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Patrick Murphy. 

An Interview with Patrick Murphy
Candidate for Congress

Patrick Murphy is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House from Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional District, which includes Bucks County, portions of Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia. A graduate of Widener Law School, he taught constitutional law at the United States Military Academy at West Point and worked in the Philadelphia District Attorney's office. A decorated Iraqi war veteran, Captain Murphy served in Baumholder, Germany; Tzla, Bosnia-Herzogovnia, and from 2003 to 2004 in Iraq as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, where he advised on offensive operations and initiated reconstruction efforts within the Iraqi justice system. He earned the Bronze Star for his service and his unit earned the Presidential Unit Citation. He currently practices law at Cozen O'Connor. The following are excerpts from an interview with Patrick Murphy that took place on September 14, 2006. 

• PJV:  You've been a teacher, a lawyer and a warrior. How do you think those skills and experiences will serve you as a member of Congress? 

Those skills are especially important right now because we are at war and we have an education crisis in our country. We need to be more competitive in the world, and that means improving our educational system. In 2004, when I was a professor at West Point, for the first time more patents were registered in the U.S. by foreign scientists, inventors and engineers than by American ones. In the meantime, the Republican Congress cut $12.7 billion from the student loan program and failed to fully fund the "No Child Left Behind" program. We need leaders in Congress who have stood in front of a classroom, who understand the needs of teachers and students, and who are ready to support education.

• PJV:  You've articulated a plan for getting the U.S. out of Iraq. Could you give us some of the details?

We need to refocus our efforts on securing our home front and bringing Osama bin Laden to justice. That means turning over the job of maintaining Iraq's security to the Iraqis. My plan calls for redeploying the majority of troops over a twelve-month period. The first wave would be approximately 50,000 Guard and Reserve troops, followed by another 50,000 active duty troops. That would leave a smaller force of between 20,000 to 30,000 to serve as a strategic strike force that could continue to train Iraqi forces and serve as a deterrent to possible Iranian aggression. 

• PJV:  How would this plan help a democratic society emerge in Iraq?

It is already emerging. They have had two elections, and they passed a constitution. Now we need a timeline that will force the Iraqis to take responsibility for their future. Without that timeline, too many of them will remain on the sidelines. They have to take the rein, and that is why we need people in Congress who have served in Iraq, who actually know what is going on there and who can tell the president, from a position of experience, that it is time for a new direction in Iraq.

• PJV:  But elections are only a tool of democracy. You still need to have democratic institutions and a population that understands that they are ultimately responsible for governing themselves. What is value of elections when the parties you have elected maintain their own militias? 

We did not have enough troops on the ground to maintain security once Baghdad fell and we did not respond aggressively enough against various Iraqi insurgents and militias. As a consequence, we have all this sectarian violence, but my point is the same: There is no military solution to this problem, at least not one that the U.S. can implement. We have to turn over the job of building democratic institutions in Iraq to the Iraqis. It will not be easy and it will not happen overnight, but it is a job that they have to do themselves. My redeployment plan, which uses a conservative twelve-month timeline, will give them the chance to do that.

• PJV:  Some have argued that the war in Iraq has had a negative impact on Israel's security by allowing Iran's influence in the area to grow. As an example, they point to Iran's support of Hezbollah. What is your take on this argument? 

I think there is validity to that point, and what makes the situation worse is the administration's inability to engage directly with Iran. We need to be able to engage with the countries in the region if we want to help build stability there. 

• PJV:  What do you say to Jewish Democrats who back the party's stand on domestic issues, but who feel that Israel's security is best served by having Republicans in Congress?

The fact is, I've met with many Jewish voters in my district who have become increasingly discouraged and disheartened by the administration's policies. Having served in the Middle East, I have a unique understanding of the critical importance of America's special relationship to Israel, a relationship that is built on shared values, on freedom and democracy. Other Democratic candidates for Congress with military experience, like Joe Sestak, who's running in the 7th district, have a similar appreciation of that relationship. We know first hand that our commitment to Israel's security must be steadfast and unwavering.

• PJV:  How do you square your Catholic faith with your pro-choice stand on abortion rights?

I am a man of faith, but it is not my job to legislate that faith. I believe in the separation of church and state. My opponent, for example, has voted against legislation that would have prevented religious groups that receive federal funds from discriminating in their hiring practices on a religious basis, and as someone who has taught constitutional law, I believe that Americans have a constitutional right to privacy, a right that extends to reproductive choice.

• PJV:  What do you think is the most important domestic issue our country currently faces, and what is your approach to dealing with it?

In a broad sense, it is fiscal responsibility because that affects our entire economy. You may have heard about the pork barrel project that allocated $500,000 for a teapot museum in North Carolina, and while the Republican-controlled Congress is passing out the pork, they are not fully funding veterans benefits and not fully funding education. We need to balance the budget and that means having a pay-as-you-go system. If Americans have to balance their checkbooks, the Federal government should have to balance its checkbook.

• PJV:  What about making America more energy independent?

We absolutely need to take a comprehensive approach to satisfying our energy needs that frees us from our current dependence on foreign oil. I applaud efforts like Senator Barack Obama's "Healthcare For Hybrids" program, where the government would partner with auto manufacturers to reduce their retiree healthcare costs and the auto makers use the money they save to transition to making more fuel-efficient cars. We also need to develop alternative energy sources like solar and wind. In fact, here in Bucks Country, we are opening a wind turbine factory. The answer is not to drill in ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Reserve), which my opponent favors.

• PJV:  Why has the national media focused so much attention on the congressional races in suburban Philadelphia: you versus Mike Fitzpatrick (R) in the 8th district, Lois Murphy (D) running against Jim Gerlach (R) in the 6th, and Joe Sestak (D) and Curt Weldon (R) in the 7th?

Because the voters in those districts, like voters across the country, have become increasingly disappointed with the lack of leadership Republican incumbents have demonstrated. They are upset that these politicians have followed in lock step with the president and, as a result, we are $8 trillion in debt, we have got instability in Iraq, we have no policy for energy independence, and we have millions of Americans without any health insurance. They want change; they want accountability; they want a new direction.

Interview by Charles Smolover

Previous Interviews

  • October 2006: Patrick Murphy, who is running for Congress in Pennsylvania's 8th district.
  • September 2006: Alan Schlesinger, Republican Senate candidate in Connecticut.
  • August 2006: Peter Edelman, President of the New Israel Fund
  • July 2006: Joe Sestak, who is running for Congress in Pennsylvania's 7th district.
  • June 2006: Rep. Steve Israel, from New York's 2nd district.
  • May 2006: Charles Smolover, Vice-President of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice
  • April 2006: Ira Forman, Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Committee
  • March 2006: Alan Sandals, candidate in the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate
  • February 2006: Matthew Brooks, Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition
  • January 2006: Rep. Chaka Fattah from Pennsylvania's 2nd district
  • December 2005: Rep. Jim Gerlach who is running for reelection in Pennsylvania's 6th district.
  • November 2005: Gov. Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee
  • October 2005: Bob Casey candidate in the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate.
  • September 2005: Pennsylvania State Representative Daylin Leach.
  • August 2005: Lois Murphy who is running for Congress in Pennsylvania's 6th district.
  • July 2005: Chuck Pennacchio candidate in the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate.