An Interview with Joseph Addabbo, Jr

According to a number of his constituents, New York City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, Jr. has earned a reputation, for being direct and brutally honest. Many voters of the 32nd Councilmanic District, where Addabbo serves, noted that he is considered a rare breed in the political world; an elected official that tends to be outspoken and unapologetic. Addabbo credits his father, the late Congressman Joseph P. Addabbo, for teaching him about integrity, the functioning of the legislature, political structures and meeting the needs of the public. Since his election to the post in 2001, Addabbo has gone on to obtain the position of Chair of the Civil Service and Labor Committee. The Councilman granted us this exclusive interview to discuss a number of issues on the national front, and he was more than brutally honest, to say the least.

G-man: In the aftermath of the 2004 Presidential election, NYS voters were asked to comment on why Senators Kerry and Edwards failed in their bid for the White House. They stated the following: “The Democrats don’t have any backbone!” “In terms of political contributions and the lobbyists, you can’t tell them from the Republican Party anymore.” “The Democrats don’t have a clue, let alone an effective plan for the future of this country!” “They’ll get their asses kicked for years to come!” Councilman, why do so many Americans appear to be losing faith, and patience, in the Democratic Party?

Addabbo: It’s a shame. The Democratic Party has always stood for the working class people. The Republican Party has always been for the big business people and we’ve seen it. The tax breaks that President Bush has imposed have benefited the rich, the businesses and the corporations. We were always on the side of the blue-collar workers and the middle and lower class people of this country, and the bottom line is we have lost our message. Kerry, in my opinion, was a good candidate, but he didn’t have a clear message. When he had a message, it was too late. The debates were a strong point for him, but by then it was too late. This party needs to have a plan and a goal that basically says we are still a party that represents the middle and working class people who built this country. We have to reach out and prove that we’re still here for them and have candidates that make them believe in our message. If we can do that, we will be much better off than the Republicans. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a slow process because the Republicans have just brainwashed the people in this country to believe they are the party to be reckoned with. With that said, it is important to note that the Democratic candidates that do come forward in 2008 must realize, because the country is at war and the economy is sluggish, that it will take a bipartisan effort to address many of the problems we are facing. No one person or party can do it alone. It’s going to take a joint effort. We have to start focusing more on the people politics and less on the party politics, whether Republican or Democrat.

G-man: Is Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton the “savior” of the Democratic Party?

Addabbo: I think she is a quality Democrat, and I think she is a quality elected official. She’s turned a lot of heads and proved a lot of people wrong. The early carpetbagger label has disappeared and she’s accomplished a lot by working with people in both parties. She’s followed the lead of senior Senator Chuck Schumer, but she’s obviously done well on her own. She’s going to be one of the candidates that we need to listen to and pay attention to. I’m sure there will be others, and probably someone that we haven’t heard of yet. The bottom line is there is still time, and we have to see how the election evolves.

G-man: If Senator Clinton decides not to run for President, what Democrat do you think deserves serious consideration heading toward a Primary?

Addabbo: Well, you have those with name recognition like Senator Kerry, Senator Joe Biden, and you may even see Al Gore come out again. However, I think there is a strong chance that someone will emerge that we haven’t heard of or seen before. This will be a possibility because he’s going to speak, or she will speak, for the people. They are going to strike a cord throughout the country, regardless of party, race or religion. Again, while Senator Clinton may indeed be the most formidable opponent at this point, she has not expressed an interest in running, nor has anyone else. So that leaves it wide open.

G-man: North Korea appears to be an ever-increasing threat to world peace. Published reports in 2003 indicated they would not rule out a pre-emptive strike against the U.S. if threatened. Why hasn’t your party taken the President to task and demand that he deal with North Korea, which clearly has WMD, in the same manner as he did Iraq?

