In life, we have to make a lot of decisions. Some of them are easy, others tug at us both emotionally and intellectually, nearly ripping us apart. One way or the other, we have to make a decision, even if that decision is to not make a decision.
Our Representatives in Congress are selected by us to be our “deciders” in the legislative branch. We entrust upon them, the power to shape and pass the laws and funding and rules by which our republic survives. Not making a decision is not an option in most cases for these individuals. Indecision is one of the most unattractive characteristics a representative can have.
Last week, 86 Democratic Representatives in the House, and 38 in the Senate voted to fund the war in Iraq with no real restrictions or oversight on the Executive. In my last post, I highlighted some of the freshmen Representatives who voted for the funding. This time I’ll just list the Democratic Freshmen Senators: Brown (OH), Klobuchar (MN), McCaskill (MO), Tester (MT), and Webb (VA). Sherrod Brown (RI) was the ONLY Democratic Freshman in the Senate to vote against the funding.
Unlike some of their House counterparts, these 5 newly elected Senators ran specifically on a platform of providing checks and balances in the wake of 6 years of rubber stamp Congresses. Senator Webb was one of the most vocal critics of the handling of the war during the election, proclaiming that the military could only win the war, diplomacy, that tool so oft neglected by this Administration, was the only way to win the peace.
Senator Webb’s vote on this issue is, perhaps, most disheartening of the 5. A military man, who served his country in so many ways, one would think that Webb would see the error of providing a blank check to an Administration hell bent on winning a war that has already been “won” but losing the peace through our incoherent, if not incompetent foreign policy.
How long can we, as a nation, continue to enable this President the luxury of unrestricted funding for this “long war” that has no foreseeable end? How long can we tacitly agree with this definition of “the struggle” before some mark of progress is demanded? These Representatives and Senators seem to feel that this can go on forever, all while talking out of the side of their mouth that it must end soon. Which is it?
Last November the American people spoke with one voice, handing stunning defeats to 6 incumbent Senators and scores of Representatives. The message, “fix this now!” These 13 freshmen along with the other 111 Democrats who voted for this unconditional funding, ignored that mandate, and in doing so, strengthened the long held belief that Democrats lack the intestinal fortitude to effectively govern. Their decision to “put off” any real action until September, whereupon they will most likely cave in again, has helped prop up an Administration who currently enjoys a 30% approval rating. This decision flies in the face of a populace where 63% of the people believe that timetables, timetables that were included in the original funding bill vetoed by the President, are the proper course of action.
How will the American people respond to this dismissal of their will? How can anyone believe that their voice was heard in November? How will the Democratic Party prove its worthiness to govern in the face this fearful retreat from the moral high ground? In the face of 12 years of Republican pigeon holing, why would anyone turn away from the conventional wisdom that has been foisted upon and so visibly embraced by the Democratic Party? We have allowed them to define us for so long now as weak and spineless. Through our lack of resolve, we have proven this definition, and any penalty for this surrender is well deserved.
124 elected Democratic officials between the two houses made this funding, unencumbered by any real legislative oversight, possible. I hope, this Memorial Day they are hearing the error of their ways from their constituents. I hope that this day, they are visiting the wounded and the families of the fallen in this most detestable of wars, and finding the courage to stand up against the rhetoric of fear that has gripped this nation for 5 years. I hope that in this mythical newfound courage, these members can look beyond the wind tunnel “conventional wisdom” of the beltway, and find it within themselves to do the will of the people who elected them to office.
Most importantly, I hope these members of Congress will find the courage within themselves to take the keys away from the drunk. Allowing him to drive puts the blood of those whose lives are lost on our hands. It’s time for us to drive.
Before I start, I would like to take a moment to point out two Republicans that broke rank with their party to vote against the unconditional funding of the war. Those two members are, Ron Paul of Texas and John Duncan of Tennessee. I’ve never voted for a Republican in a Federal race in my life, and don’t see an instance where I ever would, but these gentlemen showed a level of independence and intestinal fortitude that the 86 members voting aye in the Democratic majority should take as an example. Despite my general disagreement with much that these gentlemen espouse, I think they deserve some credit.
Now to the meat…
The vote is recorded under House Roll Call #425. There were 86 members of the Democratic caucus that voted for the Iraq funding amendment. Of those, 52 are either members of the Hand Wringing Democrats or the DINO Coalition. I’m not going to waste any more time on these members. They have made their positions known by their membership in these groups. It is interesting to note that 23 New Democrats and 7 Blue Dogs did not vote for the supplemental (some of these Representatives are members of both groups).
