Trivedi and Gerlach Speak On Wide Range of Issues

Publisher Dan Loeb speaks with Congressman Jim GerlachDr. Daniel Loeb

Every election year since 2006, Temple Beth Hillel Beth El’s Israel Advocacy Committee, Men’s Club and Sisterhood invite the Congressional Candidates for Pennsylvania’s 6th district  to speak to the community, and this year was no exception. Incumbant Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach was followed by his Democratic challenger Dr. Manan Trivedi as they both addressed the crowd and took questions on a wide range of issues.

As was the case in the first debate between Gerlach and Trivedi, there was a small incident before the beginning of the event as the Gerlach campaign asked that the event not be filmed, and all recording equipment was removed. The second debate was televised and can be seen on the PCN website. This forum was not a debate format as the candidates appeared sequentially.

Israel


Both candidates spoke passionately of their support for the Jewish State. As a decorated veteran Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy, Trivedi said

“I was ready to die for Israel because that is what allies do for each other.”

Both candidates were pessimistic about the current peace negotiations. Gerlach said he “saw no signs of a breakthrough there”. Trivedi blamed the Palestinian leadership “We need someone who can come to the negotiating table without preconditions.” Gerlach cited “Gaza’s extreme poverty and lack of educational opportunities which fosters hatred of Israel.” He added that the neighboring Arab countries could do something about the situation in Gaza but they are not interested.

More after the jump.
Trivedi cautioned that we should let Israel take the lead in the peace process. The United States he said “can facilitate, but should not take over” or “draw borderlines”, adding that he was “still waiting for a Palestinian Authority which can deliver on its promises.”  

Trivedi spoke of his Indian heritage which gives him reason to be vigilant yet optimistic. His family and friends who were affected by the terrorist attack last year in Mumbai remind him of the danger posed by terrorist groups like al Qaeda and Hamas who Trivedi insisted we “cannot negotiate with”. Yet he also recalled lessons from his parents’ hometown in India.  Ahmedabad was a city plagued by rioting between its Hindi and Muslim communities following the independence and partition of India in 1947, but the Indian government seeded economic development, and once everyone was more secure financially, suddenly they were less concerned with religious differences with their neighbors.

Gerlach responded to a hypothetical situation proposed by Steve Feldman (Director of the ZOA in Philadelphia) in which the administration were to impose a particular peace proposal by a fixed deadline. “Israel needs to make its own determination of what is a good agreement that it can sign on to. If Obama moves beyond that we can use the appropriations process – the power of the purse.”

Gerlach concluded

“There is strong bipartisan support for the State of Israel, and I imagine this will continue.”

Iran

Both candidates praised the recently passed Iran sanctions. Gerlach was disappointed that Obama has not yet employed the full range of sanctions available. Trivedi concurred. He saw the Iranian sanctions were having a real effect, but he said we need to implement all of the available the sanctions as quickly as possible since “centrifuges do not wait for negotiations.” A questioner asked how he would respond to military action by Israel and Iran. Trivedi said all options have to be on the table including the military option, adding that

“The only thing worse than the military option is a nuclear Iran.”

Afghanistan

The former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev recently warned that winning a war in Afghanistan is impossible. Gerlach was asked how he would vote on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Gerlach said “I would have to vote ‘no’ because I want to hear from General [David] Petraeus” who is reviewing the United States’ strategy in the region. Gerlach doubted whether Hamid Karzai’s government could stand long without our support.

Trivedi disagreed with Obama’s “surge” of 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan. “I do not think they will cure the ills of Afghanistan.” Trivedi added that he does not trust the Karzai government, and he lamented Obama’s failure to address the opium problem in his “surge speech” since the opium drug trade is endemic to many of the problems in Afghanistan and has corrupted the Karzai administration. Trivedi observed from his experience in Iraq:

“The Military has smart power: nurses, engineers, …

“We can facilitate nation building but we can not impose democracy. It has to well up from within.”

Party Loyalty and Extremism

Both candidates tried to distance themselves from the leadership of their parties.

