Blue Dogs Sabotage Murtha

Last week, I wrote that a few of the key obstacles to ending the war are Blue Dogs,, Harry Reid and Rahm Emanuel.  The Washington Post reports:

"If you strictly limit a commander's ability to rotate troops in and out of Iraq, that kind of inflexibility could put some missions and some troops at risk," said Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Tex.), who personally lodged his concerns with Murtha.

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"Congress has no business micromanaging a war, cutting off funding or even conditioning those funds," said Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.), a leading Democratic moderate, who called Murtha's whole effort "clumsy."

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"I think Congress begins to skate on thin ice when we start to micromanage troop deployments and rotations," said Texas's Edwards, whose views reflect those of several other Democrats from conservative districts.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) pointed out that Democrats still have public opinion strongly on their side and that a vote on any plan would place Republicans in more jeopardy than Democrats. A new, more restrictive authorization for the war also is gaining serious consideration in the House, Emanuel noted.

Chet Edwards and Jim Cooper are both Blue Dogs from Southern districts, so I get that they aren't going to be outfront on liberal issues.  But what they are saying here is not only arguing that Bush ought to continue the war, but reaffirms all the right-wing tropes.  Murtha's plan endangers the troops.  Don't tie the hands of the Commander-in-Chief.  There's talk of passing the Murtha plan, but giving waivers to Bush to deploy non-combat ready troops.  I told you - not serious.  And then there's this.

But that approach may be all but dead, according to several Democratic lawmakers. Murtha doomed his own plan in part by unveiling it on a left-wing Web site, inflaming party moderates.

I don't know if I believe that, as Post reporters Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman are kind of crappy.  But I'm sure this argument is at least being used within the House.  Look, if you want to know why the Democratic brand has problems, it's because Blue Dogs are always reaffirming right-wing frames, and idiots like Rahm Emanuel are talking to reporters about what's popular as opposed to what needs to happen to end the war.  It's important to note that now the House wants to move to where the Senate is, which is to rewrite the Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

I got some flack last week for saying that the Democratic leadership, in particular Harry Reid, isn't really serious about ending the war.  Scott Lemieux, Matt Yglesias, and Steven Benen all disagreed with my assertion because they argued that Reid couldn't pass the nonbinding resolution.  Eric Alterman even labeled me one of many lazy reporters for asserting that Reid wasn't serious about ending the war.  One of Reid's spokespeople called me up pretty upset that I would dare assert something like this.  

Of course, I didn't argue that Reid should have passed the resolution.  I said that his priorities are misplaced.  He never did the work to force the Republicans to vote on the war, giving them the easiest possible out.  Rather than deal with Iraq, Reid let the Senate go into recess. Rather than put up an initial strong position, defunding the war, he started with a fig leaf and McConnell smacked him around.  

And let's be real.  This talk of authorization is coming from Joe Biden, and while I agree with it, it's only a starting point which will only get worse as McConnell takes a whack at it.  Already the House is moving from Murtha's hard stance to the Senate's position.  This is soft negotiating.  Do you really think, if Reid couldn't get a nonbinding resolution through, that he's going to be able to get a rewrite of the AUMF through?  Of course not.  He needs to task for more.  Reid should demand the Murtha plan.  That will push the Blue Dogs back in the House, and actually give us a real shot of restricting Bush's power.  Reid can't pass it, of course, but that was never the point.  If you start with defunding, maybe you can get to rewriting the AUMF with some cession of the escalation.  If your main fight is over the AUMF, I don't see how you get there.  In other words, where you start dictates where you finish.  And Reid has chosen to put his priorities somewhere other than ending the war.

That's fine.  That's who he is.  But let's stop having illusions about the conservative Democratic leadership in Congress.  I mean, Yglesias, Lemieux, Alterman and Benen seem to have an awful lot of confidence that the Democratic docility of the last twenty years, the docility that caused Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid to sabotage Ned Lamont, has suddenly changed.  I'm still looking for evidence.  Chet Edwards, Jim Cooper, and Rahm Emanuel are problems in this debate, and they need to be primaried.  So is Harry Reid, and Joe Biden.  I'd like some progressives to step up and go after these people publicly, because it's time to fight to end the war, and push the ball down the field.

As for us, let's get rid of our illusions.  Democrats in the House and Senate will move only if we move them.  As of now, they are laughing at us openly, and I will point you to Reid's clumsy misleading statements about his obvious role in the Fox News debacle, and his lack of concern about our extremely reasonable demand not to give Fox News legitimacy.  If he's so disdainful of Democrats on something so trivial, what makes you think he's serious about Iraq, an issue he really doesn't want to touch.  It's time to get to work.

UPDATE: Chet Edwards is not a Blue Dog.

