TRANSCRIPT: Interview With Tony Trupiano

Trupiano is the Democratic nominee in Michigan’s 11th District. The audio of this interview is here: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/14658

David Swanson: Tony Trupiano, it’s great to talk to you; so how does campaigning compare to working on the radio?

Tony Trupiano: There is no comparison. As you and I are talking, we are 22 days out of the election. David, I can honestly tell you I am not the same person today that I was when I sought your advice and counsel some 14 months ago when I began this process. I have a much different and I think a much more passionate appreciation for the process of democracy. At some level, I’m profoundly disappointed and at other levels I am amazingly empowered.

David Swanson: I know that I’ve seen some national media; I mean, I’ve seen you on Laura Flanders and Tom Hartman and other shows; has there been any support from outside the district for a good progressive candidate, and what can people do to help who are not around your district?

Tony Trupiano: Well, amazingly, most of the support, and I want to be careful here, certainly with other districts I’m getting lots of support, but the majority of the real activism has come from outside my community; whether that has been in terms of donors or earned media, when you mentioned Laura Flanders and Tom Hartman and Mike Malloy and many others that have been nice enough to have me on their shows, and I think part of the empowering stuff that I was talking about earlier is this: Whether you live in small-town Iowa or, big-town California, people have reached out to me and in amazingly uncommon ways, whether that is just to offer support or to make a donation. You know, interestingly, as we look at the world of big-time politics, we have raised just over $200,000. The average contribution, David, to my campaign, is $27. That speaks volumes about those that are supporting me.

David Swanson: Yes, if that’s the average, that means you’re getting grassroots support…

Tony Trupiano: Absolutely, always could use more money, even with 22 days left, there is a real sense of urgency for money. We recently got some very good press and I’ll forward that to you, David, when we are done today. I got some mention in the major newspaper chain in the district. They have not come out with their endorsement yet, but I think you’ll see when I send you this stuff that even the more conservative publications throughout the district are beginning to understand that being a progressive doesn’t mean anything but perhaps somebody with vision that’s not afraid to say what needs to be said.

David Swanson: When the media talks to you and at events, does the topic of impeachment ever come up? I know that at ImpeachPAC you were the first candidate that we endorsed who was willing to say I’m for moving forward, and one of the criteria for ImpeachPAC is that you are publicly demanding immediate impeachment hearings for Bush and Cheney. Have you been doing that?

Tony Trupiano: Well, you know, earlier on, as you know, because you were part of the firestorm immediately after I accepted that endorsement, I mean I rarely got a call or immediate queries that did not involve the topic of impeachment. Whatever it is, maybe it’s just there are so many things that have happened from last December until where we are today, I rarely get asked about that any longer, and I think some of that might be, and certainly this is not a disparaging remark against Congressman John Conyers, but he has really softened his rhetoric, as you know, David, with regard to impeachment. I am just not asked a lot, and as a matter of fact, I can’t tell you the last time somebody asked me about impeachment; now part of that, quite honestly, is the campaign as we get deeper and deeper into it becomes more and more local, so you’re dealing with the issues that are most important to people locally, and unfortunately here in southeast Michigan, that’s jobs and the economy, as I’m sure you’re aware. We are suffering some horrendous job losses, but I don’t want to get away from your question. You asked me if I’m asked. . I’m really not asked anymore, but certainly, everything is out in public. I’ve not changed my position at all. I just think that we do, but, again, all politics is local, I think this race, like all races has just become very local about the things that are mattering both to the people locally right now.

David Swanson: Has your position changed though? There is nothing on your web site any longer about impeachment.

Tony Trupiano: No, that’s not true, it’s all there. We just moved a lot of the stuff from the outside inside as we have been attacked lately, David. My campaign is being attacked by my opponent, so we are trying to respond to that first and foremost, as I’m sure you can understand, but everything that’s ever been on the web site is on the inside. The press releases are all there, my statements are all there, so no, I have not backed away from anything.

David Swanson: That’s great to hear. What have the attacks been primarily, you’re not mean enough to immigrants and gay people or….?