Manan Trivedi said he did not support Obama’s support of Human Rights initiatives in Israel, applying the Nuclear Non-proliferation ban to Israel or Biden’s insistence of a housing freeze in Jerusalem. Trivedi criticized the implementation of the stimulus bill, disagreed with the surge in Afghanistan and felt that the health reform bill did not address costs.

Trivedi concluded

I will take a good idea whether it comes from a tea party supporter or a left-winger or anything in between. We need a new breed of leaders who have no political chips to cash in.


Matt Hirsch asked Gerlach if there were any issues on which he disagreed with Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner. He cited several votes where he opposed the Bush administration: Overriding Bush’s veto of S-CHIP and supporting stem cell research. In fact, during Gerlach’s first three terms he built a moderate record by voting strategically: voting with his party when his vote was needed and voting with his moderate district when it was not. In this Congress, the Republicans have insisted of party discipline in order to avoid giving a hint of bipartisanship to legislation passed by the Democrats. Accordingly, the Philadelphia Jewish Voice followed up and asked for a more recent example where Gerlach opposed his leadership in the last two years. Gerlach said he supported his leadership on all of the major pieces of legislation: namely in opposing the stimulus package, health-insurance reform and cap-and-trade energy policy. Indeed Gerlach has been much more consistent lately in voting with his leadership though he did vote last July to extend unemployment benefits opposed by the Republican leadership.

Gerlach was also asked to comment on the impact of the tea party movement. Gerlach cited several local tea party groups who he said were “very engaged”. He praised them for “stepping up as citizens” and said “this is a good thing”.

Neither candidate eluded to alleged excesses in the tea party such as racism, rejection of principals such as civil rights or the Separation of Church and State, violence against Lauren Valle in Tennessee and the “citizens arrest” of a reporter in Alaska.

Tax Cuts

The 2001 and 2003 Bush taxes cuts expire at the end of this year. Unless Congress takes action during the lame-duck session or takes retroactive action next year, tax rates will revert to the levels they were at during the Reagan and Clinton administrations. For the richest Americans this would raise their marginal tax rate from 35.0% to 39.6%.

Jim Gerlach said that he along with the entire Republican caucus and “about 50 moderate Democrats” in the House of Representatives favor making the Bush tax cuts permanent. He doubted whether Pelosi would have the political strength to address this issue during the lame-duck session following the upcoming mid-term election. Gerlach also wanted to address the Alternative Minimum Tax which was never indexed and is catching more and more middle-class Americans.

Gerlach’s campaign was distributing “fact sheets” at the synagogue claiming that “Manan Trivedi opposes extending tax relief which will result in the largest tax increase in American history, roughly $2,000 per Pennsylvania family,” but in reality Trivedi  “supports extending tax cuts for all but the über-wealthy.” Trevedi said we needed to return to the old rates only for the portion of taxable income exceeding $250,000 per year. Keeping those tax breaks would cost Americans 700 billion dollars which Trivedi said “we cannot afford.” Economists have observed that tax breaks focused on the richest 2% of Americans “will not stimulate the economy” since “we have a demand side problem not a supply side problem.”

Spending

The Federal Budget for the new fiscal year has not yet been passed so the government is acting under a Continuing Resolution until December 3. Gerlach doubted the new budget would be passed in the lame-duck session but was confident that another Continuing Resolution would be passed to avoid a government shutdown before the new Congress could act on the budget in January.


Gerlach said “the current deficit spending is 20% of gross domestic production whereas historical it has been around 18 to 19%.” In reality, the deficit was 9.91% at the end of last year and it will grow to 10.64% based on the proposed budget which is less than the figure Jim Gerlach cited but still well above deficits seen since the end of World War II.

To solve this problem, Gerlach intends to draw on his experience as a State legislator where the budget had to be balanced. “Only the Federal government does not have a balanced budget requirement”. Calling the current situation “unsustainable”, Gerlach called for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution with exception in times of war or other national emergency similar to that proposed in during the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration. Similar amendments failed to pass the House by the required two-thirds majority in 1982, 1997 and 2005. Once the amendment passes Congress, it would then have to be ratified by 38 states before going into effect.

