Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

Today, President Obama came to my town to give an invite-only speech at the University of Texas. Lacking an invite, I wondered what people with invites had to say about the Afghanistan War. Here’s what I found:

All the people who had tickets to the event who consented to be interviewed and who gave an opinion for or against are in this video, and their views are fairly represented. Of course, that’s not a surprise, given the levels of public disgust with this war, the higher levels of opposition among Democrats and the likely makeup of the invitee crowd.

Most Americans — 54 percent — think the U.S. should set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Forty-one percent disagree.

There is a partisan divide on the issue: 73 percent of Democrats think the U.S. should set a timetable, while only 32 percent of Republicans say the U.S. should do so. Fifty-four percent of independents want a timetable.

What is surprising, though, is the “heads down, follow through” attitude on the part of our elected leaders.

Poll: Afghanistan War Hurting Obama’s Support at Home

Poll: Afghanistan War Deeply Unpopular, Dragging Down Presidential Approval

Afghan War Looms As Electoral Problem

Ever heard of a thing called an election?

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…no matter how ridiculous he is, some things need a response before one can sleep.

Beck and U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) went on a self-righteous rant about the upcoming vote on health care reform legislation this weekend, possibly on Sunday. Here’s the transcript:

Speaking on the Glenn Beck show, King said a vote on the Sabbath was sacreligious.

“They intend to vote on the Sabbath, during Lent, to take away the liberty that we have right from God,” he said.

Beck agreed.

“Here is a group of people that have so perverted our faith and our hope and our charity, that is a — this is an affront to God,” Beck said.

“But I think it’s absolutely appropriate that these people are trying to put the nail in the coffin on our country on a Sunday — something our founders would have never, ever, ever done. Out of respect for God,” Beck added.

Here’s the audio.

Now, before I go into this, let me say that, in general, I have no problem with an argument that ties one’s faith and understanding of God to politics (you may have noticed). But I do have a problem, like my priest used to say, with stupid Christians. King and Beck might want to flip through their copy of the New Testament. There are some slightly inconvenient passages in there. For example:

He left that place and entered their synagogue; 10a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?’ so that they might accuse him. 11He said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.’ 13Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other. 14But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

I’m not exactly a fan of the current health care reform legislation. So much was bargained away, or given away for nothing in return. And watching House progressives display their characteristic lack of strategy and backbone was a sight to see, even after the supplemental war funding vote fiascoes of the last year. I certainly don’t cast Democrats in the role of Jesus. But the fake outrage–shouting God’s name from the rafters–over a vote intended to make broken bodies whole on a Sunday…well, Beck and King should think about the role into which they’re casting themselves.

UPDATE: Much has been said already about Glenn Beck’s awful stunt attacking the phrase “social justice” in Christian teaching. I won’t go into the full range of the stupidity here. I’ll just make two observations.

Here’s the video of his little stunt:

Uh, small point, Mr. Beck. If you want to go all “biblical” on us, you’re signing up for a far, far more radical version of property redistribution than that being pushed by the Democratic Party. As part of an ideological movement that loves Leviticus so much, I find it hard to believe you never heard of the year of Jubilee. You know…the twice-a-century reset of wealth and land holdings. This is widely held as being the referent for Jesus’ declared “year of the Lord’s favor” when he begins his public life in the synagogue.

Beck’s assault continued assault on “social justice” degenerated into the sort of name-game hat tricks he’s known for. See here and skip to 1:00 in. (I don’t go in for Lawrence O’Donnell/Keith Olbermann, by the way…this is just the only clip I could find on short notice):

America, I’d like to alert you to another code word:

People’s Republic of China
Democratic Republic of Congo
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

Etc., etc….

So what do we think about Republicans? We should think the same thing we thought about them before, because I’ve just made a ridiculous insinuation.

Recent actions by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and House Democratic leadership reveal that the rationale under which the party solicits funds–electing more Democrats and defeating Republican incumbents–has taken a back seat to a radical, pro-war agenda.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s latest ad shows that Democrats now seek to wrap themselves in the flag and stake out the “support the troops” high ground, jettisoning the contrary arguments they employed during the last several cycles, opting instead for “the prophesying of smooth patriotism” in ads targeting seven Republican congressmen. Here’s a sample:

Around here, we recognize Independence Day with parades … and picnics … maybe a few fireworks. But July Fourth is about more than that.