There were 34 Democratic Representatives who voted for the supplemental that are not affiliated with either voting bloc. Of those 34, 8 are 1st termers. They are:
Altmire – PA
Boyda – KS
Carney – PA
Giffords – AZ
Kagen – WI
Sestak – PA
Space – OH
Walz – MN
In their own words…
Altmire – “We need a Congress that will fulfill its constitutional responsibility for oversight and accountability. Our troops were sent to war without the equipment they needed and Congress shortchanged veterans benefits even as a whole new generation of veterans has been created.”
Boyda – “We don’t have the troops, and we don’t have the equipment,” she said. “We don’t have the option of staying the course. We’ve got to stop making decisions based on where we wish we were. We’re not there, and we need to be able to make decisions based on reality.” – The Joplin Globe
Carney – At least he’s consistent. Carney never ran on getting out of Iraq. Read this NYT article.
Giffords – There isn’t much on her campaign site specifically about Iraq funding except this press release from before the election:“While the courage of our troops embodies the best of America, the poor management of the war in Iraq embodies what is wrong with Washington today,” Giffords said. “We can’t simply ’stay the course.’ We need a Congress willing to ask the tough questions and an Administration willing to answer those questions in order to develop a plan for success.”
She’s getting hammered from the left and the right (mostly right, robo calls start today…it IS Arizona after all). Apparently, being the hottest candidate in ’06 doesn’t get you much slack.
Kagen – Kagen ran on ending the war, but was never in favor of defunding. Here’s his apology/excuse for his vote yesterday.
Sestak – From his website: “There is a prompt way out of Iraq, and I believe that failing to do so means significantly hurting our other, more important long term interests in the world. Contrary to the Bush Administration’s claims, Iraq is not the central front in terrorism. Rather it is a result of our leadership forgetting the age-old axiom that “successful generals win first, then they go to war.” In short, we did not adequately plan for that before we went into Iraq and we are still there because of it, without a realistic strategy out. The only way is to use our disengagement as the catalyst for Iraqis and other regional nations to accept their responsibilities for a relative peace. U.S. interests in the world do not include pouring endless amounts of our national treasure of lives and money into elusive, endless goals, when we have so much else to achieve in this world.”
Guess he changed his mind…
Space – If cutting off your nose to spite your face is a political platform, this statement pretty much sums it up.:“As much as I would like to see all of the troops withdrawn immediately, we simply cannot abandon our efforts in Iraq. We owe it to the law abiding people of Iraq who want freedom and democracy, and more than anything, we owe it to the thousands of U.S. troops that have sacrificed so much.”
Sacrificed so much that we need to sacrifice more to finish what?
I’m not going to harp on this too much, these guys are new but still should know better. It’s interesting to me that so much weight was put on some of these new members (particularly Sestak and Giffords) and their impact on the Democratic Majority when the other 33 Democratic freshmen saw fit to remain consistent with the positions that helped get them elected. It’s also interesting if not counterintuitive to me that while 7 of them were for either redeployment, removal from Iraq, or some kind of increased Congressional oversight they still chose to vote for THIS supplemental.
While it’s disappointing that these 8 members voted against the interests of the people and the soldiers deployed in Iraq, their 8 votes wouldn’t have changed anything. In fact, based on their districts, and their backgrounds (4 have military experience) it’s not that far out of character. Additionally, because these are new Representatives, perhaps there’s some reluctance to really stick their necks out there until they have another election under their belts.
These are not excuses, just things I think about when wanting to wail on someone. They played it “safe” in conventional wisdom/MSM terms, but it still can come back to haunt them.
The real villains here are the 78 more experienced members whose votes would have made the difference, and who should have known better.
I’ll get to them in my next post.
Since the House and Senate changed hands back in January, there has been some mounting tension between the legislative and executive branches of government. The Democratic “majority” has called people in to testify, passed rules that restrict Abramoffist lobbying tactics and probably some other things that I just can’t remember now.
One of the most satisfying things has to be the Gonzo hearings. Seriously, aside from the fact that the guy looks like a muppet, I have never seen more entertaining television that watching that little guy squirm in his pee stained pants and “not recall” anything.
Yeah, a lot about the past 4 months has been very satisfying. I wouldn’t trade it for anything but perhaps a Senate minus both Lieberman and McConnell, my most favorite douchebag Senators. But something’s happening. We’ve pushed, and pushed and now they’re pushing back. What will we do?
