Many times as editor of my local newspaper, The Bushwick News, I have tried to get our local representative in the House, Nydia Velázquez, to give her opinions on WikiLeaks and whistleblower Bradley Manning. It didn’t seem a reach to try to elicit some response on the international issue for our very local publication, for a few reasons.
Many of Rep. Velázquez’s constituents are strongly progressive and politically active — a large contingent of Barack Obama’s youth campaign leaders lives here in Bushwick and nearby Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They support the kind of dissent Manning engaged in and WikiLeaks facilitated, and they oppose the wars America has started in the Middle East. Just like the representative herself, who is on record vocally opposing the wars and civil liberties erosion. She is a member of the Out of Iraq and the Progressive Caucuses. One would think she’d have some opinion, and one that would actually make her more popular with her own constituency.
But this isn’t all. Just a few miles away in Long Island is the district of Peter King, the viciously anti-Muslim-American, yet pro-Irish terrorist, representative who called for WikiLeaks to be declared a terror organization. America summarily murders members and leaders of such organizations. And Senator Chuck Schumer, who represents New York and lives in Brooklyn, has declared WikiLeaks’ whistleblowing and journalism to be unworthy of protection under media laws. He also supported the Iraq War and votes often with Republicans on foreign policy and security issues. He even sponsored a bill similar to the Patriot Act in 1995. Shouldn’t Velázquez seek to distance herself from such colleagues, and curry favor with her progressive district?
No, one of her staff members told me. “We won’t be commenting.” He didn’t even want his name mentioned. Strange? Maybe not, if you’re just a party hack.
After all, Velázquez has been silent on foreign policy since January 2009 — when Barack Obama took office. All her foreign-policy comments and activity took place during the Bush years. Though Obama has continued and strengthened everything Bush did in the foreign-policy realm, she has raised not a finger in dissent. It’s true she voted for the Kucinich bill to order US forces out of Libya. Yet back in 1995, she voted in favor of the very similar Kosovo War under Clinton. What does it mean? Who knows? Soft spot for Gadhafi?
The fact that even now, her comments on war are tucked into an attack on the recent debt-ceiling deal is telling.
“It is clear that the era of debts and deficits must come to an end. However, in addressing this problem, we must look at what got us here. It wasn’t overspending on low-income housing, job training or education — which all stand at historically-low levels. It was two unfunded wars and the Bush tax cuts which keep on giving to America’s wealthiest.”
The two wars — not to mention a few others — are still going on under the current Democratic president, in office now for more than half his term, and Velázquez can’t bring herself to name him. But she’s quick to note the tax cuts belong to Bush — though Obama just extended them in 2010. This is no slip-up. She’s a party hack. A cynical player of politics who cares more that her team wins, and her local community scores some extra cheap housing units, than that her country is better off or that innocents abroad aren’t murdered. Her leader must not be humiliated, damn the consequences. With this evident, should the fact that Mr. Transparency‘s administration tortured a revolution-sparking whistleblower really move the representative from Brooklyn? One might even be forgiven for thinking she applauds the treatment of Bradley Manning, and curses WikiLeaks for terrorizing the Democratic government with the truth.
Is she at least helping her community from DC? It’s hard to say. The poorest areas of her district remain so, and were quite hard-hit in the foreclosure crisis. Her record as chair of the Small Business Committee is less than stellar — The Bushwick News found most of the locally targeted federal spending she advocates actually went to huge corporations.
Instead of taking up space that could be occupied by a truly activist progressive representative of Congress who could push American foreign policy in a direction North Brooklynites would like to see — that is, toward peace — Velázquez might better serve us by using her considerable intelligence and connections to start or bolster local mutual-aid organizations that more directly and successfully help the disadvantaged of our community.
If Nydia Velázquez is truly only interested in local issues of welfare spending, should she be a Congress member — or a social worker?