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September 4, 2008 / Media / Podcast / Politics / Fort Greene / Perspective / The Politicrasher
►Video

Small ‘Towns’; Longtime Rep. is clueless on foreign policy

The Brooklyn Paper
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A lot of people put members of Congress on a pedestal, as if those 435 people are august statesmen in the mold of Roman senators or minor Greek gods.

So when Rep. Ed Towns came to our offices last month to seek the endorsement of our editorial board, the junior members of our staff were clearly charmed by the 26-year incumbent, acting as if the congressman was being carried in on a golden bier raised high by smiling lackeys.

And then Towns spoke — and the image of a lawmaker as a God-like figure immediately evaporated.

In all my years of covering politics, I have never encountered an incumbent as ill-informed as Towns. If you listen to Towns in our interview (posted at BrooklynPaper.com, you’ll hear a man who was as baffled by our questions on foreign policy as a first-year international relations student … at a junior college … in an economically disadvantaged country.

The tape is worth listening to. It’s pretty rare for the public to actually hear their elected representatives in unscripted moments. The reason? When these guys go off-script, they tend to talk nonsense.

Case in point: We asked Towns about the Russian invasion of Georgia last month. Here’s what he said:

“I think that in most cases, if you sit down and you negotiate, you usually can work things out. War, it [pause] does so much damage, not only to a country and a people in terms of resources, and all those kind of things, and so I just feel bad that the United States really is not in strong position, you know, to get in there and negotiate, because, you know, we’re so thin.”

That seemed vague, so we probed further. Towns did not:

“Well, you know, in terms of, you know, I think that you have to recognize that any time you have conflict, you have the United Nations, which has its role, to be able to negotiate, to be able to resolve. And the United States is number one in terms of being the big stick. I think that the United States should have been able to step in and to be able to provide the kind of leadership and be able to negotiate, but we’re not able to do it. So therefore, I just think that it’s a bad situation, a bad time, and I just want you to know, that I think that war is something that should be the last of the last of the last of the last of everything.”

Then we asked him about recent U.S. saber-rattling in Poland.

After a long pause, Towns said, “I’m not familiar with that one.”

So we reminded Towns that the story had been widely reported in many media, how the United States, in an apparent show of force against a newly emboldened Russia, had inked a deal with Poland to establish a missile interceptor site.

And Towns said again, “I’m not familiar with it, I’m sorry. I’m not familiar with that one.”

Now, I’m the kind of guy who prefers his foreign affairs as one-night stands with Belarusian waitresses in Brighton Beach, but even I found Towns’s answers in the foreign policy segment of our interview inexcusable.

In a separate interview with The Brooklyn Paper editorial board, Towns’s opponent Kevin Powell also seemed naive about the ways of the world. But Powell has the excuse of being a rookie. Towns is a sitting member of Congress — one who chairs a government appropriations subcommittee. Does he really have no knowledge about such important issues of national security?

Apparently, he does not. When we asked him about the War in Iraq, his position shifted sometimes within the same sentence.

“I think the threat from Iraq is a real one,” he started, gamely. “[But] we need to find a way to stop spending this money. I mean, this is really ridiculous. This is just crazy. And you know it.”

But when we asked what he’d do about it, he didn’t have a clue.

“So what you’re saying is, we shouldn’t do anything about Iraq?” asked Brooklyn Paper Publisher Ed Weintrob.

“Not at the present time,” Towns said. “My problem is that, all right, for the United States’ concern, I think every waking hour should be devoted to how to get out. … We need to involve the United Nations. I mean, the UN is there. You know, I think, what’s the purpose of it? Why is it there?”

Perhaps Ed Towns should be asking the same question about himself.

Wherever there is a smoke-filled backroom or a smoke-free barroom, The Brooklyn Paper’s Politicrasher will be there, bringing you the inside dope on our next generation of leaders. Got a hot tip for the Politicrasher? E-mail Newsroom@BrooklynPaper.com.
Updated 5:08 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Javier from East NY says:
I think that Towns' lack of knowledge on foreign policy is nearly in-step with the BP's lack of knowledge that they displayed by endorsing Powell. Ed Towns is certainly not the greatest congressional candidate on earth, but how can anyone honestly make an argument that it would be a good idea to replace Towns with Powell at this point? That would be so destructive to Brooklyn it's actually scary. Just because we want change in congress doesn't mean that we have to elect an unqualified candidate filled with empty promises. The BP even printed this article: http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/31/35/31_35_bm_powell_towns.html
I can't believe that that article comes from the same publication that endorses the guy.
Sept. 4, 2008, 11:04 am
Joel from Williamsburg says:
Daniel Squadron has the endorsment of almost all the williamsburg Leaders and newspapers this week. folks we need fresh blood. The comming years will see budget cuts because of lower goverment incomes . We need young Fresh faces that have no old liabilities to fight for our rights...Lets all come out en mass and vote Daniel Squadron 2008
Sept. 5, 2008, 11:43 am
JennyGirl3 from Williamsburg says:
I hear Kevin Powell isn't even allowed to be running right now, issues with the FEC and all anyway. It's a sad commentary that the BP would rather Brooklyn elect an arrogant, unproven, violent, sloppy and disrespectful candidate over Towns. Towns may not be perfect but at least he delivers for Brooklyn.
Sept. 5, 2008, 8:38 pm
GetReal from Bedford Stuyvesant says:
This is a pretty one sided argument. So because they are against Towns they are automatically for Kevin Powell? Do we really want an inexperienced part-time Brooklyn resident as our Congressman? Get Real: Kevin Powell is clueless. What politian holds a town hall meeting during the first night of the DNC convention and only answers questions with other questions? If he had a clue, he would have been in Denver attempting to network with people who can really get things done in Washington. Kevin Powell is a hoop dream running on with a change slogan, trying to emulate Obama, too bad he's far from him.
Sept. 8, 2008, 10:53 am
Brian from Crown Heights says:
While I'm no Towns supporter, this column is clearly slanted. OK, the guy doesn't know about the Polish missile interceptor site. So what? Why didn't Mr. Politicrasher, who enjoys the distinct intellectual benefit of hailing from an economically advantaged country, ask Mr. Towns about some LOCAL issues? Like the economy, jobs, housing? How about asking Kevin Powell some of these questions? Powell is not only an inexperienced opportunist, as GetReal states, he is an abuser of women, which is a matter of public record. Unfortunately, this appears to be a choice between bad and worse.
Sept. 8, 2008, 11:18 am

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