U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak is taking his campaign message from 2006 into his re-election bid this year. That message is that "Security begins at home."The first-term Democrat from the 7th Congressional District of Pennsylvania spoke with Chadds Ford area Democrats Saturday at the Outback restaurant in Glen Eagle Square.
He said he still considers health care, education, and the economy to be the elements of security starting at home, and has added energy and the environment as part of his package.
Sestak spoke only briefly, opting to take questions rather than give a speech.
The first question that came up regarded FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the immunity Pres. Bush wants for telecommunication companies that wiretapped without court issued warrants.
Chadds Ford resident Rob Porter wanted to know how security and civil liberties could be balanced.
Sestak said that nothing has changed since the FISA court came into existence in 1975, that the Constitution still requires the court to issue a warrant. However, the Bush administration decided after 9/11 that there was no need to go to the court for a warrant, especially in case of an emergency situation.
And while the Senate and house can't agree on provisions for an extension of the law, Sestak said there is one provision that already exists and should not be overlooked.
He said that in case of an emergency, a wiretap may be placed without a warrant just so long as a warrant is sought, and granted, within three days of placing the tap.
Sestak said the Democrats made a mistake after 9/11 in giving "a basket warrant" for al-Qaeda, and now there are no checks and balances. And even without immunity granted to telecoms, "we are as safe today as we were a month ago," before the bill expired.
The administration "doesn't care about balance [between security and civil rights,] but the U.S. was founded on rights of the individual.
About 60 people attended the event, each paying a minimum of $75 for the fund-raiser.
Before he spoke to the group as a whole, Sestak said his major campaigning effort would probably not begin until September, but added that his approach to the job - speaking with constituents on a regular basis - is a form of campaigning.
"Seeing people is doing the job and doing the job is campaigning," he said.
He also apologized for the process that has developed in American politics over the years, that of constantly raising money for campaigns and being taken seriously only if there's a lot of money for the campaign.
"When I got into the first race, I became credible because I raised a lot of money. I apologize for the process.
Time spent on fund-raising should be time spent on legislation," Sestak said.
He added that he's in favor of public financing for campaigns.
"I'm a simple town manager," Sestak said, "and I hope you re-hire me. I'd like to be your town manager again, this time with a partner in the White House."
Sestak told the audience that while he thinks well of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, and believes he would make a fine president, Obama's opponent for the democratic Party nomination, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton would be a better choice.
Sestak will face Republican W. Craig Williams in November.