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Living in Grace Time

Who's blocking real progress on Iraq?  A number of groups and individuals who might surprise you.

Steny Hoyer, who is tearfully saying Democrats will not defund the troops, thereby perpetuating a false frame that makes it hard for Congress to check Bush.  Rahm Emanuel is sticking with Steny, safe in the belief that Democrats have no responsibility to end the war, as are Chet Edwards and the Blue Dogs (who are otherwise known as the 'scared white Southern men of the party).

Harry Reid, who failed to get a vote on a non-binding resolution in the Senate, and doesn't think his original war vote was wrong. It's Bush's fault apparently that Reid voted for the war.  Like with his stance on Alito, Reid is giving the impression of action, but not the teeth.

Chuck Schumer, who thinks he can put enough pressure on Bush to change his mind and change strategy, but is slow-walking on really challenging Bush.

Carl Levin, who has 'a little hope' we can 'turn the President in a different direction', and made the bad faith deal with Warner that the Republicans ended up filibustering.

Hillary Clinton, who argues that the war won't end until the next President takes office and so she won't take a public position that Congress should use their financial leverage to end the war.

All of these members share a common attribute - they do not believe that the public is particularly important in this debate, and they do not accept that the public's vote in the last election was to end the war in Iraq, not to play games about what the President can and can't do.  If this President won't end the war, Congress must.  If this Congress won't end the war, it needs to be voted out of office by the public for failing to do its job.

The polling is bad for cutting off funds for the troops.  The polling is good for Congressional action to end the war.  Therefore, if a member is giving a caveat that Democrats support the troops and won't end funding to the troops, they are prolonging the war.

That's where we are.  I wish our members weren't consistently behind the public in their seriousness about ending the war, but that's the deal.  And we better stop fawning over our Democratic leaders or they will never get serious about building a progressive America.

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Stop Prolonging the War, Steny

I don't disagree with Chris when he writes about his support for a slow plan to bring the war to an end.  From Murtha and Pelosi's perspective, it's the only plan that makes sense.  I'm just not convinced that there's enough Democratic unity to get it done.  Here's where the problem lies.

Despite their inability to offer an alternative to the Democratic resolution, Republicans managed yesterday to lure Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to the floor to defend his party and declare that they would not cut funding for the troops....

"I was watching this debate from my office and I was constrained to come to the floor," Hoyer said. "There are legitimate issues raised by this resolution as to whether or not you support or do not support the escalation that has been proposed by the president... No one ought to come to this floor and say that this Congress, 435 of us, will not support whatever soldier or sailor or Marine is deployed to Iraq...Whether it's today or tomorrow, they will have our support." 

Hoyer addressed Wilson's remarks directly, and said her remarks did not accurately characterize the resolution.

"And, very frankly, for my friend from New Mexico to come to this floor and make the representation that somehow we have limited that support to those who currently are on the ground is not an honest representation, in my opinion," Hoyer said.

Hoyer is reinforcing the dishonest and dishonorable concept that Congressional use of its authority to wield the purse is 'not supporting the troops'.  There are plenty of ways to defund the Iraq war, and no Democrats are suggesting anything of the sort.  In fact, by arguing that Congress won't defund the war because that would be anti-troop, Hoyer is basically forcing our troops to stay in a dangerous situation longer than they would have to otherwise.

It's this kind of reinforcement of right-wing frames that is so destructive to Democratic unity and to progressive policies.  Hoyer isn't a bad man, but he always seems to play into these awful positions that prevent us from achieving what we need to get done.

It's people like Hoyer that need to be challenged on their position, because they are the ones keeping our troops in Iraq and refusing to carry out their constitutional duty to wield the power of the purse.

Update: The New York times offers a different way of framing the issue (via Americablog:

How do you explain to the thousands of American troops now being poured into Baghdad that they will have to wait until the summer for the protective armor that could easily mean the difference between life and death?

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Introducing HoyerBlog

I don't know if this will interest anyone, but I've started a blog about Rep. Steny Hoyer, our new House Majority Leader.

Since I'm a constituent of his, I've been paying an increasing amount of attention to his stands on particular issues as I've gotten more politically involved over the past couple of years.  And with the change in control of Congress, Rep. Hoyer is one important fellow.  I thought he rated some individual attention.

So if a blog about Steny Hoyer interests anyone here, by all means come on over.  Comments and constructive criticism are always welcome.

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GOP: How Dare You Make Us To Our Job!

Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), has announced he will keep the House of Representatives in session for a gasp five day work week, according to the Washington Post

Apparently, the House is only in session three days a week. Talk about a do nothing Congress.

Hoyer is trying to renovate the do-nothing Congress and force them to...do-something. The audacity of Hoyer to make them work a five day work week...who does that?

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