joe_sestak1.jpg[As always in Blue America threads, please stay on topic and be polite and respectful of our guest. Any off-topic comments should be taken to the prior thread. With that, please help me give Rep. Joe Sestak a warm FDL welcome - and let the conversation begin. -- CHS]

Helping to elect Joe Sestak to Congress last year was one of Blue America's triumphs. Congressman Sestak has held up his end of the bargain, not just by voting the way he promised but my supplying the intellectual heft and energy on the issues he told us were most important to him. Today he makes his first visit to Firedoglake since he banished 19 year incumbent Curt Weldon in November.

Yesterday we began the discussion, focussing on the vote Rep. Sestak cast for the Supplemental. I suggest you read the comments in preparation for our talk with him today.

When Congressman Sestak's office called and told me he'd like to come over for a talk, he was very aware that many of us do not agree with the way he voted. I know when I look at the list of the 86 Democrats who joined the Republican House caucus to approve the bill, I see a list of reactionaries who I neither like nor trust. Overwhelmingly it's a list of the worst of the Inside-the-Beltway Democratic Party, from the Rahm Emanuels and Steny Hoyers to the Jim Marshalls, Collin Petersons, Gene Taylors and Melissa Beans.

And then there's Joe Sestak, a congressman who doesn't belong on the same list with that batch of barely better-than-Republican pond scum. The other Blue America freshmen on the list I had already written off as lessons learned — Kirsten Gillibrand, Chris Carney, and Ciro Rodriguez — based on their overall voting records. Seeing Joe on there broke my heart. This is an admiral who got to congress and immediately introduced a bill to end the occupation of Iraq. This is a congressman who looks anyone in the eye and tells them why a "date-certain" end to this catastrophe is essential.

A couple days ago we talked on the phone and he explained his position to me. It's not my position but I believe him when he tells me his rationale and I respect not just him, but what he did.

He's getting 350 calls and letters a day and plenty are from constituents who are disappointed. After all, in the end, that vote is the same vote Curt Weldon would have cast. The context isn't though. And instead of playing it safe and voting with the 278 Democrats who knew the bill was going to pass, he asked himself what he would do if he was the deciding vote, if the yeas and nays were equally divided and he had to make the decision whether or not to call Bush's bluff in his heartfelt quest to end what he called on the floor of Congress a "tragic misadventure."

When I asked him what he thought his most important accomplishment has been since taking office he said it was helping to move the Iraq debate to change from Stay the Course to what is the best exit strategy. He told also me he thinks the way the Democrats in Congress need to end the occupation is thru an authorization bill rather than an appropriations bill. I'm going to ask him to explain that to us today.

One of the points that so enamored me of Joe's campaign originally was his approach to National Security.

It goes well beyond a military approach to include health care, education and economic well-being. How can anyone expect to have long-term national security without a healthy, educated, economically prosperous population? Here's an Admiral elected to Congress who seems as passionate about Head Start as he is about anything else — and he's introduced 3 amendments, each of which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, to help fix No Child Left Behind.

"Getting children in a good academic environment when their cognitive reasoning is just beginning to develop is key to their future achievements."

As vice-chairman of the House Small Business Committee he's been working diligently to unbundle large contracting procedures that have given advantages to huge corporations at the expense of small companies. His focus in the committee beyond that priority has been to champion women's business centers and veterans' outreach centers, exploring plans to help small businesses with health care costs for their employees, and encouraging clean, energy-efficient technologies.

You can contribute to Joe's re-election campaign on his website either through ActBlue or by sending a check. He's going to be with us today for an hour and then he has another appointment. We'll use the second hour of the session to talk amongst ourselves about Blue America.