A few days ago I was asked to give an inspirational talk to the baseball teams, varsity and j.v., at an inner city high school's career day. I doubt the students were as inspired by me as I was by them. Normally when I do these things-- whether at a high school, college or professional organization-- people either want to give me demo tapes or find out what it was "really" like to have worked with Madonna, the Ramones, Ice-T, Green Day, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac... Thankfully that wasn't at all what I encountered at L.A. High. These kids were more focused and serious and more interested in knowing how I had overcome adversity and what were the most important traits that can be developed for career success. When I give these talks I usually talk about teamwork. I explain the difference between people looking out for the greater good and shared goals of "the team" and the egomaniacs with their own selfish agenda. (That's also where I can always get in a little political jab, explaining how that dynamic plays out between the right and the left.) I had never given the lecture to an actual team
before and I was delighted to see how natural it was for them to understand completely what I was getting at and how that could impact on their own individual career trajectories.
Unlike Rahm Emanuel, the thoroughly detestable Democratic hack-who-would-be-DeLay, I don't equate military service with political entitlement, let alone with an ability to govern. Historically some military leaders have been good and some have been godawful. George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower both had numerous human shortcomings but both were also able to synthesize their own defining military experience in a way to allow each of them to warn the country of militarist domination
. In his Farewell Address, our very first president, and the polar opposite of a George W. Bush when it came to the role of commander-in-chief, said "Hence likewise they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown Military establishments, which under any form of Government are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty: In this sense it is, that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other." For every member of the military who goes into politics like a Washington how many Randy "Duke" Cunninghams do you get? And I'm not just talking about Cunningham as an icon for a Republican Party culture of corruption. Take a look at what kind of a man he was-- starting in the service-- and how a jingoistic political party was able to take an arrogant, self-entitled Know-Nothing, steeped in small-minded prejudice and utter, glorified ignorance, and raise him up to the heights of government for their own vile ends. Where? How? The SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE did it for you-- right here
Anyway, as I was saying before I interrupted myself, for me, military service has never been tantamount to political entitlement. I would never support someone's political aspirations just because they had been in the military. The "Fighting Dems" theme is a nice marketing tool, but it is no replacement for ideas and for abilities. I'm not trying to criticize a very cool tactic by DAILY KOS and Air America's Sam Seder and Janeane Garofolo
or confuse it with Emanuel's repulsive one-dimensional recruiting efforts. In fact, my experience last week at L.A. High made me stop and think about what innate characteristics, if any, service in the military team
could bring to a career of political service. And, you know, despite, the Cunninghams of the world, there are valuable lessons and skill sets that some people take from their military experience. Some people
. (There is always the serious danger of inherently anti-democratic, hierarchical organization of the mind that sometimes afflicts people who have served as well, something that caused in me a gut reaction against the ideas of Wes Clark
I'll leave the "But we have to win in red districts somehow
" argument for someone else who is more likely to define themselves as a partisan Democrat with a party agenda. (I love bayprairie's post from a couple days ago on OurWord.org, "Fighting Dems? Scratch that, let's try PREACHING DEMS"
.) For me, I'd rather examine each candidate as a whole person and see if this is someone who I want to entrust to help run the country. And over the last week, as I've watched the probability of the egregiously corrupt super-crook John Doolittle being indicted before November
, I've taken a close look at one of these so-called "Fighting Dems," Charlie Brown, the candidate who is opposing Doolittle in the general election. The short version: Brown is more likely to share traits with an Eisenhower or a JFK than with a Randy Cunningham.
Doolittle is a vicious and extremely dangerous viper, as bad and as they come
and as corrosive to our nation's governance as any DeLay or Bush or Rove. It won't be easy to root him out. If today's story in his local paper, the AUBURN JOURNAL
rings true at all, it is obvious that Doolittle intends to pull out every trick there is to hold onto his power base in California's very rural 4th CD. Another paper in the district, THE UNION
offers hope that Doolittle can be defeated. And a great local website, dedicated to shining a bright light on all Doolittle's criminality and malfeasance, DUMP DOOLITTLE
helps a lot. Still, you can't beat even a sleazebag like Doolittle without a strong and focused candidate. This is a very
red district, one that was gerrymandered by Democrats to stick as many Republicans into a single district as could be done. But, fortunately for 4th CD residents, it appears that Charlie Brown may be the kind of extraordinary candidate who can take down Doolittle.