Gerlach was asked specifically what he would cut in order to balance the budget since entitlements, the military and interest make up 84% of the budget. Gerlach said that all areas of spending have to be under consideration including Medicare and Social Security. Gerlach also pledged to look at defense spending as well.

Manan Trivedi countered that “we need to cut spending, but we need to do it with a surgical knife, not a sledgehammer.”

From Trivedi’s experience in the military, he agrees with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that we need to be more efficient and eliminate unneeded weapon systems. In Iraq, Trivedi saw contractors paid five times more to do half of the work of an enlisted serviceman.

Trivedi called Washington DC an “evidence-free zone” suggesting that by observation we can fund best-practices and drive costs down for a wide range of government programs.

Trivedi sees getting the economy back on track as critical to reestablishing fiscal discipline. Trivedi’s jobs plan will eliminate the 260 billion dollar loophole for companies that ship job oversees.  His jobs plan features tax incentives for small businesses which he called “the motor of our economy.”

Trivedi emphasized stimulating sectors of the economy which have a ripple effect and will provide long-term benefits for the economy. One example was the clean energy economy. Trivedi said we should work on smart grid, wind turbine and solar power technologies. “We are not doing the things the Chinese are doing, and they are going to be the leaders” in green technology and not us if we do not step up to the plate. Similarly, Trivedi wants to invest in infrastructure such as tunnels, roads and light rail here in the Sixth Congressional District and around the country in order to provide jobs right now and continue to create jobs in the future.

Health Care

Gerlach was asked if he would defund the Health-Insurance Reform which he voted against. He said he favored repealing the bill and replacing it with a new one without the “onerous new taxes.” (Gerlach did not explain how he would overcome the anticipated Presidential veto in order to repeal the bill.) Gerlach emphasized buying insurance across state-lines and working on tort reform as a way to drive down costs. He would also work to slow down and delay implementation of certain provision of the Health-Insurance Reform Bill. He did not expect an immediate solution, and expects this to remain an issue for next several administrations.

Trivedi looked at ease on the subject of Health Care and spoke with expertise not only as a battalion surgeon and as a primary care physician, but also as an expert on Health Policy. He received a Masters degree from UCLA in Health Policy and went on to serve as health policy advisor to the Navy Surgeon General and was an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences.

Gerlach’s handout claimed Trivedi supported a “socialized single-payer medicine scheme.” However, Trivedi denied the allegation.

Trivedi said the Health-Insurance Reform bill was not perfect: it did not address costs and it was too long, but he would have voted for it because it was a step in the right direction. He compared it to other pieces of landmark legislation (such as civil rights legislation which still left many people unable to vote). These bills aspire to historic change but need to be improved over time.

Trivedi rejected repealing the bill as a step in the wrong direction.

“It would cost millions of dollars when we need to balance the budget. This would reintroduce insurance companies into the doctor-patient relationship. This would eliminate guaranteed coverage for those with preexisting conditions.”

Trivedi gave one of his own patients as an example who was unable to obtain coverage even though she was cancer-free because her medical files mentioned the word “cancer”.

To contain costs, Trivedi said we need evidence-based health policy to help drive down costs since “30% of medical treatment makes no difference in outcomes.”

Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El’s Rabbi Neil Cooper asked Manan Trivedi about coverage for mental health. Trivedi answered that “mental health is part and parcel of health care.” He lamented that mental health care has been unfairly stigmatized for generations and as a result post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had not been treated as pro-actively as it should. During his work with the Navy’s Surgeon General, Trivedi drew on his own experience with combat medicine to become one of the early researchers to investigate the unique mental health issues affecting our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Israel Action Committee chairman Lee Bender concluded the event by urging everyone to get out and vote next Tuesday.

Gerlach: Building Mosque “Just Like” Protesting at Military Funerals


Republican Congressman Equates Building the Park 51 Mosque with Fred Phelps’ Hate Group Picketing Funerals of American Servicemen and Descrating the American Flag

At last night’s debate, Main Line Reform Temple’s Rabbi David Straus asked Congressional Candidates Jim Gerlach (R) and Manan Trivedi (D) how they stood on the question of the whether the Park 51 Community Center and Mosque should be built in New York City on the site of a former Burlington Coat Factory story on a side street two and a half blocks from the site of the World Trade Center.

