BW: Let's start with the thought that Mr. Tancredo grabs headlines for things that I don't believe represent the true feelings and beliefs of the people of CD6. Once again we see the theme that this district is not represented in Congress, and that needs to change. I grew up in this district, and the people I know don't want to "nuke Mecca" or take medical care away from children. You know, Tancredo said we should nuke "their holy sites" in response to a terrorist attack. The top three holy sites for Islam are Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. I wonder if Mr. Tancredo is truly advocating a nuclear attack against Jerusalem as an option?
But I digress--I do that sometimes. You asked how I can get media attention. Well the answer is I'm already getting it. On December 28th I was featured in a major front page article in the Denver Post about the 35 Veterans running as Democrats for the U.S. House of Representatives this year. That same morning I did a live interview on the radio station KGNU. On January 10th I was featured in a live interview on Air America radio's Majority Report. It was the latest in an ongoing feature called "Fighting Dems," which features the Veterans running as Democrats. I believe that the coalition of Veterans running for Congress as Democrats is going to be a major story this year, and will certainly lead to a great deal of media attention.
But we will do many other things to catch the media's attention and we are already working hard on it. One advantage we have is our opponent, who is guaranteed to say or do something controversial—and almost always indefensible—every three months or so. We will very soon get to the point where the media contacts me for a response, and I will not hesitate to offer them. We will also work hard to reach out to the media in all its forms to get our message to the people.
And I fully expect the blogosphere to be a big part of that. I will make myself available to bloggers and will answer your questions. I hope to be able to have as much of an impact in this way as [Ohio Senate candidate] Paul Hackett has, if not more!
ePMedia: You say "It's time we stopped saluting donkeys and elephants and started saluting the flag again." What steps will your campaign take to end divisive politics?
BW: My opponent talks about things that create fear and hate in America. He says we should nuke Muslim holy sites, presumably including Jerusalem, which is one of the holiest sites in Islam. He talks about Mexican immigrants overwhelming our culture, thus appealing to our most basic racist emotions to win votes. He suggests building a Berlin Wall from San Diego to Houston, following the Soviet model of border control. He votes against aid to Katrina victims because he doesn't believe our government should help poor and middle class Americans.
By now you must be wondering when I'm going to get to the "end divisive politics" part of this answer. Well hang in there, because I'm getting to it. When I say I'm not going to be divisive, that doesn't mean Tom Tancredo is going to get a free ride, because those days are over. This man has a long history of breaking promises, attacking the poor, avoiding service, and voting against the interests of regular Americans, and we are going to make sure that people know what he really stands for.
But at the same time, my campaign is also going to be based on the things that I believe in and we are going to make sure people know what I really stand for. We are going to talk about solutions, about things regular Americans want and need from their government. We are going to search for the common ground on every issue and work to come together for a better, stronger, safer America!
Tom Tancredo believes it's okay for more than 40 million Americans to have no health care, and for more than 100 million Americans to be underinsured. I don't believe that's okay. I want to bring Americans together with a plan that covers everyone and helps American businesses prosper.
Tom Tancredo wants to eliminate public education. He even signed a pledge to make it happen. I think that is wrong. I believe we have some of the best schools in America right here in Congressional District 6, and those schools help bring us together with shared experiences and knowledge. I want to return control of public education to state and local government, where it belongs, and get rid of the Bush administration's massive federal intrusion into a state and local issue.
Tom Tancredo wants to sell our National Parks and National Forests to the highest bidder and use the funds to pay for a failed policy in Iraq and to line the pockets of his big donors. I believe that is wrong. Teddy Roosevelt had a vision of National Parks and National Forests where all Americans could come together to share the beauty of our Nation for generations to come. I don't want to sell that vision and divide America. I want to honor that vision and unite America!
Tom Tancredo believes we should live in hate and fear, hidden behind big walls. I believe we should live in hope and unity, working together to solve our problems, and making the American Dream available for everyone! I am going to find those things we all have in common and build on them to take back America!
ePMedia: In 2004, you helped start Be The Change USA and served as its President. BTC-USA, Colorado MoveOn groups, Democracy for Colorado, and other progressive activists were credited with electing Pat Waak chair of the Colorado Democratic Party. Are we now on the right track, or are more changes needed to make the CDP a party of the people?
BW: I believe that Pat Waak is doing an excellent job leading the Colorado Democratic Party and I think we are on the right path. I do believe the Democratic Party is the party of the people, and it is certainly the only party that cares about the people and looks out for their interests. But I also believe that the growth of outside organizations like Be The Change USA and Democracy for America is a very healthy and good thing. These organizations bring in many people who might not otherwise participate in the political life of our nation, and that is a good thing. These organizations also work very hard to communicate the truth to Americans and to offer ways for regular people to take back their government.