I liken this whole thing to training a dog to walk on a leash. Before you even put the dog on the leash you gotta make sure he understands who’s in charge. Who’s walking who, as it were. Sometimes that requires treats and such to reinforce good behavior, sometimes, it means a firm hand to scold the dog for disobedience. In any case, it requires the intestinal fortitude to do something that may not be in character, but that needs to happen.
The dog (our president) has been roaming free in the backyard for 6 years now pooping where he sees fit, demanding more food and water, damn the consequences. Now that dog is fat. That dog is spoiled. That dog feels entitled to all that he has amassed, and is going to fight damn hard to make sure he keeps as much of it as possible.
The dog is acting like he’s gonna bite. He may try to bite. He may feel that he’s won by biting, but the dog only wins when we relent. Once you’ve given a dog that power to lash out, with few or no consequences, the dog has learned something that takes a very long time to unlearn. The dog has learned that it has ultimate supremacy over you, not the other way around, and that while you have some of the cards, the dog can do what it wants to as long as it has this ace in the hole.
This is what’s happening on the Hill today. If we relent, if we let up, even for a second, we will have “trained THIS dog” that we don’t have the balls to stand up for what we believe. We will have shown our tails in deference to THIS dog, and will forever be relegated as THIS dog’s bitch, until a new dog comes to town. In everything we try to do, from Congressional subpoenas, to legislation, we will be cast in a subordinate light to THIS dog, if we relent.
This is why we have to stand strongly together. This is why we have to jerk the slack out of the leash and make the dog walk NEXT TO US instead of dragging us down the street. This is why we CANNOT BLINK right now.
Already, in the media, there are reports that the Democratic Majority is going to cave. I’m sure they are talking about it, because that’s one of our favorite topics of conversation…caving (not spelunking). Still, we need to make our voices heard, before we throw out the baby with the bath water. On Saturday, I put out a list of people to call/email asking them to stand firm. I have no way of knowing if anyone did that, but I’m going to ask again. If you care about the long term efficacy of the Democratic Majority in the Congress, you will encourage these leaders, as well as your representative to stand firm for what they believe in.
UPDATE: They blinked, and in doing so, the Democratic Majority has handed the MINORITY a stunning victory on one of the very platforms that we won on in November. It’s hard for me to understand, and harder for me to swallow, but unlike some of the “Kos kidz” I will not call for public humiliation or holding back of campaign contributions. Instead, let’s see how it plays out. I’m very disappointed, but the only thing getting thrown out from me, right now, is the bath water.
Representative Steve Cohen
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
As far as I can tell, Ron Paul is the ONLY Republican voice of reason on our current situation in Iraq in the US House. Here is a speech from April 17th, 2007 where he discusses our current situation in Iraq.
Again, I’m no Ron Paul fanboy or anything, but the Democratic Congressional Leadership could learn a thing or two from his unvarnished honesty and forthrightness. We need to keep doing the right thing…working to bring the troops home.
This weekend, the House and Senate Majority Leadership is working to craft some sort of bill that would both fund the troops in Iraq, not get vetoed, and save face from the artificial May 31 deadline that Senator Reid foolishly put on passage.
We need to send them a message,
DO NOT CAVE IN.
The Congress has already sent the President a bill that would fund the troops. Since that time, the President has shown no willingness to negotiate in good faith.
Ok Mr. President, then here is the same damn bill, right back at ya. With the passage of the bill, needs to be an ALL OUT MEDIA BLITZ, “We have voted twice now, to fully fund the troops. Our support for the safety and welfare of our military service members deployed abroad is unquestionable. President Bush chose to veto the first effort. Mr. President, you chose your disastrous policy over the lives of our soldiers deployed in Iraq. Here’s another chance to do the right thing.”
It’s that simple folks.
Please send the leadership as well as your Congressman, a note of support for continuing to do the right thing…DON’T CAVE!
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
I’m the kind of person that’s always looking for a solution. Solutions aren’t nearly as sexy as problems…mostly because solutions can’t exist without problems, but when problems are presented, I find myself focusing on the solution. It just feels right. Complaining about the problem, while occasionally entertaining, just gets my blood boiling. Looking for a solution is calming…or something like that.
Last year, before the Democrats really started getting any traction on the whole “Culture of Corruption” meme (I’m still not sure HOW much ACTUAL traction it got, but they’re running with it) I started thinking about solutions to the perception of corruption, real or imagined.
Corruption is a tricky thing (knee slap). There are three kinds of corruption: Real Corruption, Real but un-provable corruption, and Imagined corruption. All three of these “forms” of corruption exist in the world today in some form or another.
