebody this bold runs for office who can really shake things up.  I mourned when Steve Novick lost to Jeff Merkley.  While Merkley is absolutely a progressive, Novick is someone from outside political culture who would really do something different.  Not many people like that get to be nominees.  

Grayson is somebody else who thinks outside the box.  He deserves all the support we can give.

[ Parent ]
Primary 8/26 (0.00 / 0)
Whoever wins the primary will have a good shot in the race.  The district (FL-08) is R+3, and the incumbent is Ric Keller.  It is currently rated "Lean R" by Cook.  There are two other candidates, Charles Stuart (who ran last time) and Mike Smith, a young former prosecutor.  Stuart has raised the most money per Swing State.  The primary is August 26, so donate before that if you want to see him stay in the race..

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

Stuart and Grayson are tied, depending on how you look at it. (0.00 / 0)
Stuart raised $600k, and loaned his own campaign about 30k.  Grayson has loaned his own campaign 600k, and raised about 30k.

They're in about the same spot in total receipts so far.  Stuart ranks higher on the SSP list because that list is of CoH, and Grayson has already spent about 400k of his money (probably on running that ad), whereas Stuart has only spent 200k.

I have no idea which one is expected to win the primary.

Lean R seems awfully high for a contest where the opponent hasn't yet been chosen.  Cook is usually more conservative than that.  I wonder if he has a notion of who he expects to win the primary, or not.

[ Parent ]

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