Tony Trupiano: Well, you know, actually it is about immigrants and my opponent actually dropped a mail piece that showed me in a spaceship, the left-leaning mother ship, that I was looking to grant amnesty to 25 million illegals, and then he went on the radio was the same attack, which is, of course, just not true. We had our first and only “debate” Thursday night, and that’s what I’m actually going to send you it is the press coverage of what happened Thursday evening. At some level, and really kind of surprises me, and I guess in speaks volumes about the political system; David, you know me, you and I have talked many, many times and I am no different on the stump than I am on the phone, and I things that a lot of people are just having trouble, and I’m talking media types and others in politics, are just having a difficult time wrapping their heads around the idea that an intelligent, articulate, passionate person that has progressive values that believes in smaller government and fiscal sanity could actually go out there and start to move the populace, and of course, that’s what I’ve done. That, of course, threatens my opponent a great deal, and so yes, he has gone out with those attacks. We know there are more coming. We don’t know what they are, and of course, our challenge is trying to make sure that we have the money to fight this is best we can. That has been a real challenge.

David Swanson: And is your response, I mean what I’ve seen on your web site and what a lot of candidates around the country are responding to these attacks with, is basically, I’m going to be as tough on immigrants as anybody else, you know, and I’m not about letting people become citizens. I’m about cracking down on the immigrants, and needless to say, we need to have an immigration policy, but at a time when our government is demonizing certain sections of the population, I’m wondering what your position is and which voters are going to go with McCotter and which voters are going to come to you on the immigrant issue.

Tony Trupiano: Well, I think that first of all, we do need to have a sane and responsible policy to allow people to legally immigrate to this country. I can’t fathom that we are looking to turn our backs on the entire world. Many of us wouldn’t be here without some kind of immigration, of course, and so no, I don’t think we turn our backs on people that want to come here; we just need to have, I guess, a clarified way to do that, but one of the bigger issues here that nobody ever talks about is these fractured families that are living in multiple countries. You have recently had a child. Can you imagine going to another country and not be able to bring your wife or your son with you?

David Swanson: No.

Tony Trupiano: Of course not, and so we need to take a look at reunification of families. This is part of what needs to be responsible legislation. At the same time, we still don’t have secure borders. We are failing this country in profoundly difficult and important ways, and I don’t believe we need to build a fence along the Mexican border; I think it’s a colossal waste of money. That doesn’t mean that we don’t need border security, we certainly do. We also need to look at, David, penalizing companies that continue to hire illegal aliens, and let’s remind everybody, treat them horribly, because these folks obviously are just trying to feed their families and make do as best they can, but this is a problem that both parties need to own, neither one is, and as we saw at the end of their term before they sent everybody home to start posturing to win their jobs back, they are not really seriously interested in solving the problem of immigration, the just enjoy the debate.

David Swanson: Is this a bigger issue in people’s minds in your district, or just in the rhetoric coming from your opponent then, say, the war in Iraq?

Tony Trupiano: I think that it is a big issue; whenever you have a depressed economy, and in human nature we want to place blame, right? So we can say will part of the reason that were having challenges is that illegal immigration is affecting those that are taking our jobs at a cheaper wage, and that’s part of the problem, of course. We are a manufacturing-based state and we have not done as good a job as we need to in transition into a more diversified employment base; with that said, again, people need to place blame somewhere. They need to say, well, I can justify my belief because I know illegal immigrants are coming in and taking my jobs. True or not, that’s the way they feel, so it’s become quite a large issue, there is no question about that. I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to take a look at and to try to validate the way people feel. The bottom line is whether it is illegals taking local jobs, which I don’t think is as big a problem as some do, or it’s just simply the fact that we haven’t responded in the State of Michigan, anyway, to diversify how we employ people, and people are just very concerned about that issue. Are they concerned about the war? Yes, and I know we are going to talk about that in that in a bit, but I think one of the other things that I have certainly seen it is that there is almost a sense of denial, David, where people don’t want to let go of the old belief patterns, and at some level I understand that, but people are trying to hang on to this traditional idea of what it meant to be employed in southeast Michigan, and I think that we can easily paint a picture; when people would people think of Detroit, they think of auto workers; of course they do, they should, but we’ve seen those jobs dwindle down to but a small percentage of what they once were, and I still think people are holding onto the idea that those jobs will come back. I’m not that optimistic. Do I think there will be more auto sector jobs in the future? Yes, but were never going to replace the jobs that were lost.

