Monday, March 24, 2008



The Diaz-Balart Brothers-- seats under special protection?

I tried delving into a little of the background last night. I'll try to be more direct and to the point now. The point: Why is the DCCC keeping Debbie Wasserman Schultz as co-chair of their Red to Blue program when she has already sabotaged 3 Democratic challengers in her own backyard, at least one of whom, Joe Garcia (I don't know the other two), is an outstanding progressive?

Friday's Washington Post noted that grassroots Democrats are getting angry at the DCCC Insiders over their refusal to ask Debbie to step down or into an alternative position. Maybe she can be on the committee that defends incumbents who don't vote with Democrats-- like John Barrow and Jim Marshall-- and thereby alienate Democratic voters and find themselves perpetually in jeopardy. Her job at Red to Blue is clear: to help Democratic challengers beat Republican incumbents. Simple. But she says "she doesn't want to stab GOP members of her own delegation in the back." Odd, since in 2006 she led the battle to oust Republican Clay Shaw-- who was far more moderate than the 3 right-wing whackos she won't help Democrats defeat. In fact it was her work to help get rid of Shaw that landed her the Red to Blue co-chair job! Florida Democrats are furious, dismayed, appalled. And Lil' Debbie is in hot water.

DavidNYC has some interesting background on the volatile and potty-mouthed Rahm Emanuel's take on Democrats who won't help Democratic challengers.
In early 2006, Congressman Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat, was quoted in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel speaking sympathetically of Congressman Shaw, one of Emanuel's top Republican targets.  Hastings, because of his friendship with Shaw, also refused to endorse Shaw's Democratic challenger, Ron Klein.  In the Sun-Sentinel article, Hastings even gave Shaw strategic advice on how to defeat Klein, advocating that he knock on doors to connect personally with voters rather than relying on television ads as he had in the past.  Then, in a closed meeting of Democratic House members, Hastings chastised Emanuel and the DCCC for not recruiting more candidates across the country, saying Democrats needed to run a respectable candidate in every House district.

[...]It enraged Emanuel, who saw Hastings as typifying those of his fellow Democrats who were content to criticize but did nothing to help the cause. "He's great on lectures," Emanuel said of Hastings. "Phenomenal lecturer. I'm getting a lecture on recruitment when A, you haven't done a goddamn thing and B, we've got a [Republican] target and you're out there kissing his ass in the press?"

It's not easy figuring out the motivations behind people's behavior. In the case of Wasserman Shultz there seems to be more than a little disingenuousness when she claims it's all about comity and bipartisanship. If that were the case why did she go after Clay Shaw so vigorously and why did she take the Red to Blue job?

As we saw yesterday, her district is overwhelmingly Democratic; and there are few Cuban neighborhoods. Steve Clemons at the Washington Note has uncovered some very disturbing facts about Lil' Debbie.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz seemingly turns a blind eye to the suspension of justice, the nepotism, and the corruption that have surrounded the Miami side of the US-Cuba policy feud. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-18) has helped protect and then celebrate the achievements of Cuban-American terrorists-- particularly Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada-- in both Florida and in her Congressional role in Washington. It is truly shocking to read what Members of the US House of Representatives have been complicit in as told in the disturbing chronicle of the underbelly of US-Cuba relations, "Twilight of the Assassins," by Ann Louise Bardach that ran in November 2006 in the Atlantic Monthly.

The involvement of the Diaz-Balart brothers and Ros-Lehtinen in outrageous perversions of legal justice should give anyone pause-- but Red-to-Blue Co-Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz hugs them as tightly as she can.

Either Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz does not read, is ignorant of the background and activities of these three Republican congressman, or she is complicit. Which is it?

...This essay by National Security Archives Senior Fellow Peter Kornbluh and Center for Democracy in the Americas Executive Director Sarah Stephens, "The Terrorists Among Us," is really about the nurturing of a strain of virulent military activity inside the United States directed at a foreign government that is not fully subject to the monopoly of control any modern and responsible state should maintain.

Ros-Lehtinen, the Diaz-Balart brothers, and Wasserman Schultz help coddle and protect militants who train and have weapons caches that they hope might be used to eventually invade or attack Cuba with. They are not part of the Department of Defense or the system of national security of the US-- and are in a way similar to a home-grown version of Hezbollah-- and Wasserman Schultz should not expect the spotlight of the Democratic Party or of the nation as a large to go away unless she modifies her own behavior and direction.

