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Rep. John Lewis on Congress After GOP Victory, Closing Gitmo, Afghan War and Ethics Conviction of Charles Rangel

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U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-Georgia) joins us to talk about the shifting political landscape following the Republican gains in the midterm elections, the Obama administration’s abandonment of its pledge to close Guantánamo Bay, the Afghanistan war, and the conviction of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) on congressional ethics charges. [includes rush transcript]

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StoryJun 08, 1998Interview with Congressmember John Lewis
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Just before President Obama became president, in January of 2008, he spotted you standing right nearby. The reports are he embraced you. This was an historic moment. You, who had spoken at the 1963 March on Washington. His address at the Democratic convention was on the 45th anniversary of that historic march with King giving his “I Have a Dream” speech and you giving a more radical address. And now, today, you are the senior Democratic chief deputy whip. You chair the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight. But the House has shifted, and you will be in the minority. Your thoughts on what needs to happen and where the Republicans and the Democrats are going right now?

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Well, as members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, we must come together in a bipartisan fashion to look out for the needs of all of the American people. We must get our economy moving again. We’ve got to create jobs and put our people back to work. But we must come and work together. That was the message back in 1965, when we came together as a country and passed the ’65 Voting Rights Act. That was the message in 1964, when we passed the Civil Rights Act, in 1968 when we passed the Fair Housing Act. And we can come together again and do good for the American people and look out for the common good.

AMY GOODMAN: The Republicans have refused to meet with President Obama now this week at the White House. Your thoughts on this?

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Well, I’m shocked and dismayed that the Republicans couldn’t find the time to meet with the President of the United States. It’s a tradition. When the President calls, we tend to drop everything that we’re doing and respond to that call and meet with the President.

AMY GOODMAN: Congress member John Lewis, I want to thank you very much for being with us. We just finished a conversation about torture before this segment, about a Guantánamo prisoner on trial in New York, and ended with a question about Guantánamo not closing and President Obama. Though it was one of his first promises, ultimately it remains open. Your thoughts?

REP. JOHN LEWIS: I think we must close it. It is a blight on the conscience and the soul of America. We need to do it, and we need to do it now.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s stopping President Obama from fulfilling his promise?

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Well, I think he needs help and support from the Congress, but he could, in my estimation, issue an executive order and just make it happen, just do it.

AMY GOODMAN: And the war in Afghanistan, your position on the surge and how the U.S. will get out of Afghanistan?

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Well, I am opposed to war. I think war is obsolete as a tool of our foreign policy. We need to bring all of our young men and our young women home and put an end to the violence abroad.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think President Obama should not have escalated the war and should stop it now?

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Well, I do not, and I did not, and I do not now, support the escalation of the war. We must stop it and end it now.

AMY GOODMAN: Congress member John Lewis, thanks very much for being with us, Democrat from Georgia. He’s speaking to us from the Capitol Rotunda, senior Democratic chief deputy whip, chairs the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, though that will change. Final question, Congress member Lewis, and that is, your colleague, Congress member Rangel, who has just been convicted on ethics charges by the Ethics Committee in the House. Your thoughts?

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Well, it is very sad to see this happen to a friend and a colleague, my former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. But the members of the committee have spoken. And it would be revealed, I would guess, within the next few hours or next few days what will be the punishment.

AMY GOODMAN: Thanks for being with us, Congress member Lewis.

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Well, thank you very much for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you.

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