David Swanson: I guess one of the bigger issues around the country and on your web site and for people who are concerned about jobs in the auto industry and elsewhere is, of course, health care, and coming from the point of view of a progressive, of someone who works with Progressive Democrats of America, I’m looking at the positions on your web site, and then looking for where is single pair health care, because it looks like there are tax credits and patient bill of rights, and things that look like Band-Aids on a system that’s going down the tubes, and I’m wondering where is Conyers bill for single pair health care? I’m wondering where are these clearcut progressive positions on Iraq? It looks like on your web site you have a position that is opposing cutting and running. It’s not for getting out but it’s not for staying in, and am wondering where is, “let’s get out of this criminal war?”

Tony Trupiano: All right, well I’ll answer both of those. As far as single pair health care, one of the issues that came up in the candidates forum on Thursday night was that issue, and as you’ll see in the links that I will send you later, David, I came out in favor of single pair health care, of course I am.

David Swanson: Wonderful.

Tony Trupiano: Now, I’m not entirely married to the Conyers proposal yet, but going to tell you why. The truth is, I have not had time. I have read it, I have not had time to seriously explore it, I do know this: I’m a little concerned about the funding portion of the Conyers plan, but my focus right now, and I just don’t have the time; here’s the difference: if I were doing the radio show, I would’ve stopped, taken a couple of days, really look at it, call some of Conyers….. I just don’t have time for that. I’m not opposed to the Conyers plan, I’m just not totally sold on it and am not riding the fence there; I have concerns about the funding part of it, so you understand upfront, I am for single pair health care. In the interim, though, there are things that we need to do that gets more and more people insured. The one thing that I can promise you is that in the next Congress, although single pair health care will become an issue, I do not believe it will be passed under a Republican president. I just don’t see that happening. That doesn’t mean that we don’t start to do things immediately to make health care more accessible to people. It doesn’t mean that we don’t protect those that are seeking services, things like a patient bill of rights. I am adamantly opposed to things like health savings accounts and other Republican programs that just divert more money to the rich. I’m not for that at all. I think that were ready, and I think it’s unfair, David, that we force employers to this company to bear the burden of health care. I’ve always felt that was wrong, and I think that corporate America, David, is finally ready to have a real dialogue about how we affect change and how we can take that burden off their backs. I think they are more ready than they have ever been, and I’m not just talking about the auto companies. I think any major legacy corporation in this country now is seriously ready to have a dialogue about how we move everybody into health care and how we take that burden away from them. I think we’ve never been at a more important time in our country to have that discussion, but we need to move beyond talking and we need to start figuring out a program that will work. What actually already have a program that works, it’s called Medicare and Medicaid, and I think you know that historically, that was supposed to be the single pair health care program in this country. It didn’t pan out the way we had hoped it would, but the system fortunately for all of us, works beautifully, and I think that Medicaid and Medicare the most successful programs of the US government in the history of this country. Now, with regard to the war in Iraq, I need to be absolutely clear. As you know, David, I was against the war from day one. You will be interested to know that on the candidate’s forum on Thursday, and you are going to think this is really interesting, the question was asked in a way the way that it was, the war in Iraq and the war on terror….

David Swanson: Yeah.

Tony Trupiano: …and my beginning response was, the first thing we need to do is separate the two, right? I was booed. I was booed. People don’t think we need to separate the war in Iraq from the war on terror, but they are two very separate issues. To me, there is no question their two very separate issues, so here is my position on the war: we need to get out as quickly as possible. We need to do it responsibly. I believe that we have done what we need to do there. The transition is going to take time and I have advocated that by the end of 2007, that we are pulling out measurable and significant troops no later than the end of 2007; I’m not saying wait until the end, no later than. If what we’re being told is true, and I have no reason to believe it is, but I will go with it for now, the Iraqi Army continues to grow, that they are becoming more and more self-sufficient, that the people don’t want us there, that the government doesn’t want us there; let’s do everyone a favor and get the hell out.

David Swanson: But just get out substantially by the end of next year and still have a presence there?

Tony Trupiano: Well first of all, I’m against permanent bases, as I think you know. We don’t need to have a presence there. We wanted to give the country democracy, David, and we’ve done that. We’ve done that. My concern is by just pulling everybody out come January 15, that we will create a situation there. Just last week, we saw that the debate over how many Iraqis have actually been killed, right?