There have been rumblings about Debbie taking legalized bribes from Big Sugar lobbyists who oppose, for selfish economic reasons, the normalization of trade with Cuba (a huge sugar grower). The Sun-Sentinel points out that Debbie has gotten into difficulties in the past by teaming up with ultra-reactionary Cuba-haters to thwart reforms.
Back in August of last year, when House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel put forward an amendment to simplify the method of payment for U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba, it was expected to pass easily. After all, it would have facilitated sales and thus served the interests of the American farmer. It was estimated that sales, which were hovering at about $400 million a year, could increase to well over a billion, if the method of payment were simplified. Moreover, similar amendments had passed in recent years by voice vote, only to be sidetracked by the Republican congressional leadership. Now, with the Democrats in control, surely the amendment would sail through.

But to the surprise of many, and to Rangel's chagrin, it was defeated, with some 66 Democrats crossing party lines and voting against it. Wasserman Schultz got much of the credit for bringing the 66 over. "I was about as active as you could be," she acknowledged. And her friend Ileana Ros gave Wasserman Schultz full credit for the amendment's defeat, calling her "a tiger."

She certainly was not simply following the wishes of her constituents, only about 5 percent of whom are Cuban-Americans. But there was of course the money. Some 58 of the 66 Democrats who voted against the Rangel amendment had received one or more contributions from the Republican-oriented U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC in the months prior to the vote, with contributions running from $1,000 to $11,000. Wasserman Schultz has reportedly received more than $22,000 from the PAC.

Someone coming from this space is not going to feel comfortable with Joe Garcia who represents younger Cuban-Americans (younger than McCain-aged ones in any case) who are worked towards a new relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. The Diaz-Balart Brothers represent the old, hard-right approach. They come a family complicit in the corruption, under Batista, that made Castro's success inevitable. (Ironically, the were related, through marriage, to Castro as well!)
In many ways, they have symbolized the face of Florida's Cuban-American exile community-- Republican and ferociously anti-Castro-- and have gone virtually unchallenged. Until now.

For the first time, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, 53, seeking a ninth term in the U.S. House, and his brother Mario, 46, seeking a fourth, face serious challenges from a different kind of Cuban-American, two Democrats from far less illustrious families.

...Former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, 59, who is seeking Lincoln Diaz-Balart's seat, is the son of a Cuban taxi union leader. Martinez is known for turning around his Miami suburb during his more than 20 years as mayor; for an overturned federal corruption conviction-- he was re-elected during the trial-- and for a temper that once led him to pummel a combative protester.

Mario Diaz-Balart's challenger, Joe Garcia, 44, mixes an air of old-school cigar-chomping and the occasional seersucker suit with progressive politics. He cut his political teeth at the knee of Miami's most revered and uncompromising Cuban-American leader, Jorge Mas Canosa, before heading a state agency that deregulated Florida's telephone industry.

Garcia and Martinez want to rescind the Bush administration's stringent travel and remittance restrictions on Cuban-Americans and permit direct aid to Cuban dissidents. Neither will go so far as demanding an end to the four-decade U.S. embargo of the island.

Garcia calls the embargo a failure in achieving concrete change. "But it's a moral position," he quickly added.

This weekend DWT contacted Joe Garcia to find out what he thinks about all this.
"Florida's 25th Congressional District is an exciting and diverse place to live. But the current leadership is nothing more than a rubber-stamp of the failed policies of the Bush administration and a poor representation for South Florida. From his vote against children's health care in a district where over 14,500 have none, to his show of apathy for the environment while industries make enormous profits at the expense of the Everglades, Rep. Diaz-Balart has shown little concern for the wishes of the citizens of the 25th district. Our country cannot afford a continuation of the divisive Bush politics of the past. We need a bold vision for the future that will work to unite our country and move past demagoguery and cheap political rhetoric. It's time that we act responsibly to revitalize our economy, end the war in Iraq, guarantee health care for our citizens, and protect the environment."

I've asked Joe to outline his ideas for a rational Cuba policy and we'll be featuring that tomorrow. Meanwhile, bloggers are asking Debbie to either get behind the 3 Democrats running in South Florida-- and hosting a fundraiser for each-- or resign her post at Red to Blue. If she refuses to do either-- as she has so far-- we would like the DCCC to encourage her to move to a different position. If any DWT readers would like to jump in on this, here's some relevant contact information:

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (campaign office):
Phone: 202-741-7154

DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen (campaign office):
Phone: 301-942-3768

DCCC Headquarters:
contact form
Phone: 202-863-1500

More information at Huffington Post, and The Seminal

Matt Stoller just reminded me that while refusing to help south Florida Democrats, Debbie hasn't been reluctant to help some Democrats. In fact, she is one of the only Democrats to give donations to both Bush Dogs who had progressive primary challengers, Al Wynn and Lipinski.

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At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for finally tackling this issue, Howie. I've been reading about it about this a lot at Daily KOS and I always like hearing your side of any story, because you, like most of the progressive electorate, are tired of giving the Democratic Leadership the benefit of the doubt.


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