KCTS 9 Connects/Adam Smith - February 24, 2012

CNX: Adam Smith 2/24/12
  • KCTS 9 Connects

Adam Smith

Washington Congressman Adam Smith talks about redistricting and the geographic and demographic shift it has brought to his 9th District, now the state's first majority-minority congressional district.

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About the Episode

We talk with Washington Congressman Adam Smith about redistricting and the geographic and demographic shift it has brought to his 9th District, now the state's first majority-minority congressional district. Also, public radio's Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins joins us to provide an update on the progress of state budget talks.

Chapter 1: The New Ninth

Chapter 2: 2012 Legislative Session

Chapter 3: Insiders Roundtable

Enrique Cerna:
2012 brings change to Washington state's legislative and congressional districts, especially the 9th congressional district represented by democrat Adam Smith since 1997. It's all due to redistricting, which happens every 10 years after the U.S. census is conducted. Our state's population grew by about a million people since 2001, we're now the 13th most populous state. And with that, we gained an additional U.S. house seat. The new 10th congressional district is situated mainly in Thurston County. And while all the congressional districts have been remapped, it's the 9th congressional district that's had a major shift in geography and demography. The district now runs north to southeast Seattle and Bellevue, and south to Tacoma. But the most notable change is the district's makeup of racial and ethnic minorities. The 9th is now Washington state's first majority minority district. 9th district congressman Adam Smith joins me now to talk more about the changes in his district as well as other issues. And welcome. So the district changes. It's actually becoming more democratic, probably more liberal as well. And you've been known more as a moderate democrat. So do you shift in the makeup of the district now?

Adam Smith:
I've always had a very pragmatic approach to issues. But, on the other hand, I've had a very consistent progressive record on a number of issues, and most of the issues that are important to the region. So I think it will be a very good fit for the area. It's interesting. It's got with Seattle, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Newcastle, I'm always focused on economic growth and jobs, particularly technology and innovation. I think this new district has even more of that but still maintains the manufacturing core down in the Kent valley, got the big Boeing plant, and lake Washington, so that ties into a lot of the defense stuff that I'm doing, but also the economic growth stuff that I'm doing. And I've always had a very diverse district as well, and this is even more diverse. It will fit well with the issues I've been working on and the constituents I've been representing.

Enrique:
I take it you've been going out now and meeting the people that were not part of your district before, but now are. And what are they telling you?

Smith:
A lot of the same concerns, as I said, jobs, jobs, jobs, the economy, they want broad based economic growth. And I think there was a concern about that. And that was my orientation in politics. I've been working in politics for years. Starting as a teenager, I got involved in some campaigns. And it's always been about the economic opportunities. I grew up in a blue collar family and appreciated the fact that I had the opportunity and a chance. And I think for many in America, that's not there anymore, particularly in diverse communities. If you're going to have broad based economic opportunity, you've got to work at it, and you've got to target those communities that don't really have as much opportunity as others. That's always been my focus. And I think this district will continue to give me the opportunity to do that.

Enrique:
Let's talk about the economy. It seems these days when you, it isn't just a local thing now. It's what affects us globally.

Smith:
Yes.

Enrique:
We look at what happens in Greece and gas prices as well. And that brings in Iran and the tensions there. We seem to see some hope here with the economy getting a bit better. But is it still tenuous?

Smith:
Oh, it's very tenuous for all the reasons you've stated. And I think domestically, we are doing better, we're coming out of the worst of the financial crisis, and really the massive debt bubble that burst. There was so much debt being accumulated certainly on the government side, but also on the private side throughout the first decade of this century, that when that burst, it's taken a while to dig out of it. But then you do have that global uncertainty. You have various countries in Europe, Greece finally has another debt deal. And there's still nervousness about where that's going to go. And you've got a volatile situation in the middle east in a number of countries. So yeah, I think that is the greatest concern. But look, we have to build a competitive economy. We've got a global economy now where there's a whole lot of nations, a whole lot of people who are competing with us. And I'm absolutely confident that American workers can compete and win, but we've got to view it from that competitive framework and we've got to give them the best shot to do that.