So I think we are on a good track in the Colorado Democratic Party. I think we have some dynamic new leadership coming up through the ranks in our state. I think Mark Udall is going to provide much of that leadership. I salute him and Dianna DeGette for having the courage to stand up for the truth two and a half years ago and vote against the invasion of Iraq! I think people like Andrew Romanoff and Morgan Carroll and Dan Grossman offer a bright future. The Colorado Democratic Party just needs to be strong in defending the truth and not feel a need to pander to right wing propaganda and we will make Colorado a deep blue state, and that right soon!
ePMedia: Tom Tancredo's Team America PAC declared that "Immigration is the most critical issue facing our nation today." Is it? If not, what is?
BW: Let's start by recognizing that immigration IS a very important issue facing America today, and quite frankly, our immigration system is broken. But to go from that premise to saying that it is the most critical issue facing our nation today is simply dishonest, and Mr. Tancredo says things like that for his own political benefit. Perhaps if he had ever served his Country, or if he had kids serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, or if he could even bother to go to a funeral for a soldier killed in our wars, then maybe he would understand that we have other equally, or perhaps more, critical issues facing us as a nation. Of course he doesn't have any actual solutions to the immigration problem, so I suspect he doesn't even take that one as seriously as he pretends to.
But let's talk about some other issues that are important to Americans who actually have to work for a living. I don't have health care, along with more than 40 million other Americans. Every time I feel a pain in the middle of the night, the panic I feel isn't "Oh no, what is that?", it's "Oh no, how will I pay for this?" Do you suppose that's a pretty critical issue for a lot of families in America? Of course Mr. Tancredo has a great health care package, so it's easy for him not to care about the rest of us!
There are several critical issues facing America today, including health care, our dependence on oil, the economy, and the coming retirement of the Baby Boom generation and what it will mean to our Nation. They are all just as important as immigration, and frankly, have a lot more impact on the average person in this district, but Tom Tancredo doesn't care about any of them. He wants to run for President, and the immigration issue gives him that opportunity.
ePMedia: Colorado citizens still slap "NATIVE" stickers on their cars to distinguish themselves from the many new residents who continue to move here. You were born and raised in Colorado. How has the Centennial State changed since your childhood in Greeley and Littleton?
BW: Wow, where do I even begin? When I graduated from Littleton High School in 1982 Highlands Ranch was the sort of ranch that had cattle on it. There weren't any homes or streets or highways. Douglas County had one high school and a very small population. Today Douglas County is one of the fastest growing counties in America, and it has seven high schools, with number eight due to open this fall, and number nine already in planning.
Colorado has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 30 years, and there are plusses and minuses to that. I don't have any bias as a native. I welcome everyone to this beautiful State and my home. But it does create issues that we will have to address at some point, like pollution, crowded highways and schools, water shortages, and increasing demand for services.
We need to work together to find solutions to those issues. These are things that impact our lives in real and personal ways, and when I see politicians pushing things like putting the Ten Commandments in public buildings, or forcing prayer into schools, or pushing hate based initiatives to exclude people from basic rights, and ignoring our real issues, I find it discouraging. What are we going to do about water? What are we going to do about health care? What are we going to do to bring good jobs to Colorado? What are we going to do to make sure our kids grow up to be the best educated adults in the world? These are the issues I want to address!
But you asked about how Colorado has changed since I was a kid, so let me offer a few more fun things that have changed. When I was a kid we always talked about getting major league baseball. And then one magic day we got it! We dreamed of the Broncos winning a Super Bowl, and now we've won several. We won a NCAA championship in football. We've won a Stanley Cup and an NCAA championship in hockey. And I think we are about to win another Super Bowl this month! [Editor's Note: Sorry, Bill, we lost to the Steelers on Sunday.] So there have been many good changes in Colorado since I was a kid in Littleton.
ePMedia: What does our government need to do to support our troops in a meaningful way?
BW: To begin with, we should never ask our troops to put their lives on the line unless it is for one of two reasons: to defend against a direct attack against the United States, or to make us more secure in some easily definable way. The Iraq war fails both tests. We did not attack the country that attacked us, and we are less secure as a result of this war.
Now if Americans are serious about supporting the troops, then we should start with increased pay, more veterans benefits, more and better equipment, fewer deployments and shorter deployments away from home and family, and no more broken promises. When I mention broken promises, I mean a couple of things. First, we should honor the contracts we sign with troops. Stop loss orders, which hold people in the military beyond the date of their contract, are immoral and show how much the Bush Administration really hates the troops.
We should also stop breaking promises about how long troops are going to be in a combat zone. Ken Ballard was the only son of my friend, Karen Meredith. Ken was born July 21st, 1977. He died on May 30th, 2004 in Najaf, Iraq. He was 26 years old when he was killed in action. But here's the real tragedy. Ken's time in Iraq was supposed to be over when he was killed. His unit was on its way home. All his stuff was packed, and his rifle was even turned in to the armory. He was ready to go. But then the Bush Administration broke a promise. They had promised that no unit would stay in Iraq for more than a year.
