“President Trump will go down in history as one of our worst presidents.” — Rep. Eliot Engel
First Published by Yonkers Times on June 23, 2018
We recently interviewed Congressman Eliot Engel, who we now call “Westchester’s Congressman,” because he now represents 60 percent of Westchester in Washington, D.C., from the 16th District.
Engel spoke about his upcoming Democratic primary, President Donald Trump, and the future of the country in our wide-ranging interview.
Question: You have two Democratic opponents in the upcoming primary June 26. Why should Democrats vote for you?
Answer: One word – experience. I have had a number of primaries over the years and what I have found is that it is essentially a referendum on the incumbent, me, and I have won every primary challenge because I run on my record. I welcome the challenge, but I run on my record… This job is a two-year contract, and after two years, we ask the voters again for their vote. If they think I’ve done a good job, they re-elect me.
Q: What is your opinion of President Donald Trump, and what have you done to oppose his initiatives?
A: President Trump will go down in history as one of our worst presidents. He has no consistency, is all over the place, and practices fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants diplomacy. Now he goes after Canada, one of our strongest allies. He is supposed to read the secret briefings but he doesn’t. Not reading the classified materials from our intelligence agencies is the wrong way to run a presidency. He is the first president in our history never to have been elected to lower office or serve in the military. The Trump presidency can be summed up in three words: me, myself and I.
I have been consistently speaking out against President Trump at every opportunity. I have access to a different type of briefing; it’s not the same as for the president, but it’s similar. I listen to them and base my opinions on them. The president doesn’t do that.
Q: You will have served for 30 years in the House of Representatives at the end of 2018. How does that experience help the residents of the 18th District?
A: Why would Democrats want to replace a seasoned, experienced representative, with someone who would need on-the-job training and have little clout? I have been named one of the most effective members of Congress (by the Center for Effective Lawmaking). Why start over again with a freshman member?
Q: What are the voters telling you as you campaign for re-election?
A: They are very positive toward me. People know me and it’s important to know who your congressmember is. Constituent services are very important to me, and the residents in our district know that no problem is too big or too small. I also think the people in the district know that regardless of who you are or who you voted for, if you have a problem, I will try to help.
Voters are also talking about the direction of the country, and the tax scam that our president got through Congress, which hurts most middle-income persons and especially those in New York. They are talking about health care, which I believe should be a right and not a privilege. They are talking about gun control and all of the shootings we see across the country.
These are all issues that I am also concerned about. Your issues are my issues; this relationship between us has been a perfect fit. You don’t get re-elected so many times if you are not doing a good job. I think the people are content.
Q: Do you think Democrats will take back the House this November?
A: I do think that we will take back the House this year. I have been around for three previous
“wave elections” (in 1994, 2006 and 2010), and you have that feeling again, this time with all of the enthusiasm on the Democratic side. Democrats are fed up with Trump and the way the country is going. When the Democratic base is energized they can’t be stopped, and I see that enthusiasm all the time when I’m out campaigning and meeting voters.
I believe we are going to carry the House, and the Senate will be close. I hope we can also retake the Senate so that we can stop some of the judicial appointments President Trump has been making. He is filling the courts with radicals, way beyond conservatives.
Republicans wouldn’t allow President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, to get a hearing. They wanted the new president to pick.
Q: Wait, the Republicans claimed that historically, in the last year of a president’s term, that president does not get to nominate and place a justice on the Supreme Court.
A: That part of history doesn’t exist – they made it up. And instead of Justice Garland, we have Justice Gorsich. It’s a disgrace. There’s a lot hanging on this election – our children’s and grandchildren’s futures included.
Q: We know you are the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and that if the Democrats retake the House, you would serve as chairman. But what else would change at home in the district?
A: I have served almost 30 years in Congress, 20 will have been in the minority. And because I have been in the minority, this district has been disadvantaged. To have an opportunity to lead with our fellow Democrats in the majority in the House would mean more federal money coming into the district and everyone would benefit. For that reason, why would you get rid of somebody with so much seniority and experience and bring in a freshman who would have to serve for another 30 years to match me?