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Congressional Corner With Jim McGovern

Congressman Jim McGovern
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On the eve of another election, the Trump-Putin relationship continues to confound.

In today’s Congressional Corner, Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern, a Democrat from the second district, continues his conversation with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

This conversation was recorded October 15.

Alan Chartock: Jim McGovern is in the Congressional Corner with me today. He's one of my favorites, because you can ask him any question and he'll give you a straight answer. We started on the Russians last time. I am totally confused by one thing. Why isn't there a sense of widespread outrage about the president never saying a bad word about Putin, and basically being his fall guy?

Representative Jim McGovern: Well, I'm outraged every day by the fact that that he's allowed Russia to meddle in our internal affairs. And he has said nothing. I mean, he even turned the other cheek, and looked the other way when Russia took bounties out on our troops in Afghanistan. There's nothing that Putin can do that bothers this president, and it really is disturbing. Putin just poisoned one of his opponents and Trump said nothing. In fact, now, he said nothing publicly, but to the best of our knowledge, never even brought this issue up with Trump on a phone call. So there's something there, I'm gonna say we're at a point now, where there has to be something there, because none of this is normal. So either he owes money to Russia in some form or another, or they've got something on him. But it cannot be explained any other way. Russia continues to meddle in our election to this very day. I mean, I've been to briefings time and time again, just recently. And we have been told clearly by Trump's own intelligence people, that in fact, Russia is all on this election. And they're in on this election for one reason, to help Donald Trump. There's no disputing that. There's no disputing that. And this is Donald Trump's administration, basically sharing this information. So, you know, Putin was involved last time, and we didn't push back hard enough. He's involved again this time. And people just need to be aware of the disinformation and the voter suppression campaigns that Russia is now supporting. And it should concern us all.

Jim McGovern. You remember the days when the Democrats were always accused of being too close to the Russians?

Yeah, I do. I do. But here's the deal. One of the things I value about the Democratic Party is that we are a party that cares about human rights. And so even in the days when Democrats were being accused of they were too soft on the Russians or whatever the bottom line is, we always talked about the importance of upholding a high standard of human rights and that is what's missing in this in this presidency. With not just Putin, but President Xi of China, who is trampling democratic movements in Hong Kong, who has Uighurs in concentration camps in Xinjiang, who treats Tibetans in such a horrific way. Well not a peep from Trump, about any of that stuff. The president of Turkey, Erdo?an, who jails judges and journalists, and his friend in Saudi Arabia, the Crown Prince, who murdered and dismembered a Washington Post journalists, and there's no reaction from Trump. In fact, we continue to sell Saudi Arabia under Trump, military equipment, bombs and weapons that they're using in a dirty war in Yemen, where they’re dropping bombs made in the United States of America, on school buses, on weddings, on funerals. I mean, there needs to be a return to a time when the United States actually held up a high standard on human rights. And look, we haven't been perfect on human rights in our long history, but we always try to do better. And I think that there are human rights defenders all around the world, who are very, very disappointed that the United States has been silent while they get persecuted.

Okay, let's go to the coronavirus. You know, there's this back and forth, we did have one very strong relief package, you passed the HEROES Act, nothing from the other end, the Senate side. Can you give us a report?

So I mean, I talked to Pelosi just yesterday and we're still in negotiations with Secretary Mnuchin trying to work out a deal. It's been difficult. We passed the HEROES Act six months ago. It was sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk for six months gathering dust. Then we have the President say one day that it's over. We don't want to talk anymore. The stock market takes a dip and then the next day as well. No, we're back on again. And then Mitch McConnell says we're not interested. And so you know, but the negotiations nonetheless still continue. I hope we can get something done before the election or soon thereafter but I mean, we should have done something a long time ago. I'm worried about our restaurants are shutting down for good. I'm worried about our schools, and the safety of our teachers and our students and worried about small businesses about people who are unemployed, people who are hungry. I mean, we go right down the list. And, here's the deal, it matters not just the amount of money we're talking about, but how it is directed. So, you know, the notion of giving Donald Trump a slush fund for us however he wants, that doesn't help us. We need to make sure that it's going to testing, is going for PPE, is going to help develop a plan to actually stop this virus, save lives. And we need a plan to get this economy back on the right track. Money for the sake of money just giving a damn doesn’t the trick. Nor can we take a scalpel approach to this like, well, we're just going to help this one, the airline industry, and that's it. Well, that doesn't help save the economy. It doesn't help people with childcare costs. So they want to go back to work. So we need to understand that this is a big deal. We haven't dealt with a pandemic since 1918. And if you look at our history, we didn't handle it very well, back then. The government didn't do what was supposed to do, and more people died. And here we are. Over 220,000 people are dead from this. And we have a president who is going around holding super spreader rallies, you know, people without masks close together. It is after the president and his wife and his son, all were diagnosed with the virus. I mean, this is criminal, and it is sending all the wrong signals. And you know, Trump says he wants to make America number one, well he did on this one thing. We're number one in deaths, and we're number one in infections with regard to the coronavirus. And it is his whole mismanagement, his unwillingness to accept responsibility, his lack of a plan is deadly, and people are dying. And so this package has to include a plan that can help save lives.

Jim McGovern, I live in Great Barrington, next door to your district. And there's some people here who have come up with, they’re people who have initials after their name with all kinds of degrees, and they’ve come up with something called the Great Barrington Plan, which is basically to let America go to hell and have a herd immunity develop. What do you what do you make of that?

Well, then millions and millions of Americans will die. And, you know, I've always thought that one of the roles of government was to protect the American people was to try to help manage crises like this in a way where as few people as possible are infected or die from this disease. So when people say herd immunity, they're all for it until they or someone in their family get it, and they don't recover. Look, you know, I have dealt with husbands and wives and sons or daughters whose loved ones were in hospitals here in Worcester, and other hospitals in my district, and they’re begging for experimental treatments, begging to be able to be there in person and hold their hands, and not being given the right to do that until there was nothing more left to do other than say goodbye. I mean, it's heartbreaking. And for people to just say, well, it is what it is. I mean, I was at a, at a restaurant last night, I did takeout last night at a restaurant and the guy was like, well, survival of the fittest. Well that's not who we are. And I hope we never become that because it is so callous, and so cold that I can't believe that people are espousing that.

I've got type 2 diabetes, not the worst in the world. But I gotta tell you, you know, the idea of this is quite frightening, isn't it?

It is and by the way, when people say, Oh, it's just older, old, old, old people, not it isn’t. First of all, I want people to get much older. I want people to live as long as they possibly can. So the idea that we're writing off older people is crazy. But the reality is, it's not just older people. We had a police officer from Rutland, 49 years old, who died of it. It was tragic. We have young kids that we read about every day, who get diagnosed and who die and don't even have any preexisting conditions that anybody knows of. So this is a mysterious, dangerous disease, that we need to figure out a way to control the way we know that you can control it right now is we all wear masks. We all do what the doctor and scientists tell us to do wash your hands, wear a mask, don't be in big crowds. And just that alone would save countless lives. And then we need to work on a vaccine and on aggressive treatments to try to manage this. But to not follow any rules, to do what the President has been doing with his rallies, you know, basically, it isn’t solely irresponsible, it is criminal, it is criminal. And those are his supporters that he is endangering.

I'm going to take that up with you when we meet the next time, the idea of his engaging in criminality and what should be done about that. Jim McGovern, love having you on the program. Thanks so much for being here. And we can't wait to see you the next time.

Thank you.

Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany. He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program, for almost 12 years, highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m.