While Manan Trivedi thought this was an issue left for New Yorkers to decide, he said

I fought in Iraq to defend the Constitution, and one of the rights in the Constitution is for religious freedom, and that was what they were doing up in New York when they proposed to build that mosque. These are some of the rights that were in the Constitution, and that’s a principle I stand behind.”

As a Marine, Trivedi put himself in danger to protect those freedoms for all of us whether Jew, Christian, Hindi or Muslim.

On the other hand, Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach said that those who build such a mosque are just like Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps: Gerlach observes that one has the right to build a mosque, or show up at a military funeral desecrating the American flag and carrying signs such as “God hates fags”, “Thank God for dead soldiers”, “God hates Israel”, and “Jews killed Jesus”. However, Gerlach argues “Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.”

The Park 51 project calls for a “green certified building” to serve as a “center for multifaith dialog and engagement”. The Cordoba initiative leader and moderate Imam, Feisal Abdul-Rauf, has justly been recognized as a courageous and eloquent leader in improving relations between Islam and other faiths. In fact, he was Bush’s partner for Middle East peace and helped the FBI with its counter-terrorism efforts.

On the other hand, Fred Phelps and his extended family are engaging in hate speech. It is not at all clear whether anti-Gay, anti-Semitic and anti-American rhetoric spat in the face of the mourners of our fallen heros is guaranteed under the Constitution as “free speech”. In fact, the Supreme Court will soon be ruling on this case.

For those unfamiliar with Snyder v. Phelps, the backstory is as follows: Snyder was burying his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in a Humvee accident while stationed in Iraq. One thousand feet away stood members of the “church,” which protests just about everywhere, spreading the message of God’s hate for Matthew and his fellow soldiers as well as the entire world. They were carrying signs such as “Thank God for IEDs,” “Fags die, God laughs,” et cetera; Al Snyder said they also carried the sign “Matt in Hell.” In addition, they posted a poem on their website claiming that Snyder and his wife “raised [Matthew] for the devil,” taught him “to commit adultery” and that “God killed Matthew so that His servants would have an opportunity to preach His words. …”

Al Snyder, who became violently ill after reading this and watching the coverage of the protest later, filed a lawsuit claiming defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Snyder claims that this is not so much a free speech issue as a harassment issue. This is about deliberately engaging in psychological torture and, as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “exploiting a private family’s grief.”

Drawing any sort of equivalency between these two groups shows a lack of a clear moral compass on Gerlach’s part. Treating a moderate Imam as if he was one of the 9/11 terrorists instead of a key ally in our efforts to isolate the extremists in the Muslim community is unfair, racist, immoral and jeapordizes the security of our nation
Rabbi Straus continued with a question about the Tea Party. Trivedi said the group espoused “dangerous ideas for our country”, while Gerlach was appreciative of the efforts of the local Tea Party groups and considered them preferable to MoveOn.org which he denounced as a extreme left-wing organization.

Unlike the Chester County debate, the Gerlach campaign agreed to let the debate be televised. It was carried live by PCN.

Hands Off Social Security

Advisory for: September 2, 2010

Contact: Beverly Hahn 610-275-7665  

Rep. Joe Sestak and Dr. Manan Trivedi Get “A” on Report Cards during Hands Off Social Security! Presentation

Promise to Oppose Benefit Cuts and Privatization Wins Grade from Local members of Democracy for America, MoveOn.org, Credo Action, Campaign for America’s Future, PennACTION, United Food and Commercial Workers – Local 1776, and SEIU; Pat Toomey and Rep. Gerlach Don’t Earn High Grades
On Thursday, September 2, 2010, local members of Democracy for America, MoveOn.org, and PennACTION are holding a Hands Off Social Security presentation in which they will deliver Social Security report cards to the U.S. Senatorial candidates in PA and the U.S. Congressional candidates in PA-6.  Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak earned an “A” for opposing benefit cuts and privatization while his opponent Pat Toomey received an “F” for wanting to privatize Social Security.  Dr. Manan Trivedi also earned an “A” for opposing benefit cuts and privatization while his opponent Rep. Jim Gerlach received an “Incomplete” for showing a lack of advocacy on this important issue.