It’s about remembering those who fought for our freedoms. And those still fighting today.

Congressman Lee Terry used to understand that.

When George Bush asked, Congressman Terry voted to fully fund our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And, last year he said, quote, “We must give our military every resource it needs.”

Seems like Congressman Terry is playing politics now …

Last month Congressman Terry voted AGAINST funding for those same troops.

It’s true: vote No. 348 – you can look it up.

Worse, when it was pointed out that one of the targets of this ad, Rep. Joe Wilson, has four sons in the military, the DCCC decided to pour even more gas on the fire:

DCCC’s spox Ryan Rudominer hits back: “Congressman Wilson, of all people, should be supporting funding for our men and women in uniform.”

The preceding represents an escalation of pro-war rhetoric from the House Democrats which began in earnest during the war funding supplemental vote. During the lead-up to the vote, Democrats decided to play turnabout with the Republicans by adopting exactly the same rhetoric with which pro-war Republicans used to bludgeon Democrats. For example, here’s a recent quote from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

“The Republicans are saying they are not going to vote for the bill, the funding of the troops. They’re not going to support the troops.”

Here’s an unnamed Democratic staffer:

“Anytime there was a Democrat [who] raised concern on some of these supplementals, he was tarred as being anti-troop…It seems like they’re putting the interest of the Republican Party and the ability for them to develop a campaign narrative ahead of the interest of the troops,” he said.

But nothing unveils the fangs of the radical pro-war spirit spreading through the top echelons of the Democratic Party than the heavy hand with which they deal with their own anti-war members. Recall that before the vote in question, the White House and House leaders threatened to ostracize and de-fund vulnerable Democratic members unless they voted to fund the war:

The White House is playing hardball with Democrats who intend to vote against the supplemental war spending bill, threatening freshmen who oppose it that they won’t get help with reelection and will be cut off from the White House, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said Friday.

“We’re not going to help you. You’ll never hear from us again,” Woolsey said the White House is telling freshmen. She wouldn’t say who is issuing the threats, and the White House didn’t immediately return a call.

The combined political pressure of the House leadership and the White House Legislative Affairs Office was sufficient to cajole several Democrats who relied on anti-war backing to get elected and who had signed anti-war pledges (some of whom still have the temerity to maintain war-cost running totals on the front pages of their campaign websites) to stab their constituents in the back.  At the same time, the White House reportedly cut deals with pro-war Republicans to soft-peddle challenges to their reelection next year in exchange for war funding votes (h/t Jeremy Scahill).

The war funds vote and the ads cut in its aftermath reveal three alarming uses to which DCCC money is being put:

  1. Leverage to coerce vulnerable, anti-war Democrats into voting against their principles and those of their constituents;
  2. Threats against vulnerable, pro-war Republicans that can be withdrawn in exchange for support for war funds; and
  3. Political adverstisements that assail Republicans (even decidedly pro-war Republicans) with rhetoric that positions Democrats favorably (in their minds, at least) in a pro-troop/anti-troop binary.

Combined, these three uses indicate that funds solicited from donors on the premise that they will be used to elect more Democrats and defeat more Republican incumbents are actually being used to ensure the election and incumbency of House members who will vote to support war funding.

As a prior Democratic donor and highly active volunteer, I am absolutely disgusted. I know I’m not alone.

This revelation is particularly vile considering the context of the last few weeks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In the last two months, an airstrike in Afghanistan and a drone strike in Pakistan have killed very large numbers of civilians. The first, the May 4 bombing of Bala Baluk, was a “clear war crime” in that the civilians killed by a combined three-and-a-half tons of ordinance had not been confirmed as militants before they were bombed to death. The second, the June 23 drone attack on a funeral in South Waziristan, killed about 35 non-combatants, including 10 very young children, by dropping a bomb with a 200-ft. kill radius on their gathering. To date, no one has been punished for either atrocity, although both incidents blantantly violate the obligation of combatants to discriminate between parties to the conflict and civilians.  Instead, President Obama mastered doublespeak:

We simply want to make sure that our common enemies, which are extremists who would kill innocent civilians, that that kind of activity is stopped, and we believe that it has to be stopped whether it’s in the United States or in Pakistan or anywhere in the world.