Enrique:
When you look at what's happening internationally, particularly with Iran, we've got what's happening in Syria, there's even been calls from republicans in congress, as well as presidential candidates, republican presidential candidates saying that we should be aiding those that are fighting against these assad regime in Syria. Some saying maybe there needs to be a preemptive strike against Iran. What do you say?

Smith:
I think we need to be considerably more cautious. I would hope that from the last decade that we've learned that military intervention comes at a high cost and is very risky in terms of the benefit. We are going to be a global actor. We're the largest economy in the world, the largest military. We are going to impact global affairs and be present in many corners of the world. There's nothing wrong with that. But there's a good difference between that and thinking that we have to be the global policeman that shows up whenever there's a conflict and commits our military might to battle. I think we have to be much more cautious about that. Both because there's a limit on how you can impact the change that you want through military action, a very, very severe limit, as a matter of fact. And second, the rest of the world in many instances resents that presence. We've got to strike a better balance. And Iran in particular. I am very concerned about the rhetoric that war is inevitable. It's not. We have very aggressive economic sanctions that are just getting started in some places that are actually working in some ways on Iran. Their economy is in a shambles. Their people are demanding that their government do something about it. I think that pressure is really making a difference. And I hope that we don't leap to military action with unpredictable consequences.

Enrique:
So the president just sent a letter to Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, apologizing for the burning of the Koran by soldiers. And he's in town.

Smith:
Yes, he's in town.

Enrique:
You heard about that. We shouldn't do that, what do you think?

Smith:
I think Newt Gingrich is wrong. First of all, the letter the president just sent didn't just say that, it raised a large number of issues and included that as one of them. I think that's part of what we have to deal with as long as we have the presence that we have in Afghanistan. But I think really what this points out again is the limitation of our military might in foreign countries. Afghanistan is a tough place to be. There's going to be a ton of issues that are going to arise. And no country wants another country's military to be largely present in there. So as long as we're there, those tensions are going to be there. That's why it's so important that we follow the president's plan to transition out of Afghanistan and turn over security and governance responsibility more and more to the afghan people. They have to govern themselves. You can't have a foreign presence. Things like this with the Koran. They're going to happen in a situation where we have such a large military presence and they're going to create tension. We've done incredible work over there. Our military has served and served very well and I think made a real difference in pushing back the Taliban, giving the afghan people the chance to have a sustainable government, but now it's time to draw down and turn that responsibility over to the people who ultimately are going to have to do it, the afghan people.

Enrique:
Gingrich is in town, has been in the state since yesterday. Next week, Mitt Romney comes in because of the state republican caucuses.

Smith:
Yeah.

Enrique:
We've already had Ron Paul and Rick Santorum here. Pay much attention to those republican candidates that are seeking the presidency and what they've been saying?

Smith:
I have. It's dominating the news. Obviously, I've looked at it. And I think we're going to have a very competitive election this fall, no matter who emerges from the republican primary.

Enrique:
Who do you think?

Smith:
Gosh, it's tough to say. You know, if I had to bet right now, I'd still bet on Romney, but I think it's between Santorum and Romney at this point. I think Santorum still has a chance because the Republican party is still deeply ambivalent about Mitt Romney.

Enrique:
And what about the super-pacts, it just seems like it's going to be incredible.

Smith:
I think it was a terrible supreme court decision to say that corporations are people, to say that money is equivalent to speech. I think is very, very harmful decisions to our democracy. If you unleash that much money on the political process, that much anonymous money, you are really putting a disproportionate amount of power into the hands of a very few people who happen to have a lot of money. They should not have that much power. We had sensible regulations on money, soft money, when independent expenditures could be done. And all of those I think helped keep some tiny sense of reasonableness about our political process. Now, they've been struck down. We've also, I'm a supporter of public financing. There was a great public financing law in Arizona that actually had state wide elections in Arizona, where candidates ran, didn't raise any money, it was all public financed. The supreme court struck that down as well. I really think that is ultimately harmful to our democracy, because again, it concentrates the power in the hands of the very few.

Enrique:
All right. Congressman Adam Smith, thank you very much for your time. And we will see how all of this works out in the months ahead. Appreciate it.

Smith:
Thank you.

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