Speakers at the press conference are:
Beverly Hahn, local member of Democracy for America
Linda Noble Topf, a counselor and author living with multiple sclerosis
Richard Pasquier, an assistant general counsel to a Fortune 500 company
John Meyerson, Political and Legislative Director, United Food and Commercial Workers #1776

Congress could vote on the future of Social Security this fall.  Voters across the country are asking candidates and members of Congress to support a promise to oppose plans which would undermine Social Security which says:

“Social Security belongs to the people who have worked hard all their lives and contributed to it. Social Security is a promise that must not be broken. If you pay in, then you earn the right to benefits for yourself, your spouse and your dependent children when you retire, experience a severe disability, or die. We need to strengthen Social Security, not cut it. That is why I oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits, including increasing the retirement age. I also oppose any effort to privatize Social Security, in whole or in part.”

New polling shows massive public support for elected leaders who want to defend Social Security and are opposed to measures which would diminish it.

“We’re here today to recognize Rep. Joe Sestak and Dr. Manan Trivedi for wanting to fight to preserve Social Security and let them know that they will receive an “A” from voters this fall. Unfortunately, we are giving Pat Toomey and Rep. Jim Gerlach poor grades for refusing to promise to protect Social Security,” said Beverly Hahn. “Almost 20% of Pennsylvanians rely on Social Security including the elderly, disabled, and children.  Weakening it is nothing short of morally bankrupt.  Social Security has a substantial surplus, and anyone who suggests otherwise is misinformed or distorting the facts.  Voters can choose this November to send to Washington those who are strongly committed to keeping Social Society safe or those who have either shown limp support or have pushed to dismantle it.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Campaigns for Dr. Manan Trivedi

Dr. Manan Trivedi, Congressional candidate for the 6th district; Bonnie Squires, board member of Philadelphia Jewish Voice; and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Bonnie Squires

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz  appeared on behalf of Dr. Manan Trivedi at a morning fundraiser in Merion at the new Town Hall Coffee Company coffee shop.  Wasserman Schultz said that she was there because she and the Democraitc Congressional Campaign Comittee believe that Trivedi can topple Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach in the November election.  Wasserman focused on the need to create jobs and support President Obama’s initiatives, something that her Republican colleagues have refused to do.

The Congresswoman and Lower Merion Democratic and Narberth Democratic Committee co-Chairs Jill Stein and Bill Leopold all turned to their Yiddish roots in search of a suitable words to express their praise for Dr. Manan Trivedi. Wasserman-Schultz recounted how Trivedi proved he was a real mensch when they first met at a Washington DC reception, and Trivedi used his skills as a physician and battalion medical commander to fix up her daughter’s injured foot before introducing himself to her as the candidate here in the 6th district.

She said she looks forward to being our Congresswoman when we retire to her Florida district twenty years from now. In the meantime, she looks forward to saying Mazel Tov to Trivedi on November 3 when he is elected our next Congressman.

Bill Leopold’s eloquent introduction follows the jump.

Dr. Manan Trivedi, Congressional candidate; Bill Leoold, co-chair of the Lower Merion-Narberth Democratic Committee; Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Joanne Fischer; and Jill Stein, co-chair Lower Merion-Narberth Democratic Committee, at the Trivedi fundraiser at the Town Hall Coffee Company.

Bill Leopold:

I want to provide a little bit of local history today, about what has happened since
Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District was gerrimandered by the Republicans in Harrisburg into the bizarre district it still is today. Even the Wikopedia still describes it as being in the shape of a pterodactyl!