This high-church dispensation of moral certainty parallels the one-way blame game we learned to endure during the Bush years: We are only defending ourselves; we’re the good guys, they’re the ones who kill innocent civilians; pay no attention to the one-ton bombs falling on your friends and families. At home, you either support any appropriations bill that contains continued, no-strings funding for continued hostilities or you hate the troops and want them to be killed by terrorists.

In the name of stopping the activities of extremists, we’re expanding our own civilian-killing extremist version of the self-defense doctrine, which has become so mutant that it now justifies dropping quarter-ton bombs with a 200-foot kill radius on groups of people likely to include civilians in countries with which we are not officially at war. Obama’s January 23 order to initiate a Predator strike in Pakistan signaled his backing for this Terminator-esque turn in American policy, the first piece of a multi-front escalation of military force in Afghanistan and Pakistan, now conflated, terrifyingly, as “AfPak.” Incredibly, despite five policy reviews in six months, the President who ran on a platform of finishing the fight in Afghanistan presides over a military campaign now wandering into neighboring countries, adrift in the exhibition of qualities for which he once decried the policies of President Bush: “undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.”

At moments like this, we desperately need a Congress and a congressional leadership team with the spine to check the listlessness and violence of the executive’s actions overseas. The actions of House leadership and their political campaign operation down the street have revealed that we have no such thing. Rather, what the war funding vote and its aftermath revealed is the further infiltration and dominance of the official structures the Democratic Party by a radical pro-war caucus, perfectly willing to sell out their constituents and their donors in the name of out-of-control militarism and continued, highly profitable mass murder overseas. This radical caucus running the party in the House flexed its muscles just this past week, teaming with Republicans to defeat legislative language to require an exit strategy from Afghanistan, despite the fact that the majority of rank-and-file Democrats supported it and despite its similarity to the exit strategy for which Democrats agitated for Iraq under President Bush. Until we force changes, expect more of the same on future votes.

I encourage every anti-war DCCC donor to close your checkbooks and put your debit cards away until we see a party worth another penny. Right now, the Democratic party isn’t. In fact, I’d like my money back.

Advocates of Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan Sell Out

From a post I wrote on DailyKos:

From the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual:

Long-term success in COIN depends on the people taking responsibility of their own affairs and consenting to the government’s rule. Achieving this condition requires the government to eliminate as man causes of the insurgency as feasible.” (p. 2) “Victory is achieved when the populace consents to the government’s legitimacy and stops actively and passively supporting the insurgency.” (p. 6) “The primary objective of any COIN operation is to foster development of effective governance by a legitimate government. (p. 37)

Legitimacy of the host nation’s government is referred to in manual as “a north star.” But let’s be clear: there is no legitimate host government in Afghanistan.

From today’s Washington Post:

President Hamid Karzai is considered a strong favorite to win reelection when Afghans go to the polls this summer. But here in northern Afghanistan, one of the country’s most peaceful regions, there is little doubt who will be in control when the elections are over, and it’s not Karzai.

Rather, it is the same men who have ruled this territory off and on for decades, regional commanders who have divvied up the land into personal fiefdoms and transformed central government institutions, including the police, into instruments of their will.

…”Where we stand today with the political landscape is not much different from where we started, and in some respects it’s looking even worse,” said Ahmad Nader Nadery, head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. “These so-called leaders are able to tell the disillusioned people that there’s no other way, that ‘we have access to the president, and you have to listen to us.’ “

Counterinsurgency, in case you didn’t know, provides the rationale for our troop increase in Afghanistan. Has anyone in the pro-war movement even read the manual?

House Democrats Sell Out

From AlterNet:

Now, there are many Democrats who consistently vote for war funding, including Nancy Pelosi, but not many of them have such little shame that they dare characterize themselves as anti-war. Remember, 221 voted Tuesday in favor of the war funding. But for those who campaign as anti-war and signed pledges not to continue funding war and then vote for billions more for wars they claim to oppose, Tuesday should be remembered as a day of shame and cowardice. Here are the Democrats who voted against war funding when it didn’t count and yes (on Tuesday) when it did–and when refusing to do so might have affected them personally:

  • Yvette Clarke,
  • Steve Cohen,
  • Jim Cooper,
  • Jerry Costello,
  • Barney Frank,
  • Luis Gutierrez,
  • Jay Inslee,
  • Steve Kagen,
  • Edward Markey,
  • Doris Matsui,
  • Jim McDermott,
  • George Miller,
  • Grace Napolitano,
  • Richard Neal (MA),
  • James Oberstar,
  • Jan Schakowsky,
  • Mike Thompson,
  • Edolphus Towns,
  • Nydia Velázquez, and
  • Anthony Weiner.

