Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Updated May 25, 9:00 pm

Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. debates and discusses The War, democracy, Al Qaeda, a Third Airport in Peotone, School Choice, a casino for the South Side or south suburbs and growing the Economy on the South Side and in the south suburbs with Jeff Berkowitz, show host and legal recruiter.

The suburban edition of "Public Affairs," this week features Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D- Homewood, 2nd CD). For more details about the show and the suburban airing schedule, as well as a small portion of the show transcript, see the 5th blog entry, below, updated May 24, 1:30 am. The show will also air through-out the City of Chicago, Memorial Day, May 31, at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21

A partial transcipt of the show's exchanges between Cong. Jackson and Jeff Berkowitz, "Public Affair's host and producer, is included, below.
Jeff Berkowitz: You attended the elite, as they say, [private] St. Albans school in Washington, DC [Other former attendees of St. Albans include Gore, Kerry, Evan Bayh, Harold Ford, and yep, two Bushies--Neil and Marvin. Cost, as of 2000, 20K/year]

Cong. Jackson: Great high school.

Berkowitz: Great high school....

Jackson: I went to Le Mans Military Academy [Grades 7-8] in Rolling Prairie, Indiana with my brother Jonathan. then to St. Alban's...
Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr.: Everybody deserves a New Trier [High School], let's start there.

Jeff Berkowitz: Everybody deserves a choice to improve the quality of their education. You said to me there aren't 435,000 slots in private schools [to accept all the students who might want to leave the Chicago public schools-if they had a school voucher-- giving them the purchasing power to leave]. You are familiar with the free market- demand creates its own supply. No. 1, I don't think all of the Chicago Public School students are going to leave. A lot of people are happy with their [public school], they are not in failing schools. Say, half of the students in the CPS leave, that is roughly--

Cong. Jackson: Still a down payment. Still a down payment on a private education in a private school. So, the question is-- if you want to answer the question of repairing public schools for all 53 million children [in public schools across the country] not just the 435,000 students in Chicago, but all 53 million--

Berkowitz: Why not start here with the kids in Chicago?

Jackson: I am in Congress...

Berkowitz: Wait a second. You had a choice- Washington, DC is controlled by Congress-- and you had a choice to give children in similar [to Chicago] failing schools in Washington, DC an opportunity to get a voucher, did you vote against that?

Jackson: What I chose to vote for, rather than voting against anything, was a fundamental right guaranteeing all Americans [Jackson's proposed U. S. Constitutional Amendment establishing a minimum quality of education]

Berkowitz: But, you had a choice

Jackson: Absolutely.

Berkowitz: Your parents had a choice and they opted to give you a private school, didn't they.

Jackson: And, the Congresswoman from Washington, DC was against it. And the people in Washington, DC were also against it. [Were they? the Mayor of Washington, DC was for school vouchers, as were many parents from Washington DC who testified on behalf of vouchers].

Berkowitz: No, but answer that question. I am not critical of your parents looking for a quality education [for you, in Washington, DC] but they opted out of an inferior public school to send you to a private school

Jackson: Not true.

Berkowitz: Is that being hypocritical?

Jackson: No, not at all. My parents made the best decision for their child.

Berkowitz: I am not critical of that decision. I am complimenting them.

Jackson: Are you going to let me answer, Jeff?

Berkowitz: Yes

Jackson: My parents made the best decision for their child that they could possibly make and at no point in time did they stop paying taxes into the public education system. And so, to that extent, my parents already have a choice: to put me in the school of their choice but they never stopped paying taxes to insure that high quality schools exist for other children.

Berkowitz: Many of the parents in your District are earning $20,000 or $30,000; they don't have the income that your parents have [and had]; therefore they can't opt out and go to the private schools that might do a better job of teaching these kids how to read, write and do math. Try it, [all we are saying is]just give choice a chance. You know that phrase.

Jackson: [Laughter] Jeff, thanks for having me.

Berkowitz: Thank you very much, Cong. Jesse Jackson...
Jackson: I think after the events of 9/11 the President of the United States sought to morph the events of Al Qaeda and the Al Qaeda's very legitimate threat to the United States and to the people with that of Saddam Hussein...The President sought to make a link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The 9/11 Commissions, other Commissions and hearings on Capitol Hill have now shown very cleaerly that there was no relationship between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. There clearly were no WMD in Iraq and it is clear that the War in Iraq was a war of choice, not a war that represented some imminent threat to the United States of America. And, so, I think the House in this instance, was a more thoughtful body.

Berkowitz: Even if you take that, and there are some who might argue with what you just said.

Jackson: They shouldn't; its the facts.

Berkowitz: Well, we'll see. But, perhaps more importantly, you know some would argue that there were some Al Qaeda being harbored in Iraq. They were being cared for[as to serious health issues] in some cases. The extent of that, the scope of that-- whether that would be sufficient to justify the military action, I think it is an arguable issue. But, perhaps a more important issue, you know the administration argued this on a variety of bases, one was the WMD, which so far have not turned up, but they also argued in terms of regime change and the importance of regime change in Iraq and what that meant for the rest of the Middle East. That was an argument that was made [Indeed, regime change in Iraq was the policy of the Clinton Administration from 1998-2000].

Jackson: Jeff, there have been a number of changing rationales and so, you can adopt whatever changing rationale and suggest it is the basis for the conflict, but
I remember a very careful and a very detailed rationale for why the President made this judgment and it included Saddam Hussein's time had run out--that he had not allowed the various inspection regimes back into the country. That the issue was WMD...now the issue is Democracy, now the issue is whether or not we can establish a Democracy in Iraq...let's not have a shifting rationale, we need a single rationale and that rationale presently cannot be justified...that there are WMD and if we stick to the issue, the President should be held accountable based upon his judgment and based upon that information.
Berkowitz: Is it possible that a democratic goverment, or something closer to it may emerge than what was there under Saddam Hassein. Is that possible and if that happens, could that have a very healthy effect on Iran, on Syria, on Saudi Arabia that is, in the whole area to spread democracy. Is this a case in which for whatever reason we are not on the side of propping up another dictator, like Saddam Hussein. We were on the side of trying to remove a dictator and bring democracy [to Iraq]. That has not always been the case for the United States. You might applaud that.

Jackson: Well, its another changing rationale and you can look back upon it with hindsight and suggest that removing Saddam Hussein and engaging in regime change is the appropriate policy. The danger, however, with Americans losing their lives on a daily basis and the likelihood that American soldiers will be pulled out of Iraq in the not too distant future, hopefully; the danger is that the void can be filled by a dangerous fundamentalist cleric in Iraq and that Iraq could become even more fundamentalist, particularly as these images and photos from the Prison begin to emerge and the Arab World begin to react to the images that come from Abu Graib: How Americans and America's allies are treating Muslim men, how they are treating Muslim women...

Berkowitz: Depends maybe on the scope. If we are able to persuade people that that was a very limited scope-certainly not authorized and certainly not something of which the U. S. Government approves and certainly the government will prosecute those individuals. That may be a demonstration of the way democracy deals with abhorrent acts. So, it may be a positive. We would not set out to do it for that demonstration effect but again, how we handle it, may, in fact, persuade people in the Middle East that the United States is not the enemy they often hear about. Possibly.
Jackson: Two companies... have now stepped forward and they say they want to develop and build an inaugural airport that they say can be built for under 200 million dollars and handle a substantial new market. Low cost carriers cannot get into O'Hare because of the price point of getting into O'Hare and because of capacity constraints of Midway airport, they are suggesting that they can handle that additional capacity at a third airport site in Peotone. Now, what does that mean economically and that is an important point.....In the O'Hare region, there are three jobs for every one person. On the south side and souths suburbs where I represent, there are 60 people for every one job. 60 people for every one job.

Berkowitz: You need economic growth and you need jobs.

Jackson: Most tourists who visit the City of Chicago never go south of the Museum of Science and Industry and that's why the airport becomes a significant anchor in insuring the future of that economy.
Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D- 2nd Cong. Dist), interviewed on "Public Affairs, filmed on May 16, 2004, and as is being cablecast this week in the suburbs and as will be cablecast on Memorial Day through-out the City of Chicago on Cable Ch. 21 at 8:30 pm.