Dec 7, 2013
Alan Grayson Tells It Like It Is
Posted on Jul 21, 2011
Peter Scheer: Wow. So this time around—I was reading in Talking Points Memo an interview with you, and … they said that you had a better shot at it because of redistricting. Are you more confident going in?—Or also because you just feel like the issues are on your side?
Alan Grayson: Well, look. If I have a district that is largely Democratic, I think even the sewer money is going to realize the futility of wasting their money trying to knock me out of a Democratic district. If there’s one thing that’s clear at this point, it’s that Democrats like me, because they know I support them. And if Democrats vote, then Democrats can win. So I think a lot depends upon the kind of district we see. In the last race, it was exactly the opposite; I represented a district that had been Republican for 34 years straight. The Democrats had managed to lose 17 elections in a row [Laughs] for that district before I won in 2008. And it was badly gerrymandered, and is badly gerrymandered, because the lines haven’t changed; it goes 140 miles northwest into horse country, for no reason other than to drag every conceivable Republican that they can find into that district. And the Republicans took advantage of that in the last election. But it’s a whole new round of redistricting; we’ve passed constitutional amendments, called Fair Districts Florida, that prohibit the Republicans—who still dominate the process—from districting on the basis of political considerations; and we’ll see if their much-wanted respect for the Constitution actually applies in this particular circumstance.
Peter Scheer: You have a kind of a remarkable—well, not kind of; you have a remarkable personal story. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you worked as a janitor to put yourself through Harvard; is that right?
Alan Grayson: Yeah. I cleaned toilets, and then after that I was a night watchman on the midnight shift. I had to walk the rounds.
Alan Grayson: Well, I remember what that’s like. How could I possibly forget. I mean, you know, life has been good to me in all sorts of other ways. But it was a hard thing to walk around outside in the bitter cold in Boston, when it was, you know, zero or even below zero, at 2 o’clock in the morning and make my rounds. I still remember.
Peter Scheer: You’ve also been great on the corruption in these wars, and the just unbelievable waste of money, and disappearance of money. And we keep hearing that the war in Iraq is over, and yet we have thousands of troops still there. Are you confident that these wars—we have a new timeline for the war in Afghanistan that has us there past 2014; I mean, you know … what is your take on this situation?
Alan Grayson: Well, you know, by the end of President Obama’s first administration, we’ll have twice as many troops in Afghanistan as when it started. That’s not what people expected or wanted, at least among his supporters; I’m not speaking about the other folks. It’s farcical to say that the war in Iraq is somehow over when we still have 50,000 troops there. The one ray of hope is that the Iraqis are starting to put their foot down; they don’t want to be an occupied country any longer, and they’ve told the U.S. troops that they have to get out, and somehow or other we feel like arguing with them about it. So the Iraqis have said all troops have to be gone by the end of the year, and the Defense Department and the State Department are both sort of trying to weasel out of it. We’ll see what happens. We’re still paying the bills; we spent $157 billion last year on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at a time when unemployment was close to 10 percent. In Florida it’s, oh, it’s about 13 percent. We spend $500 for every single man, woman and child in America on the war in Iraq. And that’s just the appropriated funds; the non-appropriated funds are even more than that. They’re more than the appropriated funds. Joe Stiglitz, who’s a Nobel Prize winner, calculated the cost of the war in Iraq already at $4 trillion. That’s $13,000 for every man, woman and child in America; and you know, for my family of seven, that’s almost $100,000. I want my money back.
Peter Scheer: So, I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but I wonder what kind of—you know, part of your campaign is that we need someone like you who stands up and really says it like it needs being said. And that the Democrats are, you know, wimpy and need a good kick in the butt. And I wonder what kind of pushback you get from the Democrats; you know, just as the special interests don’t want you in Congress, maybe some Democrats don’t want you in Congress.
Alan Grayson: Well, actually, no. I mean, for the most part, I’m saying what other people are thinking but for one reason or another feel that can’t say. You know, there’s a little room off to the side of the floor of the House, where the Democrats have one room called the cloakroom; the Republicans have their cloakroom. I always got a lot of high-fives from people [Laughs], and sometimes standing ovations …
Peter Scheer: Wow.
Alan Grayson: … in the Democratic cloakroom after I gave a speech and they went into the cloakroom. You know, they’re all … almost all of them are really actually good people. There were a few blue dogs who I thought were hopeless. [Laughter] But for the most part, they’re all people with a conscience. And some of them, you know … for really personal reasons, often, just feel they can’t be as outspoken as I am. But everybody enjoyed the show.
Peter Scheer: The hostile feeling in this country towards Washington—it’s like “dirty word,” right? And the feeling of how corrupt it is—and you’re telling us that in Congress, these people are all, they’re all good people?
