Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Importance Of Electing GOOD Democrats, Rather Than More Putrid Democrats


A choice-- Jane Harman for the status quo, Marcy Winograd for REAL change

When the War Supplemental budget came up on May 14, granting Obama another $97 billion to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, quite a few Democrats who would never have voted to give more money to Bush, voted for it because it's Obama. David Obey (D-WI) spoke for a great many of them when he said that he supported it, reluctantly, to give Obama some breathing room but that next year he wouldn't go along with this kind of funding. On the other hand, 60 members of the House voted "no." Some were very courageous Democrats who didn't feel all that comfortable about opposing their president but knew the difference between right and wrong. I'm in the middle of reading Charles Pierce's book, Idiot America and I want to quote a passage from it to set a mood:
We are at a dead level time in the dreary summer of 2007. A war of dubious origins and uncertain goals is dragging on despite the fact that a full 70 percent of the people in the country don't want it to do so. Politics is beginning to gather itself into an election season in which the price of a candidate's haircuts will be as important for a time as his position on the war. The country is entertained, but not engaged. It is drowning in information and thirsty for knowledge. There have been seven years of empty debate, of deliberate inexpertise, of abandoned vigor, of lazy, pulp tolerance for risible ideas simply because they sell, or because enough people believe in them devoutly enough to raise a clamor that can be heard over the deadening drone that suffuses everything else. The drift is as palpable as the rain in the trees, and it comes from willful and deliberate neglect. [James] Madison believed in self-government in all things, not merely in our politics. He did not believe in drift.

I was happy to see that among the opponents were several members who were supported by Blue America-- Steve Cohen (D-TN), Eric Massa (D-NY), Donna Edwards (D-MD)-- who is being targeted by Emanuel, AIPAC and other reactionaries with a primary in retaliation-- Jared Polis (D-CO), Alan Grayson (D-FL), and Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH).

After winning by such a great margin, and knowing that many members of Congress would buy into the old Bush Regime ruse that if you don't vote for these crapola budgets you're "not supporting the troops," Emanuel had the House of Lords add in a $108 billion bailout for European banksters. At that point Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham piled on with another hideous amendment, this one giving the president the ability to retroactively break the law by hiding war crimes evidence.

Seeing the bankster bailout, the Republicans-- though always eager war supporters always-- bailed out. Then civil liberties-oriented Democrats told the leadership they couldn't vote for it with the Lieberman-Graham bill. They stripped it out of the bill, causing the dynamic duo to threaten to close down the Senate until they get their way. The bill is running into further difficulties because many vulnerable Democrats are starting to realize that they don't have a prayer of being re-elected if they vote for a bailout for European banks, especially Blue Dogs.

People keep asking "why can't we have good members of Congress?" It's a good question-- and more often than not it's because we have terrible candidates. In several races that are coming up soon, and in every part of the country, we do have good candidates. Jane Harman, for example, has been one of the worst Democrats on national security issues, enthusiastically buying into the Bush agenda for the past 8 years and more recently working behind the scenes to push U.S. policies in all the wrong directions. As we've discussed before, she's being challenged by a progressive stalwart, Marcy Winograd.

