Edwards Talks to News 3 About Bush, Obama, Economy

Congressman Chet Edwards has a unique perspective on the change of power coming up for the United States.

The Democrat who represents Texas's 17th District not only was a finalist to be President-elect Barack Obama's vice presidential running mate, the current president is a long-time constituent of his.

Friday from Washington, Rep. Edwards discussed George W. Bush, Obama, the country's economic woes and the recent crash of an Army helicopter on Texas A&M's campus with News 3.

On the Congress-authorized release of the second half of the $700 billion bailout, along with a proposed $825 billion stimulus for the economy: "I support the stimulus package because our country is facing the most serious economic situation since the Great Depression.

"It's just critical that we begin to put back to work some of the 11 million Americans that are unemployed, and that number is increasing by 500,000 unemployed every month. If we don't stop that decline in unemployment, actually reduce the increase in unemployment, what's going to happen is that it's going to impact every community in our district as well as throughout the country.

"I think what we have to have is a combination of a short-term stimulus that juices the economy on important programs like roads and transportation and education and improving military hospitals and soldiers' barracks, and then in the long run over the next several years, we've got to start reducing the deficit. You can't balance the budget in a time of two wars and during a recession. That's why we've got to juice the economy right now, but once we're back on solid ground, we've got to begin to bring down the deficit."

On the polls out showing large numbers of Americans upset with the bailout as a whole and the use of the taxpayer money so far: "I agree with the vast majority of our constituents that it's been frustrating to see some of the uses and abuses of the original recovery fund, the first $350 billion.

"I was just outraged to find out Goldman-Sachs gave $11 billion in bonuses over the Christmas season after being bailed out by the taxpayers. At the same time, I think President Bush has made the comment that if it were not for that original bailout stabilizing the banking system, in the short run, we could have had, literally, an abyss in our economy. We could have had a complete meltdown of the capital markets. It would have been impossible for small businesses or college students or others to get loans.

"So despite the anger I share about some of the abuses of that money, I think it has been necessary to take bold steps. The option was to do nothing and to take a Herbert Hoover approach to this recession, and I don't want to turn this recession into a depression."

On whether he's talked to President-elect Obama or his staff about the economic situation: "I haven't talked directly to President-elect Obama. As you well imagine, he has a full schedule, and I have not tried to bother him. I wanted him to stay focused on taking positive steps to get our economy back in shape and to make the key appointments.

"I'll tell you what I'm seeing that's very positive: the reappointment of Bob Gates to continue on as Secretary of Defense, reaching out to Republicans on the stimulus package, saying that Sen. Lieberman shouldn't be punished for campaigning against him.

"I think President-elect Obama has shown he is serious about wanting to change the tone of the debate in Washington and encourage bipartisanship, even as we respect the honest differences out there."

On the legacy of President George W. Bush: "President Bush and I have had a positive personal relationship, and frankly, I think we need more of those bipartisan relationships in Washington, DC.

"In fairness to him, I think we need to step back, wait, take a look at the outcome of the situation in Iraq and the Middle East. His legacy won't be decided for a long time, and it will be the judgment of historians. I think if we were to have stability in Iraq and Afghanistan, that part of the world, then history could look very favorably on his leadership in the White House.

"I guess my greatest single regret is that the policies of the 90s were changed in terms of how we developed the beginnings of four years of surpluses, and I'm disappointed, as President Bush is, about the deficits that have occurred over the last four years.

"But it's hard to judge a president as they leave office. It really takes 10 or 20 years to see what the ultimate impact has been on his term in office."

On what President Bush said about Edwards recently (Click here to read those comments): "I'm very grateful to him for the very gracious comments. President and Mrs. Bush together are two of the most gracious people I've ever known. We have worked respectfully together, and we've respected each other's differences, but we've also worked together on national security and a number of tax cut issues as well.

"To be able to represent the President of the United States in my district...he always kidded and calls me 'my congressman,' and I say, 'my president.' I look forward to at least on weekends and probably more often than that, having President Bush and Mrs. Bush in our district, and I'll try to give them the best service I possibly can."

On the recent Black Hawk crash at Texas A&M: "I chair the House Army caucus and represented Fort Hood for many years and am very involved in defense issues. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Zachary Cook and Charlie Mitts.

"The tragic accident in College Station is just one more reminder that every single day, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but all across the country and the world, there are American servicemen and women who are making incredible sacrifices for our country for the American family, and that even in training, they are risking their lives.

"I hope we can all stop and say a prayer for their families, and once again be grateful to live in a country where so many patriotic Americans are willing to put their lives at risk for all of us."

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