Addabbo: I think our party did. Senator Schumer, Senator Clinton and the other major Democrats did put pressure on the President by saying pay attention to North Korea, but the President, for some reason, had an agenda with Iraq. Many people in my community feel that Iraq was used to divert attention away from Afghanistan and Bin Laden. It’s unheard of, and I haven’t seen it in my lifetime, that the Unites States would be so aggressive against a country like Iraq. They really didn’t pose a threat to us, and at the time of the invasion I thought North Korea was much more of a threat. They were the ones that were developing nuclear armaments. Generally speaking, we have a lot of work to do to improve upon our relations with the other parts of the world. To be a Superpower is one thing, but we also have a lot of responsibility being that Superpower. We need to work on these relationships, not just with NATO or the U.N., but also with other countries while keeping a watchful eye on North Korea. I think that’s where this current administration just missed the boat. They duped Americans into thinking Iraq was such a threat, meanwhile we found nothing in Iraq and we still can’t find Bin Laden. We’re placing focus on Iraq and Afghanistan, but North Korea is doing whatever they want to do.

G-man: Now that it has been determined with the utmost certainty that no WMD were located in Iraq, do you believe your party should publicly apologize, particularly to the families of soldiers killed, maimed, or psychologically damaged, for siding with the President too quickly and ignoring the concerns of U.N. weapons inspectors and our allies?

Addabbo: Again, it was the President’s decision to do it. If he’d made a declaration of war, where he would need Congressional approval, he could have gone in as a military operation, not declaring war, and done it on his own. This is what many elected officials thought he was going to do anyway. I’m not privy to what was seen or told to elected officials of either party in Congress. I’m not privy to that information. However, I did hear that certain things were shown to elected officials and Senators, and thus they were convinced that they were doing the right thing in going into Iraq. I don’t know if the Democratic Party should apologize because they were shown certain information that may have turned out to be erroneous. Where did this information come from? It came from the President’s administration! I think the Bush administration has a lot of explaining to do to many of the families affected by the Iraqi war, and the hearings that have been held, which proved the information was erroneous, are a clear indication that an explanation is owed to these families.

G-man: Councilman, in your honest opinion, which would America be more willing to accept: An African-American President, such as Secretary of State Rice, or another Clinton in the White House?

Addabbo: (Laughing) Okay, again, I’m only one person. Whether it’s Condoleeza Rice, who I think is a very intelligent person, or Colin Powell, whom I believe is extremely credible, I would have no problem with that scenario. On the other side of the coin, I also think Senator Hillary Clinton is credible and qualified person. I suspect all of this will work itself out in the next few years. I am a person who makes an educational decision by listening to each candidate, their platform, and how their plan will parochially affect my area, my city and my country. I would hope that this country doesn’t look at race, party, or religion, gender as a barrier.

G-man: That’s good, but you still haven’t answered the question Councilman. Which would they be more willing to accept?

Addabbo: (Laughing) But I did answer it. Seriously, I can only answer for myself. I’m one person, one vote. Whether it’s Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell or Hillary Clinton, again, I would have to listen to their platform. I certainly would not say we are not ready for an African-American or person of color as president, a female president, or a Clinton in the White House. I think, no I’m hopeful that the general voting public is smart enough to say, “Let’s break down these boundaries and not go with the issues that separate us, but with the common ground that unites us. Let’s look at what these people are saying, and see who has the most realistic plan, not a pie-in-the-sky plan, but the most realistic plan to get us going forward as a country for the next decade.”

G-man: What would you think of a Clinton-Powell ticket?

Addabbo: Wow! That would be interesting, with the Democrat and Republican thing at play. That would be different, but I don’t see it happening in our lifetime.

G-man: It would be more than possible if Powell decided to switch parties.

Addabbo: That would be interesting. It would be interesting either way. Whether it ended up a Powell-Clinton ticket or as you proposed. This country has warmly embraced both, and they have something to say about how to make this country better. Both being credible candidates, I do think people would be more than willing to hear what they had to say. Man! That would be really interesting!

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