Interview With Vic Wulsin

At the Tuesday night Drinking Liberally meeting, I had the privilege of sitting down and having a drink with Dr. Vic Wulsin and discussed her campaign for Congress in Ohio’s 2nd District. The following are excerpts from that conversation.

DL: What is your favorite drink?
VW: “My favorite non-alcoholic drink is eggnog and my favorite alcoholic drink is Rolling Rock, but it has to be in a bottle.”

DL: Why do you want to run for Congress?
VW: “To bring accountability to government, to begin the discussion of healthcare in a reasonable, intelligent, and productive way.” “I want to be Congresswoman because I think that I can find common ground among diverse groups. Healthcare is my perfect example. You have business owners who want their businesses to operate, you have workers who want to protect their families, and if we had universal healthcare the way every other industrialized country has, then we would help the bottom line on both sides and take away that whole inefficiency factor. I am also running because at some level, I believe in morality and I believe our government is a good institution to protect and promote society and our current administration is not being good.”

DL: After the 2006 election and with a Democrat controlled Congress, what do you think the first order of business should be?
VW: “Let me answer it sincerely, I want to start the dialogue on healthcare reform – that would be my first thing to do.” “I think that my second goal will be more common and people will carry that flag among the House, among the Senate, which is a reasonable, honorable, and considerate end to the war. We can’t balance the budget until we end the war, we can’t have a positive foreign policy until we end the war, and we can’t stop wasting American lives until we end the war. I would say in my heart that it is so urgent because so much depends on that – billions of dollars, our reputation, and how that has ramifications on everyone.”

DL: It is likely that you could face Bob McEwen instead of Jean Schmidt. What would make you a better Congressperson that Bob McEwen?
VW: “It wouldn’t be hard to be a better Congressperson than Bob McEwen. I believe in people and I respect people.” “What we want is a prosperous society, a loving society, a fair society. To make it non-partisan, I would say that there are differences on how we get there, but I think that I respect that most of us want to get to that government for the people and it is the dream we were taught in school, the dream that we pledge allegiance to. What were we pledging to? We were pledging to a government who takes care of us. I think that I really respect that; I think that Bob McEwen does not. I really think that his interests are not the well being of Southwest Ohio and not the betterment of our country.”

DL: Need I ask what would make you a better Congresswoman than Jean Schmidt?
VW: “I would make sure that I understand the rules of the House of Representatives before I open my mouth. I would be sure if I waste the time of my fellow Congress people, I have something that is helpful to say.” “About Jean I would say that she’s a lone player. I think that the biggest difference between her and me is that her favorite exercise is long distance running by herself, my favorite exercise is walking with a friend – listening, talking, and that’s what I have done for making my friendships.” “I think that inability to bring people together is one of her weaknesses.” “I don’t see her taking on an issue, looking at the evidence and making the best decision.”

DL: You have worked on important issues such as AIDS in Africa. For the most part, the Bush administration has ignored issues in Africa such as AIDS and the problems in Darfur. What would you do in Congress to address these issues?
VW: “Certainly our reputation internationally affects not only our morality but also our economy. So, if we wanted to look at it self-centeredly, how does this help me? The social disruption, the poverty, the political instability, the economic loss that AIDS is a part of in Africa - that affects us economically, politically, socially.” “First of all what I would do is I would lift the ban we currently have that international agencies that work with groups in other countries that do any education about abortion are not allowed to be funded by one of the greatest organizations in the World which is the United States Agency for International Development. Our tax money pays for this organization to help develop countries – hopefully with leadership from the countries where we are working.” “The point is, the first thing Bush did when he came to office was to freeze all funds to organizations who did family planning if those family planning organizations also taught about the possibility of alternative contraception in the form of abortion. This limited our provision of family planning.” “The child mortality rate increased, the infant mortality rate increased, and fertility rate increased. Meanwhile AIDS is increasing which is also a part of sexual activity which is protected by condoms which is one of the major forms of birth control methods that are used internationally. The first thing that I would do is millions of women and therefore men and children worldwide, we could start providing them again family planning. I am not a proponent of providing abortions worldwide, I’m not at the point where I want to make laws for other countries, but I am willing to go so far to say every woman should have the right education and family planning methods that is getting aid from the United States. Second, I would bring before the United Nations the intent to have an alliance against the government of Sudan that is allowing the genocide in Darfur.”

