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.