Those On The Left Want Obama To Join Them

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There are many groups and individuals who would like to see President Obama's administration move further to the left. Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York tells Steve Inskeep that his constituents think the president has done a lot so far, but there are some decisions they don't agree with.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We're going to hear more, this morning, from those who'd like to nudge President Obama's administration a bit to the left. Yesterday, we met an activist pressing Democrats not to negotiate away too much on health care or climate change.

Mr. JUSTIN RUBEN (MoveOn.org): In four years, people are going to judge this president on whether he was able to deliver real change.

INSKEEP: That's Justin Ruben of MoveOn.org. This morning we'll hear from a long time member of Congress, Jerrold Nadler represents a district in New York City, parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Congressman, welcome to the program.

Representative JERROLD NADLER (Democrat, New York): Good morning.

INSKEEP: Do you hear from people in your district who think the president isn't going far enough?

Rep. NADLER: Oh, sure.

INSKEEP: How do they express that?

Rep. NADLER: I think most people understand that this president has accomplished a lot and this Congress has accomplished a lot in a short period of time, but that there are some things that remain to be desired.

For instance, on health care, people are very concerned that the president's support of the public option in health care. The leadership of the Democratic House says - the Senate's a little more ambivalent - and people are insistent that there be a public option on health care.

A lot of people would prefer, as I would, the single payer system, but that's not unfortunately on the table. But at least to make sure that there's a public option. And people are a little leery whether the administration's going to press that hard enough. And I'm beginning to think it will. There's also criticism of the president, some criticism I should say, that his economic policies aren't bold enough. The stimulus bill should have been much bigger, I thought so.

And finally the other criticism I hear in some parts of the district is that it's good that the president has reversed the Bush policy and we're not going to torture people anymore, but on the other hand, the administration hasn't expressed itself on issues like state secrets.

INSKEEP: On that last issue I should mention that's an issue where you have differed with the Obama administration because the president has indicated that he'd like to move on from the past, not do a lot of investigations of things that happened…

Rep. NADLER: Well, that's a separate issue. I was going to come to that.

INSKEEP: Okay.

Rep. NADLER: That's the question of investigating illegal actions on the part of the government in the last several years.

INSKEEP: Um-hum.

Rep. NADLER: Illegal actions and violating the FISA Act by wire tapping or going further, illegal actions in terms of torturing people or kidnapping them, and so forth, which were clearly illegal. Now the president has indicated that we should look forward, not backward. Any president's going to be tempted by that, but I think it's important to reestablish the rule of law and to make sure that people in the future who are tempted to violate the law, in the name of the higher good in their opinion, realize that you can't do that.

INSKEEP: And you felt that I cut you off a bit there on state secrets. You're concerns…

Rep. NADLER: Well, state secrets is a different issue. It's as important or more important, but it's a different issue, and this issue is - we'll start back one step. If the government violates your rights in any way, if it breaks into your house and seizes your papers, it kidnaps you, it tortures you, whatever, what are your remedies? There's an old maxim law that says there's no right without a remedy. We have the Bill of Rights. If the government violates your rights, what are your remedies?

Well, your main remedy is you can sue the government. But if, once you file the lawsuit, the government can come into court and simply move to dismiss the case on the grounds that hearing the case, just trying the case will necessitate the revelation of state secrets, and sight unseen the court will grant that motion then there is no remedy.

INSKEEP: I was talking the other day with an acquaintance whose politics might be described as progressive or liberal, certainly someone who voted for Obama, he was disappointed with a bunch of the issues that you mentioned, hearing disappointment from your constituents about and even added another one that he felt that the climate change legislation that has passed the House doesn't go nearly far enough. And he summed it all up by saying this is not the president that I voted for. I'd like…

Rep. NADLER: I think on climate change, certainly, that's not fair. On climate change, the president pushed a very good bill. The bill we passed was not nearly as good a bill, although I voted for it, it was not nearly as good a bill as the one the president pursued, but you know, you have to get 218 votes. And we passed as strong of a bill as they could assemble a collation for.

INSKEEP: Well, as you make the sausage, so to speak, is there a significant enough pool of liberal discontent out there that you think the White House is going to have a problem with it at some point?

Rep. NADLER: No. No, I don't. I - well depending what happens in the future, if the White House does not press for a good public option in the health insurance bill, which it is doing now, but if it were to reverse course, if it keeps going in the wrong direction on state secrets, if it presses a prevented detention bill of some sort, then yeah, there'll be more liberal discontent.

So I think, you know, the administration has been in office for all of five months at this point. You have to realize that. It's not as if the Bush administration is ancient history. It's five months ago and, you know, a lot will determine what happens in the next year and a half obviously as with any administration.

INSKEEP: Congressman Jerrold Nadler is a Democrat from New York City. Thanks very much.

Rep. NADLER: You're quite welcome.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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