Marcy is one of the founders of the L.A. chapter of Progressive Democrats of America and her position on the wars in the Middle East are very straight forward with no "buts." She's against them. And she doesn't mince words when she tells voters how her approach would differ from Harman's. She points out that with the GOP abandoning the Frankenstein bill, the power to defeat it now "rests in the hands of those in the Out of Iraq Caucus, led by California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, as well as with congress members in the Progressive Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus."
A few years ago, Waters’-- strong, passionate, hands-on-- worked with Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles to host an Out of Iraq forum that easily drew 1,000 antiwar constituents to an Inglewood church, just south of Los Angeles. Due to fire safety concerns, the church closed its doors to hundreds still standing outside, told there was no more room. Now, more than ever, we need Waters and her trusted colleagues to recall the passion of their own anti-war constituents and take that passion to the halls, to the back rooms, to the floor of congress in a bold and courageous act of defiance to a new President elected by an anti-war base.
Anxious to win over anti-war Democrats, the House leadership stripped the supplemental of the Graham-Lieberman Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act of 2009, which would have allowed the administration to block the release of detainee photos.
There are 73 members of the Out of Iraq Caucus; only 39 Democrats need to join the Republicans and effectively block the supplemental war spending bill.
When the bill first came before the House, 51 anti-war Democrats opposed the money bill, so one can only imagine the carrots and the sticks the House leadership is now exerting on these original hold-outs.  What do you want? Money for your district? Backing for your own legislation? Committee chairs?  Support this or else…
It’s time for all anti-war leaning caucuses in the House to convene. Calling all members of the Out of Iraq Caucus, the Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus-- We need you to stand strong against the pro-war legislation now before you.
According to a report on the Huffington Post, the House leadership hoped for a vote on the measure last Friday, but pulled the bill when it looked like it might be defeated.
What happens if President Obama and Speaker Pelosi can’t get enough votes for the supplemental? The military says it needs the next batch of billions by July; otherwise other budget accounts will be raided to pay for the wars that never end. I say, "Let the raids begin." Then we can call it like it is-- taxpayer theft.
If I were in Las Vegas, I wouldn’t bet odds on my 2010 congressional opponent Jane Harman voting to block the supplemental (quite the contrary); nor would I put money on California congress members Berman, Waxman, Sherman or Schiff-- all of whom voted for the Iraq War Authorization and refuse to join the Out of Iraq Caucus.  I might, however, press my luck on Waters, one of the original 132 House members who voted against the invasion of Iraq, and I might expect other Out of Iraq Caucus members like Diane Watson, Bob Filner, Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee to say nay, not another dime for these war crimes-- but that’s only if the anti-war base that elected Obama speaks up at this critical moment. 
According to Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, the House Democratic leadership is hoping to change the hearts and minds of key Democrats listed-- here. On the list are Waters, Watson, Woolsey, Kucinch, and Congressman John Conyers, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee who should not have to swallow such a bitter and bloody pill to stay in good favor with those who control the committee chairs.
With army commander Casey suggesting we need to occupy Iraq for another ten years and the Pentagon sending 20,000 additional troops to join the 50,000 already in Afghanistan, speaking up will require high-decibel action. On your marks, get set, dial. 202-224-3121.

Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) has been one of the most reactionary of the Democratic freshmen. Needless to say, she was delighted to vote for more war. But she's one Blue Dawgie who will in all likelihood be defeated if she votes for bailing out European banksters with U.S. tax dollars. I called Howard Shanker, the progressive she beat in the 2008 primary. He told me that he would never have voted for the Supplemental to begin with and that the bailout money makes it even less attractive-- clear and to the point. He could have been the congressmember instead of Kirkpatrick-- except for insider funding. You want real change in Washington? Then you have to elect members of Congress who aren't afraid of making waves.  

Jennifer Brunner is the progressive running for the open Senate seat in Ohio. She opposes the IMF bailout money. Voters in Ohio know she is an independent voice who stands for a common sense approach to politics, something that has been missing too much Inside the Beltway.
“Many of the European banks made a series of risky and speculative loans in central and eastern Europe that are likely to go into default,” Brunner said. “We are looking conservatively at more than a trillion dollars in bad loans, loans that the United States had no part in, and we simply cannot afford to step in now and bail them out through the IMF. "We have too many families and our own institutions struggling here at home who need our help first.”

Why can't I ever hear my own senator, Dianne Feinstein, making that kind of sense? Josh Segall is running against Alabama wingnut Mike Rogers again next year. I called him this afternoon and asked how he felt about the way Emanuel was trying to get the bailout passed by attaching it to a bill to fund troops. He didn't think people in Alabama would appreciate that kind of smarmy tactic. “Attaching a bank bailout to a bill that funds our troops is an insult to the American people," he said. "Bailouts have been so universally rejected by this country that the only way to pass one is to attach it to a funding bill for our troops.”

Doug Tudor is running for the open congressional seat in Polk County, Florida that Adam Putnam is giving up. I spoke with him today and he was as clear and unconfused about this bill as we all would hope our representatives would be: “To paraphrase, it has often been said that 'you can’t have both bullets and butter.' Since 2005, the majority of Americans have opposed continuing our military involvement in Iraq. Overwhelmingly, they have also opposed unfettered bailouts to corporate robber barons and banks. I am absolutely appalled that continued funding for the Iraqi War would be coupled with bailouts for European banks. To add an amendment bailing out European banks to a war-funding bill-- in hopes that Congress will be (and apparently has been) cowered into giving an affirmative vote lest they be branded as non-supporters of troops-- is just simply wrong. I encourage all members of the House and Senate to reject this bill. Show the backbone that Alan Grayson has shown, and vote on each issue on its own merit.”

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