David Swanson: Sure.

Tony Trupiano: And what is that number, anywhere from 30,000 to 655,000…

David Swanson: Well, the study that’s been done with some serious skill and the usual scientific methods places it between 400,000 and 900,000, and their best number is around 650,000.

Tony Trupiano: Well I guess the reason that I am quiet here is I can’t fathom that number, the loss of innocent life, I just can’t fathom that. When I was on the radio, one day I was making arguments that there were hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed and was pretty prominently beat up on my conservative factor of my audience. The number matters; imagine that, almost a million people. It just seems so wrong, but the point that I really need to make here is we unfortunately, there are people who love the situation we’re in in Iraq right now, which again, I can’t fathom, but as we take a look at what’s happened there, I do think we have a responsibility as Americans, not as Republicans are Democrats, to gradually pull out of there, to I guess lessen in whatever way my mind is considering this, to lessen more deaths or destruction of innocent Iraqis. Obviously, as we pull our people out, we’re obviously less likely to lose more people, but if the Iraqi government is really ready, if they say that their army is really prepared, and Donald Rumsfeld is right on all this, why are we still there? Now, I’m sure you read last week that we are going to have this sustainable troop level through 2010.

David Swanson: Well, if Bush and Cheney have anything to say about it.

Tony Trupiano: Well I’m praying that they don’t have anything to say about it. That was disturbing news. We read this weekend that the general, I don’t remember his name off the top of my head, in the UK, saying we’re failing here, we need to get out. It’s clear that there is growing momentum, and I don’t feel any better, David, nor do I think you do, that we were right from day one. I don’t take any pride in that, not at all. I’m sure you don’t either. This isn’t about being right. What we have done to humanity; what we have definitively done to humanity, I think is beyond heinous, and I don’t know how this gets cleaned up. My biggest fear is, are they in a civil war? I believe they are. I do not know that they have sustainable democracy in Iraq, do you?

David Swanson: Clearly not. I think what’s interesting about the casualty figures is that they’re getting worse, that most of those deaths didn’t happen in the initial Shock and Awe, but that it’s getting worse, and if you are of the opinion that the occupation is driving much of the violence, and that getting out, horrible as it would be, would be better than continuing to make things worse, then you are for getting out the sooner the better.

Tony Trupiano: Well, yes, and I am for getting out the sooner the better. Recently, and I don’t know if you have seen the movie the Ground Truth…

David Swanson: I’ve seen parts of it together with a number of the vets who are in it. It’s a powerful film.

Tony Trupiano: I watch that. This was a couple weeks back. I watch that. It was a late on Sunday, and I’m dumbfounded. I’m watching the movie and I’m dumbfounded. All of the emotions; I’m saddened, I’m angered but at the same time I watching this and I’m thinking “Who’s going to protect these people?” We have a Republican-controlled Congress that voted against giving vets healthcare.

David Swanson: That’s right.

Tony Trupiano: Who’s going to help these people, David? You know, there was inside of me this empathy and sympathy, but also this outrage.

David Swanson: Do people in your district understand the failure of the Republican Party when they talk about supporting the troops, but slash all sorts of benefits for veterans; are people clear that that’s going on?

Tony Trupiano: The real answer is obviously, some do, some don’t. That’s just the real answer. I have not gone thousands upon thousands of doors, and when you have a dialogue about the war, you are getting a certain amount in the middle, but most people are certainly very emphatic with their opinion on one side or the other. Those that fully support the war and support the troops, think that’s the only way you can do it. The problem they have with me is that I have a son who was a troop; fortunately, he is back home. He is done with his military service. He is serving in the reserves, but it’s kind of hard to have a discussion with me about this, because I understand exactly what these families are going through. My family went through it too. At the same time, and I found this to be really interesting, David, senior citizens have become more and more vocal against the war, and I don’t know if you’re seeing that as well throughout the immense work that you do, but I have noticed a real movement, especially in the last 90 days, to seniors being very emphatic about how they feel, and many of them, of course vets, and many of them see the broken promises, and they are beginning to grow to be, I think, the loudest group of people against the war, and I find that absolutely fascinating.