Alan Grayson: Well, the Democrats. I …
Peter Scheer: Oh, OK. [Laughter]
Alan Grayson: … I sent out an email about this, actually, a couple of hours ago, on this very subject of what kind of mind-set would lead some people to want to strip away other people’s Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. But you know, in the case of the Democrats—like, I guess, the other side, to some extent—there’s a lot of career politicians. I was never elected to anything in the first half-century of my life, so I sort of came to this with a clean slate. Also, I had to take a very large salary cut to do this job, and for most people it’s more money than they’ve ever made in their lives, and they want to keep the job because they want the salary, they want the pension; I never felt that way; I was liberated from all of that. I was liberated from the need to beg lobbyists for five and ten thousand dollar checks, because as I said before, thousands of people came to our website, CongressmanWithGuts.com, and made contributions. So they couldn’t, you know, control me that way either. But there are a lot of people who are very much under the thumb of the lobbyists; and there’s also a certain number of people who are just shy. It’s funny that they get elected to office, but they can’t make the kind of speeches that I’ve made and they can’t do the kind of things that I did on TV or on the radio; they just don’t have it in them. But I always felt a lot of moral support from the Democratic members of Congress, from my colleagues, and that was true almost in every case. And it was, you know, I think, less true [Laughs] in other parts of the Democratic Party, other parts of the Establishment. But those who knew me generally liked me and enjoyed what I was doing and appreciated the importance of what I was doing, which is basically to stand up for what’s right. And you know, I really felt sort of liberated to do that. You know, I never felt that it could ever be a career for me; I’m just too old.
Peter Scheer: [Laughs] Well, we’re going to have to leave it there, but thank you so much for joining us.
Alan Grayson: All right. And thank you, and thank your audience for caring enough to listen, and thank you all for having both a head and a heart.
Peter Scheer: His name is Alan Grayson, he’s running for Congress; find out more at CongressmanWithGuts.com.
Kasia Anderson: This is Kasia Anderson, associate editor at Truthdig, and I’m here with Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer. And we are very pleased to be talking with the esteemed Mr. Fish, otherwise known as Dwayne Booth, whose new book, “Go Fish: How to Win Contempt and Influence People,” is out from Akashic Books—and who will also be, we should add, having his own one-man show at the Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica at Bergamot Station on August 6th, for all you locals listening. How’re you doing, Dwayne?
Mr. Fish: I’m doing great. How are you doing?
Robert Scheer: How come—you know, let me ask you—this is Scheer. You know, you …
Kasia Anderson: Who else would it be?
Robert Scheer: … you have the raunchiest, scatological, you know, cartoons; the wildest, the … and every time I talk to you on the phone, you’re Mr. Reasonable, you know, in the suit. What are there, two Fishes?
Mr. Fish: Ah … I’ve heard that so often. And I was actually just in New Hope [Pa.] doing a sidewalk selling of the book. They set me outside on just a rickety table; I looked like a fortune teller out there with my book. And, yeah, I looked like, ah … you know, a benign, Christian…
Kasia Anderson: Nerd. [Laughs]
Mr. Fish: … you know … glasses, big smile on my face. And I found that all I was attracting were, you know, old, elderly, retired people who came up to me and they thought that it was darling that I had my book there [Laughter], and that it was neat, and then they would look at it …
Kasia Anderson: And swell!
Mr. Fish: … and, yeah. I had a woman who actually opened it and said that I should be ashamed of myself.
Robert Scheer: Oh! [Laughs]
Kasia Anderson: Well, I just opened one page at random, and I see a young girl with an appendage that she shouldn’t have. So, yeah, it seems like any …
Robert Scheer: All right, first of all, we have to set some ground rules here. This is Pacifica Radio, and the FCC can come crashing down. So we’re not going to use …
Kasia Anderson: I said “appendage.” Calm down.
Mr. Fish: Right.
Robert Scheer: OK, but we’re not going to use the words that Mr. Fish routinely uses in his cartoons …
Kasia Anderson: Yes, but we will lay an enticing groundwork for people to just have to get their hands on this book, so.
Robert Scheer: … OK. …
Kasia Anderson: How’s that, Dwayne?
Mr. Fish: Yes, put it under your mattress when you get it.
Kasia Anderson: I should also mention: Congratulations to Mr. Fish, because he’s been a two-time winner of the Society of Professional Journalists’ [Sigma Delta Chi] editorial cartooning award.
Mr. Fish: I’m an establishment now. I mean, all this talk about me being …
Kasia Anderson: Yeah, you’re no longer a renegade, and ...
Robert Scheer: Well, that is interesting. Having worked for the Los Angeles Times for 30 years, and having been a great friend of the late Paul Conrad, who won three Pulitzers, a number of other prizes, and so forth … for listeners, they should know that the Sigma Delta Chi Award is probably the most important award in journalism. Because it’s really coming from your peers; it’s very much sought-after. And the fact that a guy as crazy, wild and nutty, and radical as you are should get that prize shows—what? That they’re opening up a little bit, or that they’re willing to entertain—what do they tell you when you go to these conventions, like in Las Vegas, to get your award? Have they actually looked at your cartoons?
Mr. Fish: Yeah. They’ve looked at them, and I think that more and more, you know, the assumed insanity that I depict is a reflection, more than me interpreting in some sort of outlandish way what’s going on.
Robert Scheer: So it’s the world that’s pornographic, not you?
Mr. Fish: Exactly.
Robert Scheer: I see, OK …
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