Dem Congressman Turned Novelist: 'Washington Has to Learn How to Laugh at Itself’

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), author of The Global War on Morris, said Washington has to learn how to laugh at itself since the rest of the country is laughing at Congress.

During a discussion about his political satire book on surveillance at the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, the former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Simon & Schuster assigned a lawyer to the book who read every word.

“Since there’s nothing in this book that comes remotely close to anything I heard that I shouldn’t report, there’s no problem. Dick Cheney’s a public figure,” Israel said. “I’m a public figure and, you know, Washington needs to learn how to laugh at itself because the rest of the country laughs at us. So we have to learn how to laugh at ourselves, but there were no issues with respect to lawyers.”

Israel said the House Ethics Committee was a different process, adding that members of Congress cannot receive advances for books.

“We have to be very scrupulous, dot every I, cross every T, to ensure that we are not violating any House Ethics rules,” he said.

Israel told the audience The Global War on Morris is dedicated to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who is mentioned in the book, and his father, who was a Democrat. In the book, a married man, Morris, is seduced by a receptionist and uses his company card for a non-business expense. The federal government’s surveillance program, NICK, begins to track Morris and connects different parts of his private life.

Israel said the federal government spying on a group of suspected terrorists who turned out to be Quakers during the Bush years inspired his book.

Israel, who admitted he is still struggling with his decision to support the Patriot Act, said he has not noticed much of a change between former President George W. Bush and President Obama on surveillance issues.

“With the exception of the issue of Guantanamo, I haven’t noticed large-scale changes in approach on issues of surveillance,” he said.

The congressman revealed that he is currently in talks with film director and producer Rob Reiner, who has an interest in developing the book into a television miniseries.

As for future projects, Israel is planning a parody of the gun debate in Congress, tentatively titled Big Guns.

“The first premise is that a very conservative House of Representatives with a Republican majority and a U.S. Senate with a Republican majority passes a law that mandates that every American must own a gun under the logical premise that if Obamacare was health insurance, if you were required to have health insurance, you should be required to have life insurance and that’s a gun,” Israel said.

“It’s the interplay between a small-town mayor who wants all guns banned and this national effort to require that all Americans must own a gun.”