In 2002, Dan Wofford ran against Jim Gerlach in a district fashioned specifically for Gerlach… and lost by the incredibly thin margin of 51.4 to 48.6 %. Lois Murphy then lost by two percent in 2004, and by only 1.2% in 2006, and Bob Roggio had a competitive race in 2006.

Now we come to 2010. Debbie Wasserman Shultz is here to support Dr. Manan Trivedi in his race. Like Dr Trivedi, she is a passionate advocate for health care. Her Awareness Requires Learning Young Act was included in the Affordable Healthcare Act for America signed in March 2010. It encourages national education about breast cancer. She was instrumental in passage of the Protect our Children Act, and in passage of the Virginia Graeme Pool & Spa Safety Act, to combat childhood drowning. Also like Manan, she is passionate about providing all needed resources for first responders and for our men and women in uniform.

Dr. Manan Trivedi listens as Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz discusses issues.

And now, as I introduce Manan, I get the right to embarrass him by a few personal words. Manan is personable and friendly while also also being firm and resolute. He is very sharp on all the issues but is actually able to speak in simple English sentences. He has served our country in uniform and learned valuable lessons from the experience. He is a physician and healer, who wants to use his knowledge to improve the system of care as we go forward with implementation of health care reform.

Finally, Manan, I want to provide you with education about a Yiddish word. The

word is mensch. It means “a nice guy,” and also means a person of integrity and honor. Quoting the great sage Leo Rosten in his book The Joys of Yiddish, the word means you are “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character, someone with character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you Manan Trivedi…a real mensch.

An Interview with Manan Trivedi

Dr. Manan Trivedi and his wife Surekha

Democratic Candidate for Congress – Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District

— DocJess

Manan Trivedi
was born and raised in Berks County.

He was the first surgeon on the ground in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, and was on active duty until 2009.
He is currently in private practice in Reading, and lives in Birdsboro. Last April, Manan and Surekha had their first child Sonia Kalpana Trivedi. Trivedi is the Democratic nominee for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District.

His opponent this Fall is Republican incumbent Rep. Jim Gerlach.

Doc Jess from Dem Con Watch met with Trivedi last winter.
Trivedi was incredibly forthcoming as he spoke decisively about the campaign and his stand on the issues.

Pennsylvania's 6th Congressional District



Why are you running?

Manan Trivedi told me that his background is different from most people running for office,
since he is a physician, and not a career politician. He is also a vet,
and wants to give voice to
the needs of the 60,000
vets
in CD-6. He believes that “uniform trumps party.”
He is running because he believes that his perspective, both as a doctor and a vet, would bring a unique perspective to the
Congress.

Health Care

One of the most contentious issues going is that of
health care reform.
Manan Trivedi is a
Single Payer
advocate. He believes that all Americans need access to care,
and is also very concerned with the doctor-patient relationship, which he believes has been co-opted by the current system.
His perspective is that of a doctor.


Afghanistan

Manan Trivedi wants
all the troops out, and believes the escalation was wrong.


Economy

Trivedi feels very strongly that the economy is a big problem.
His approach
is fourfold.

  • He would like to see more small businesses created, especially those tied to health care;
  • he would like for people to take advantage of the financial mess through national service jobs like AmeriCorps
    and the Peace Corps;
  • he sees energy as a source for the future; and
  • he believes that the stimulus program has not been good enough, we need to move towards a solar and wind based energy policy
    that will both move us forward, and will add many jobs.


Israel

Trivedi is a strong supporter of Israel, and believes in a two-state solution.
He believes that Israel has a right to defend itself.
He has never been to Israel, although he would like to go.
He bases his feelings on the situation on his relatives’ experiences in India.
He has relatives in Mumbai who were thankfully unhurt in last year’s bombing.
He knows through his in-laws in Mumbai what it is to live under the threat of terrorism,
and believes that it is no way to live: not in India, not in Israel.


Social Issues

Trivedi supports gay rights and wants the Defense of Marriage Act, and
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repealed.
He is pro-choice
and stands firmly against the Stupak Amendment and any other assault on a woman’s right to choose.


DocJess is active in Chester County Democratic politics, blogs at
Dem Con Watch, and her personal
endorsements can be seen
here.