"Doolittle wraps himself in the flag as a super patriot, but he avoided military service. As far as I know he got six (Vietnam) draft deferments." That's true but it wasn't said by either Brown or the other Democrat in the race, Lisa Rea. It was said by the moderate Republican
mainstream mayor of Auburn, Mike Holmes, an ex-naval officer, who is taking Doolittle on in the GOP primary. "I consider myself a conservative, and believe in a balanced budget, strong national defense, a competitive free enterprise system and paying down the national debt. I'm also interested in having a healthy environment, and he has a record of trying to ease environmental laws. There are a number of issues where we disagree."
But what about the Democratic primary? Both candidates look good to me-- but Charlie Brown
looks like a winner. When I first started looking into the race I got nervous: an ex-military man, a former Republican, and a big push from the DCCC with an ensuing aura of inevitability... it smelled too much like Boss Emanuel
in action to pass my smell test right off the bat. But the more I looked into it, the more relaxed I became. First off, as the linked UNION piece makes clear today, "Brown is crystal clear in his opposition to the war in Iraq, a position he has maintained since before those first missiles went screaming into Baghdad. 'Before it started, I was telling people that this was not a good idea,' he said." That's not part of Emanuel's playbook; he's no friend of Jack Murtha's and he's recruiting candidates who specifically will not
take this kind of stand on Iraq. And THE UNION story continues with more from non-Emanuel World about Brown: "If anything, his opposition seems to have grown since the pre-emptive invasion. He gets angry when talking about a war that he believes the Bush Administration continues to mismanage. For example, Brown wonders why it is taking so long to put metal shields below Humvees that would deflect roadside bomb blasts and possibly save lives. He also believes the president ignored requests from generals, some of whom have since retired, who wanted more ground troops in Iraq."
The more I read and hear about Brown the better I feel about him and about his chances to defeat the mortally wounded Doolittle. In the middle of last December KOS
had a definitive piece on Brown for the "Fighting Dems" series, which elicited numerous comments from admiring Democrats in the district, some of whom know him, all of whom seem to adore him. (Thomas Gangale also has an impressive Brown diary for DAILY KOS, an on-the-ground look at the race
.) Reading about Brown makes me want to run up there and walk precincts for him-- even if Rahm Emanuel wants him to win too!9 AM UPDATE: ASSOCIATED PRESS UNCOVERS PAPERS THAT SHOW DOOLITTLE WORKED HAND-IN-HAND WITH ABRAMOFF IN INDIAN SCAM SCANDALS
Some Republicrooks were taking money from defense contractors, others were scamming American Indian tribes with Abramoff, others were raking in bribes for their help in keeping the U.S. colony in the Marianas Island a squalid, slave-labor disgrace, while others offered themselves out to the highest bidder for
just about anything
. John Doolittle, like Bob Ney, fits in well with all
the categories of corruption. And yesterday, the Associated Press disclosed documents they obtained under the Freedom of Information Act that paint a very vivid picture of Doolittle as someone who was willing to Do Much-- if the price was right
. He accepted over $14,000 directly from Abramoff-- and tens of thousands of dollars more from Abramoff's tribal (non-California) clients. And he and his wife delivered-- big time, in this case pressuring another corrupt Bush appointee (and ex-lobbyist), Interior Secretary Gale Norton.DOOLITTLE UPDATE: WELCOME TO THE HALL OF SHAME, CONGRESSMAN CORRUPT
Public Citizen's Clean Up Washington has a very special Hall of Shame and, until this week, there were only 7 members: one Democrat (William Jefferson of Louisiana) and 6 Republicans (Jack Abramoff, Conrad Burns of Montana, Richard Pombo of California, Bob Ney of Ohio, the now imprisoned Randy "Duke" Cunningham, and the soon-to-be-imprisoned Tom DeLay of Texas). This week they added another real Republican lowlife: John Doolittle
who may be indicted before the November election. Take a look at the link to get an idea of all the charges against this disgrace to the state of California.