Saturday, January 27, 2007


I just got home after spending the day at the peace march. People traveled from all over the country to march up to Capitol Hill and express their grievances. The route was a bit unusual. Typically at these D.C. marches, we all head northwest from the Mall to the White House. Today, the route was east, directly toward the Capitol.

I applaud the planners for their itinerary. We all know who works in the White House. We all know what he thinks about war and peace. You could call him The Decider. Or, if you prefer, the PiƱata. On Capitol Hill, they treat him as both.

What we don’t know is exactly who – or what – works on Capitol Hill. I’ve been trying to figure that out for the past few weeks. Soon, we’ll all be getting a pretty good whiff of the answer. Today, unfortunately, I think I got a preview.

This much we can say: most of the folks who represent us in Washington call themselves Democrats. But what does that really mean? Not much, and maybe it shouldn’t mean much. Democrats should be able to be pro life or pro choice, protectionist or free traders, pro Iraq War or anti-Iraq War. Let each party be a big tent. Let each one be a place of robust internal debate. If you don’t like the views of one of the politicians, then by all means, vote him or her out. But let us not question whether politicians have the right to represent a political party simply because their views are out of the mainstream.

So it’s fine by me that some of the Dems are fiscally conservative but socially liberal, or vice versa. That isn’t the issue. The issue is whether it is fine for Democrats to campaign as one thing, and then govern as something completely different. There, I’m not so tolerant.

Consider, folks, that the march today wasn’t exactly about a trivial issue. This wasn’t a rally against the Designated Hitter, or even the scourge of steroids. This was about the fundamental issue of our day: the Iraq War. It’s only right to expect that politicians who ran fervently against that war will, if elected, use their power to fight it. It’s very much wrong for them to bash the Bush Administration ceaselessly for its so-called folly, and then, when they have the power of the purse, to continue to fund that folly.

One of the speakers today was Congressman John Conyers. This afternoon, I saw a plastic-woman newscaster on the TV refer to Conyers as the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. But we Empathic Rationalists are more clued into politics than that, right? We know Conyers as the first African-American Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

I mention his title because his is the committee that is in charge of initiating the impeachment process. Lots of people at the march held signs calling for the impeachment of Cheney … and some wanted Bush impeached as well. When Conyers finished speaking, a chant calling for impeachment immediately erupted. But to Conyers’ credit, he didn’t once mention impeachment. He knows that (a) he can’t prove that Bush committed a “high crime” or “misdemeanor,” and (b) he couldn’t get the Congress to impeach/convict Bush whether he wanted him impeached or not. Still, there’s a lot Conyers can do short of impeachment. He can show up at a rally like the one today, for example. More importantly, he can call for his colleagues to use the power of the purse to STOP FUNDING THE WAR, or at least the so-called surge. That’s exactly what Conyers did. He told us in no uncertain terms that Congress has the power and the obligation to stop the flow of money that fuels the war that so many of us hate.

Conyers wasn’t the only member of Congress in attendance. So was Wynn from Maryland, Nadler from New York, Waters from California, and Kucinich from Ohio. Senator Russ Feingold from Wisconsin wasn’t there, but he provided a statement that was read. So what is that: six out of 535? That’s 1%, if you’re scoring at home (or even if you’re not).

Here’s what I don’t get: if all of the Democrats hate the war as much as they’ve told us, where in blazes were the other nearly-300 Democrats on the Hill? Couldn’t they, like Feingold, at least have provided a written statement? Moreover, leaving aside the issue of their stance on this march, how do they get off being so critical of this war if they keep putting our nation’s money where Bush’s mouth is? Non-binding resolutions are well and good, but what in blazes do they prove? Now that the Dems are in the majority, and now that the American public has resoundingly announced their views in one poll after enough, why are the Dems so afraid to put an end to this madness? Why are they so afraid of announcing that they are no longer going to give the President the money he wants to fight this war?

Yes, I know. They’re playing politics. They don’t want to be blamed for the inevitable “defeat” in Iraq. They would like the same Republicans who made this bed to lie in it.

I admit to understanding a wee bit of justice in that idea. I certainly understand the expediency. What I can’t understand is the morality. If it truly is in the national and international interest to end this war, and if the war’s alleged opponents have the power to stop or curtail the war, why would they not be morally obliged to do so? After all, this isn’t politics we’re talking about. This is life and death – and on a big scale at that.

Here’s a rhetorical question for any limousine liberal out there who elected these Democrats on largely anti-war grounds but haven’t taken any of your precious time to fight it. Who is worse:

(a) Stupid, misguided, jingoist fools (your words, right?) who truly believe that throwing more troops into helpless military situations will actually bring about victory; or

(b) Politicians who recognize that escalating a war will simply delay the inevitable and increase death and destruction over the long haul, but who nevertheless fund the escalation, merely for “political purposes.”

If the answer is (b) – and I think it may well be – what does it say about a society that lets these politicians get away with their conduct and doesn’t even rise up in protest.? Yes, we had tens of thousands of people at the National Mall today. But that turnout was but 1% of what we should have.

At the risk of sounding like I work for Bush and Cheney – which, of course, I do – it’s time for the people of America to stand up and take our military obligations seriously. Either you’re for this war, or you’re against it. Either you’re for this surge, or you’re against it. It’s time to get off your collective butts and take a stand. Either lobby your representatives and show up at marches, or stop being so damned critical of the President. At least we can’t prove he’s insincere in his views. And the same could surely be said for the counter-protesters I saw today on the march.

Frankly, I have little doubt that those counter-protesters sincerely believe that a surge represents our best chance to make peace, over the long haul, in a post 9/11 world. I might disagree with them about the means to that end, but at least we both care a ton about its importance. At present, it’s the limousine liberals and other apathetic souls who are driving me crazy. Anyone who cares deeply enough about peace to show up at a march – regardless of how they manifest that concern -- is, in an important respect, my ally. . . . Besides, whoever held up the sign that said “Hippies Smell” made me laugh! (And as an argument for the surge, it makes as much sense as any other.)

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