But Don Rumsfeld had a problem. The generals had all told him that we would need to send 300,000 troops to Iraq to do the job right. Rumsfeld, in his arrogance, said no, we'll do it with 150,000, and refused all calls for more troops.
As a result, the 1st Armored Division had their stay in Iraq extended for 120 days because there weren't enough troops there for them to leave. They had been promised a tour no longer than one year. That promise was broken, they unpacked, went back into action, and Ken Ballard was killed when he should have been home with his mother.
The Bush Administration and this Republican Congress, including Tom Tancredo, hate the troops, and they hate veterans. They never miss an opportunity to cut veteran's funding or to make life more difficult for our troops. It's no accident that almost every Veteran candidate this year is running as a Democrat. The Republican Party leadership has betrayed the troops!
In addition to the things I listed above, I would like to see better support for military families and widows, and better support for reserve and National Guard troops. I know people in the National Guard and Reserve who have lost jobs, and even homes, as a result of being deployed in Iraq. That is absolutely wrong. Our troops shouldn't lose jobs and homes because they served their Country! The Bush Administration and this Republican Congress have also effectively destroyed the National Guard and Reserves as elements of our national defense.
We need to stop privatizing military roles to private companies, which cost more than the military ever could. Let's be honest about this. The Rumsfeld plan is to turn over as many military functions as possible to private companies so that those companies can make more profit, not so that our security is enhanced. America is worse off because of the Iraq War and Rumsfeld's policies. But Halliburton and others like it are much better off!
We need to fund the VA more fully, both for existing veterans and for the vast number of troops who will come back from Iraq maimed in mind or body. The Bush Administration and the Republican Congress have cut funding for all VA programs. When a person volunteers to serve their country in the military, and endures all the hardships that go along with it, I believe our Nation owes them a debt of honor. I'm going to Washington to make sure that debt gets paid.
Bush lovers and supporters of this war say that men like John Murtha, and others who speak out against the war, are hurting the morale of the troops. That is an outright lie. How can someone like Tom Tancredo, or Dick Cheney, or George W. Bush, who all dodged the draft and avoided military service, tell me how the morale of the troops is affected? I am the troops.
Morale is affected by how long we have to be away from our families, how long our work days are, how much we get paid, how often we are lied to or promises made are broken. In ten years with the Navy and Marine Corps, I never once heard anyone complain because of something a politician said. But I heard plenty of complaints as a result of longer deployments. We need a larger military—more troops, rather than less. We need to make serving in the military something that is common amongst Americans, rather than rare. Rumsfeld is 100% wrong in everything he's done.
And finally, I said we need to give our troops more and better equipment. The New York Times recently reported that 80% of the Marines who died of upper body wounds in the war so far could have been saved if they had better body armor. The Bush Administration was told the body armor was outdated and did nothing. Where is the outrage about this? Where is the outrage that our soldiers were sent to war without enough armored vehicles? Don Rumsfeld should be in jail for negligent homicide.
If we really want to support our troops, then let's hold accountable the people who have sold them down the river—the Bush administration and this Republican Congress!
ePMedia: Raising campaign money on the internet is now an established pillar of most campaigns. Candidates can effectively compete at a national level for such contributions. Why is Bill Winter for Congress a good investment for a progressive blog reader?
BW: Let me start by saying that I recognize the important role that blogs and the internet now play, not only in elections, but in getting out the truth and in active journalism. I believe many Americans have lost faith in the ability of the traditional media sources to provide us with the complete and honest truth in the news. I believe blogs and internet writers have served a vital purpose in the last five years in holding the Bush Administration accountable and in balancing out the increasingly rightward shift of traditional media. So I salute you and your colleagues for your service to America!
So why am I a good investment for a progressive blog reader?
First because we are going to win! And second, when we do win, we are going to fight for the progressive values that will benefit regular Americans! We are going to fight to ensure that the poor and the middle class are represented in America and have a real shot at the American dream. We are going to fight to make sure that the government does not come into our homes, our bedrooms, our hospital rooms, or anywhere else in our private lives. We are going to fight to make sure that separation of church and state remain vital components of the American Constitution. We are going to fight to make sure that the only reason America ever goes to war in the future is to defend our national security and make us safer. And we are going to fight to make sure that we have a strong economy and a safe, clean environment, because they are not mutually exclusive concepts.
So you may be wondering what's with this "we" stuff, since you asked about me? Look, my campaign is not about me. I don't have a life long desire to be in Congress and I can't be seduced by power or bought with any amount of money. This campaign is about regular people. This campaign is about America and Americans. So when I say we, I mean the people of CD-6 and the people who are involved in my campaign. We are going to win, and we are going to take back our country!
ePMedia: You want to see affordable, accessible health care for all Americans. What kind of plan would you support?