These legislators should be called [202.224.3121]and asked why they voted for war funding they claimed to oppose last month.

Not everyone sold out. Around 32 House members said no to this war and should be thanked: see Jane Hamsher’s great post on the anti-war whip operation. But these sell-outs should not get one dime or one drop of sweat from the anti-war crowd in 2010.

House Republicans Sell Out

From The Hill:

House Republicans are preparing to vote en bloc against the $106 billion war-spending bill, a position once unthinkable for the party that characterized the money as support for the troops.

For years, Republicans portrayed the bills funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as matters of national security and accused Democrats who voted against them of voting against the troops.

Glad to know the GOP has the courage of its convictions.

So. We have about 20 Democrats who call themselves “anti-war” who showed their true colors. We have an entire Republican caucus making exactly the same kinds arguments in defense of their no votes on war funding as Democrats made while in the minority (and vice versa…). And, we have an entire community of Very Serious People who say we need more troops in Afghanistan to fight a counterinsurgency war knowingly supporting a stunningly corrupt Afghan national government.

It’s good to know where people stand, I guess.

Okay folks, I’ve about had it. I have never been a single issue voter, but the folks I’ve voted for lately have just about pushed me to that point. President Obama never claimed to be anti-war, just anti-Iraq-war, but even that stance should allow for some empathy (there’s a word we’ve heard a lot about lately from the White House) for members of Congress who (rightly) won’t vote for one red cent for the continued occupation of Iraq, and it should at least give him some perspective on the folks who feel that way about Afghanistan. But take a look at the reaction of the White House now that the extra war spending bill is floundering, from HuffPo:

The White House is playing hardball with Democrats who intend to vote against the supplemental war spending bill, threatening freshmen who oppose it that they won’t get help with reelection and will be cut off from the White House, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said Friday.

“We’re not going to help you. You’ll never hear from us again,” Woolsey said the White House is telling freshmen. She wouldn’t say who is issuing the threats, and the White House didn’t immediately return a call. [UPDATE: White House spokesman Nick Shapiro says Woolsey’s charge is not true.]

The president (and his chief of staff…this has the unique feel of a Rahm Emanuel operation) is not flying solo on this.  House Democrats are adopting the exact same rhetoric that the Republicans used when Republicans pushed war funding bills:

“We’re working it. We’re working it,” Pelosi told POLITICO before heading to a White House meeting with Obama. “The Republicans are saying they are not going to vote for the bill, the funding of the troops. They’re not going to support the troops.”

If I didn’t see it in print, I’d never, ever have believed that my former boss would utter these words. I’ve never been more stunned by the absolute hypocrisy of someone for whom I’ve worked. I have always been proud of my work for Pelosi when she was the Minority Leader, fighting against the regressive, militarized policies of the Bush administration and the pre-2006 Congress. But seeing her adopt the exact same rhetoric used against her own party when the Republicans were in charge makes me angry beyond description.

Next election, I’ll be hard-pressed to be anything other than a single issue, anti-war voter. If you want to have a chance at my vote, you’ll have to show your anti-war credentials. Otherwise, I’ll be writing in “Jesus of Nazareth” on my ballot where appropriate. I did not give time, sweat and money to watch and listen to Democrats enthusiastically embracing the rhetoric and policies of the pro-war movement. I want off the bus.

A: On Obama’s staff:

CAP and the five million member liberal lobby group MoveOn were behind Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI), a coalition that spent tens of millions of dollars using Iraq as a political bludgeon against Republican politicians, while refusing to pressure the Democratic Congress to actually cut off funding for the war. AAEI was operated by two of Barack Obama’s top political aids, Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes, and by Brad Woodhouse of Americans United for Change and USAction. Today Woodhouse is Obama’s Director of Communications and Research for the Democratic National Committee.

H/t John Nichols.