DL: Ford has announced that they are closing their facility in Batavia. What can be done to help those who lose their jobs not only in your district, but also across the country?
VW: “One of the reasons why our industries are not competitive is that we put on the backs of business owners and workers and unions the cost of healthcare and if we made healthcare less expensive by taking out the advertising, marketing, pharmaceutical company profits, insurance company profits, we could provide every American good quality, available healthcare. Let me just put in an aside about prevention as part of the program. We would also invest in prevention so people can stay healthy as they can be. Nutrition, obesity, exercise, immunization - things that are so inexpensive at the front end to do, and so expensive if you don’t.” We could provide universal healthcare for the $1500 price that we add to the price tag of every Ford coming off the assembly line, the price of healthcare would vanish. Now, we’d be competitive for the global market where Japan and Germany and Italy have universal healthcare.” “Which gets us into international trade because I do think that’s one of the reasons that plants are closing because we can make cars cheaper in Japan, or Italy, or whatever.” “Trade agreements tend to hurt everyone but business owners and stock owners.” “Mexican workers who I have spoken with are not happy with NAFTA, American workers who I have spoken with are not happy with NAFTA. Can’t we get a trade agreement that promotes trade, which is the real purpose while making working conditions safe, fair, and healthy on both sides of the line? When I think of the Batavia plant, what I wish had happened is that our Congresswoman met with the Ford leaders and talked about the problems they are having in this plant. Take the UAW leader from UAW international but also the local in Batavia, take the highest level manager you have working at the plant and find what we can do as a district to pull together and keep these jobs here.” “But she didn’t even try to find solutions to keep the economy of Clermont County going.”

DL: What needs to be done to get Medicare to where it needs to be?
VW: “What I would do as your Congresswoman is start with the part D drug benefit because one of the problems Medicare has been the cost of drugs. The Medicare system, as flawed as it is has been a huge success in providing care to our senior citizens and I’ve seen it first hand in my own parents how they were eager to be 65 so they could get that benefit then what hurts them is the medicines. Part D does not save the government money, so you start with that. You need to have a system where we negotiate with the drug companies just like the VA does so the profits to the pharmaceutical companies are not coming from the people who cannot afford them.” “Overall I like the Medicare system; basically we are talking about a single payer system for people over the age of 65. I think one way to go towards universal healthcare is to lower the age of eligibility and you could do it incrementally as we can afford it and as you do that, you assist pension plans, the unions, and so on and you gain the efficiencies. Right now Medicare isn’t as inexpensive as it could be because it’s still competing with a private practice model of the healthcare industry that has taken care of everybody else, most of those between 0 and 65.”

DL: What do you think that Homeland Security has accomplished and what do you think the role of Homeland Security should be?
VW: “I think that Homeland Security increased after 9-11 because there were four horrible incidents in a couple of hours that were conducted by airplanes. Therefore, Homeland Security spent billions of dollars to make air travel safe and they have done a good job. Since 9-11 we have not had another plane run into a building. The weakness of Homeland Security as I see it is that we are not thinking about what we are really trying to do which is to prevent terrorists from hurting us, our buildings, our infrastructures, and so on and we are not up to speed on things like electronic security.” “We do not have the structure set up to prevent much less to stop a biological terrorist.” “We need to put processes and communications in place, we need to have drills.” “One of the things I don’t like about the current administration is that they are so reactive rather than proactive and the fundamental issues about Homeland Security have to do with our relationship with people in other countries and our relationship with people in our own country who are disenfranchised and oppressed and until we have civil rights among own people – due process, freedom of speech, all the freedoms, what are we doing?”

DL: Final thoughts?
VW: “I just want to say to the people in the blogosphere that I love the discussion, I love the conversation and I think that one of my favorite things in the blogosphere is the Wikipedia – when mistakes are put up, they get edited by people who know more – I don’t quite understand the mechanics, but likewise I hope when myths occur on the computer about me, I hope the truth arises. There will be a motivation after the primary in any election and before the primary for the Republicans to find out any experience I had, anything I said that looks unpatriotic and they will present it as being unpatriotic.” “I want to make my pitch for winning the primary, for voting for me, because I think as Democrats, the most important thing is whom they want to represent them.” “I know I’m that person because I listen, I have the track record, and in terms of being a true blue Democrat, I’m proud to be that but I am also proud because I listen to Republicans and I want to find the best of what they have to offer to make our society a true Democratic society that it’s meant to be.”

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