David Swanson: Yeah, and they’re powerful when grandmothers go to recruiting stations and say recruit us. They have no idea how to respond to that.

Tony Trupiano: Let me give you, and this just happened two weeks ago: I walked up to adore and other more all the ribbons that we see, support our troops, you know what I’m talking about….

David Swanson: Uh huh….

Tony Trupiano: ……now you would walk up to a door and you would go “Republican”, right? That’s what I did, I went okay, this person, who happened to be a lady, must be a Republican. I knocked on the door, she answers the door, and we’re chatting a little bit. She said I have a grandson in the Marines and I pray for him constantly, that she says and you know, I can’t stand this war, and it has nothing to do with my grandson being in the Marines, it’s just the wrong thing to do. It was wrong from the beginning. We were lied to, but you know what, every night and every afternoon and every morning I pray for all of the troops and I love them and I send them gifts. You know, David, that’s real. People can say anything they want, go ahead and obfuscate all of this if you want to. You want to tell Jenny in Westland, Michigan that she’s not supporting the troops? I think she might make a good argument to the fact that she is.

David Swanson: Absolutely. You know, the question of you and I and many others having been right before the war is, I think in some ways, and interesting one, not just because the evidence was cooked, and that investigation hasn’t been done yet, but also because we’re seeing a similar pitch for a war on Iran, and among those fearing October surprises and speculating what may be coming, there is the expectation that there may be a conflict created with Iran. If something like that develops, how will that affect your campaign?

Tony Trupiano: Well I don’t know that the American people would endorse or support a war or military action against Iran at this point.

David Swanson: Currently, I’ve seen 9% of Americans in a poll support attacking Iran.

Tony Trupiano: I think that answers your question. I really think that those poll numbers answer your question. People are not naïve. Even people that are barely pay attention know that we’re having trouble protecting our own borders right now. We have taxed our National Guard beyond its logical limits. We are forcing people to redeploy, not sending them home as promised. They can give us the lie that they are meeting the recruiting goals all they want. Part of what people don’t understand is they continue to raise the age limit at which you get involved in the military. They are changing all the rules to make their numbers look better. It doesn’t matter, were not stupid, David, we see what’s going on, and this is not a popularity contest. It’s truly about accountability and knowing right from wrong, and the majority of us know that right now, the right thing to do is to stop provoking our enemies and to begin as Clinton did, even as Bush 1 did, Reagan did it, Carter certainly did it, the art of diplomacy isn’t necessarily about winning or finding compromise, it’s about continuing the dialogue so we don’t end up in the situation we’re in today; not with just Iran, but with North Korea as well. This is all about the arrogance of an administration that doesn’t get it.

David Swanson: Yes. People who want to help can go to….

Tony Trupiano: They can go to the web site www.tonyforcongress2006.com, and onward and upward, brother.

David Swanson: Glad to hear it. Hope to hear from you soon and hope to see you in Washington.

Tony Trupiano: 22 days, pal, 22 days, we’re going to kick ass and do our best. We’ll have word in 22, let’s make it 23 days; we’ll pretend at this point, at least I’m hoping in my case, that it’s going to take all night to count the votes. It’s going to be close David, this is going to be very close, but I have a real shot at winning this thing.

David Swanson: In Michigan, is there a verifiable paper trail?

Tony Trupiano: Of course not (laughing).

David Swanson: Are you concerned about that?

Tony Trupiano: I’m very concerned about that. I think anybody that votes should be concerned about voting now, period. I can’t think of a more nonpartisan issue than making sure your vote counts.

David Swanson: If it looks like people’s votes were not counted, do you plan to….

Tony Trupiano: I’ll fight like hell. I’ll fight like hell.

David Swanson: ….do something about it? Glad to hear it. If that happens around the country, we may just get a Democratic majority.

Tony Trupiano: No, I’ll fight like hell to make sure every vote is counted, even if it ends up going against me; truly the process is about November 7, that’s what this is all about, that one day, let’s make it count, but let’s make sure the votes count, and I’m with you 100% on that one.

David Swanson: Glad to hear it. Sounds great, Tony.

Tony Trupiano: Thanks, David, I’ll talk to you soon.

David Swanson: OK, thanks.

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