Obviously, “imagined” corruption can be as damaging as the other two, but goes more to an individual’s, or group of individuals perception of the “corrupt” official. Imagined corruption is more about the predisposition of the accuser than the actions of the accused. Still, in many cases, no manner of rational or logical argument can disprove “imagined” corruption to the accuser, so it has to be considered. Don’t believe me…remember, Hillary Clinton allegedly “killed” Vince Foster back in ‘94. In short, “imagined” corruption is the stuff of tin foil hats…headgear that is getting more and more fashionable every day.
The other two forms of corruption aren’t nearly as fun to work with, because essentially they are real. These are individuals who should be held to account, in one way or another, for their misdeeds. These are law enforcement issues as much as anything else. Still, the single best defense against corruption of any flavor is transparency.
The handy dandy thesaurus on my computer here gives these synonyms for transparency: Openness, accountability, straightforwardness, candor. I think that all of these synonyms work quite well, but accountability is my favorite. “Required or expected to justify actions or decisions; responsible. Can anyone argue against this idea as an operational condition for government at ANY level, be it Federal, State, or local? Doesn’t sound good to you, may I suggest Turkmenistan?
Accountability, that’s what the disaffected populace yearns for…that or someone other than themselves to blame, and that’s precisely what our elected officials seem all too reluctant to provide.
Why the reluctance? Surely none of our representatives in government want to be portrayed as corrupt! Perhaps, but I tend to believe that it goes to two real issues: paternalism and fear. Paternalism is easy, find me one able body that doesn’t want someone or something subordinate to them and I’ll show you a slobbering yellow lab with a tennis ball in it’s mouth. Fear is a bit more, yet less, complicated. You see, if everyone knew just how little one has to know to be a legislator, not a good one mind you, just a legislator, then the secret would be out that any half-wit with a misshapen rug, nice teeth, and a fresh facelift can be one. Look at Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK). He’s the former chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that, in channeling his inner plumber, called the internets a “series of tubes”. See it ain’t THAT hard.
Folks, your secret’s safe with me.
If I may be serious for a moment though…and I may or may not…fear of losing power TRULY is the issue at hand here. Even paternalism is secondary to the fear that one may be voted insignificant by a consensus of their peers, or worse yet, people they perceive beneath them. THIS is why Republicans love to card minorities at the polls and slip from think tank to administration official to lobbyist to think tanker as seamlessly as a Victoria’s Secret bra.
Fear or no fear, perv or not, the issue here is accountability. For a moment, I would like you to think about yourself. Go on, think about yourself. No, not the weird zit on your back, or that strange way your eyebrow curls when you’re pondering the speed at which paint dries…Nope look inside. Now that you’re in there, sweep some of those cobwebs away. Damn it’s dusty up here. Now, think about the last time you took responsibility for something stupid you did, without any help from anyone else. At some point we all try to shift, skirt, or sneak ourselves out of taking responsibility for our actions.
Believe it or not, politicians are people too. They do the exact same stupid stuff you do EVERYDAY, only bigger, and in front of the media, and a bunch of loudmouth staffers, and that douchebag that keeps following him/her around. Luckily for them, the only people paying attention are the press secretary and the douchebag, so they may or may not get by with it. Rinse and Repeat as necessary. Unchecked, it doesn’t take long for this behavior to become a habit. Over time, your inspirational leader transforms himself to just another common hack.
Who’s responsible for this? Well, of course the politician is responsible for their actions, but just like a parent shepherding a child through childhood, the weight of the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the constituents who neither saw fit to check the power of this individual, nor replace him/her for not representing them effectively.
Didn’t like that answer did you?
The simple truth is that a representative democracy, like we have here in the Unit
ed States, needs as many people as possible participating in order to function effectively. Participation is not just voting, though that is participation at it’s most base level. Participation is staying abreast of the issues that affect your community city, state, and the nation.
Sounds like a big job, huh?
No one’s saying you have to have intimate knowledge of every issue, just a passing knowledge that could become intimate should you feel the need. It’s simple accountability. It’s being responsible. It’s being an adult. It’s preserving the ideals of liberty, that grand mythology that has never truly come to full fruition, but that we should all continue to seek.
This is what our nation can be if we are willing to work for it. (humming America the Beautiful in my head) This is what we can become. We can stem the tide of corruption, real and imagined if we all just work together to hold our politician’s feet to the fire. Are ya with me? Cool, I’m going to the bar. Have fun with that.