Monday, October 30, 2006
By any definition, George Allen and his campaign staff qualify for that label. Let’s compare the records on women's issues of the two candidates vying to represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate.
First, to make Jim Webb look bad to women, the Allen campaign went on a real dredging operation, digging through the mud to find inflammatory quotes that Jim Webb made 25 years ago about women's fitness to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. Admittedly the remarks were brash and offensive. And Webb promptly apologized for them. He didn’t try to deny them, as Allen did with his “Macaca” quotes, or try to make excuses. He simply and publicly said he was sorry and he regretted making those statements because they no longer represented his beliefs about women's fitness to serve in the military.
But what matters more than Webb’s remarks of 25 years ago, is Allen’s more recent voting record and his positions on a variety of women's issues during his time in the House of Representatives in the early 1990s to his current positions in the Senate today.
No candidate can claim the mantel of support for women’s issues if he is against a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. It’s a tragic choice and few people are in favor of abortion. But the majority of Virginians believe that this agonizing decision must be left to women and their doctors, not legislated by strangers.
But George Allen doesn't agree with the majority of Virginia's women on this. In fact, he even voted against an amendment to the 2006 Fiscal Year Budget that would have provided military women access to abortion services at military hospitals, at the women's own expense. This bill would not have made the taxpayer pick up the medical expenses for any abortion. It simply would have ensured that women who serve in our armed forces would have access to safe abortions, at their own expense, whether they are at home or overseas.
George Allen does not support reproductive rights for women. And not just a woman’s right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy. Incredibly, he voted against another amendment to a different bill that would have reduced unintended pregnancies by allocating funds for increased access to family planning services and providing funds to ensure that health insurance plans cover birth control prescriptions. In addition, this amendment would have provided funding for prevention of teenage pregnancies. Ironically, the main purpose of the amendment was to reduce the number of abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies.
But not only did Allen vote no for that piece of legislation, he also voted against allowing the Plan B, or “morning after” pill, to be sold over the counter (although voting against it in the Senate didn’t stop him from owning stock in the company that manufactures the pill).
Jim Webb, on the other hand, has stated clearly that he is in favor of reproductive freedom for women, including a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. Webb also favors stem cell research, which Allen doesn’t.
But on another important issue, one that affects countless more women than even reproductive rights, the two candidates couldn’t be further apart. George Allen,while serving in the House of Representatives, voted against the Family Medical and Leave Act, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1993.
More than any of the so-called social wedge issues, this piece of legislation has improved women’s lives immeasurably. It has provided them with job security while also giving them the ability to care for family members in need. No longer does a woman have to choose between her job and a sick child or dying parent. Now, when a woman must face the daunting task of caring for a sick family member, she can at least focus on her task, knowing that she will have a job to return to. And even more important, she won't have to worry about losing her company provided health benefits just when she may need them the most.
Even more telling, George Allen, while he was a congressman, voted for a measure to rescind the Labor Department's ergonomics regulations, also during the Clinton Administration. That measure stripped the Labor Department of any enforcement authority to make companies provide education to workers in how to prevent repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, from typing, lifting, and other repetitive activities. It also prevented the federal government from enforcing regulations requiring businesses to take steps to minimize carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries in employees.
The majority of those who get repetitive stress injuries are women who work on computers typing all day or in factories. So Representative Allen was hardly a the champion of women's rights that he is now pretending to be.
Jim Webb, with his emphasis on economic fairness for the middle class, would never have voted against the Family Medical and Leave Act. He wouldn't have voted for a measure that strips basic workplace safety and health protections from employees. Nor would he have voted against a raise in the minimum wage law, as George Allen has done, while also voting to raise his own salary in the Senate ten times.
Since women comprise so much of the low-paying service sector of our economy, those votes to raise the minimum wage affect the welfare of women struggling to support their families.
And in another sorry example of how the Allen camp has distorted both candidates’ records, consider this.
While Allen’s campaign ads have taken potshots at Jim Webb’s opposition to women in the U.S. Naval Academy in 1979, it was Allen, while he was Virginia’s governor, who opposed the admission of women to Virginia Military Institute. Indeed, George Allen called the government "nannies and pests on a mission to destroy VMI." And that was in 1996, a full 16 years after Annapolis had already successfully integrated women into its program. And years after Webb, as Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Navy, had changed his mind about women’s fitness for military service and opened 18,000 assignments for women, the most career opportunities for them in Navy history.
Finally, you can tell a lot about a person by the people he hires for key spots on his staff. As the Washington Post noted, Allen has 14 women out of 50 employees in his Washington office and as campaign staff but they mostly work in lower and mid-level jobs in administrative positions that are traditionally held by women. Only two women hold top spots on Allen's staff. In contrast, the five top operatives in Jim Webb’s campaign are strong, outspoken women. No man who opposes women’s rights or who thinks that women are unfit or incompetent would trust his campaign in their hands the way Jim Webb has done.
The contrast between these two men is telling. If you put the attack ads aside and take a true measure of both men, it becomes clear that Jim Webb is more in touch with the needs of Virginia women than George Allen is. And he has far more respect for women's talents and competence. You just can't judge a person by a few brash statements he made 25 years ago while ignoring his opponent's past and current history. George Allen has a voting record from the U.S. House of Representatives, the Governor's Office, and the U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, when it comes to support for the things important to women, he can't run successfully on that record so he has to resort to attack and smear tactics. Sadly, it's par for the course with this candidate.
George Allen doesn't care about women's safety on the job. He doesn't care about their economic plight or their work-life balance. And he certainly doesn't care about their physical health or their reproductive rights. In fact, George Allen plain doesn't care about women or appeciate them. And it's time for women to reciprocate that lack of appreciation come election day.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
To look at Seth Stone you would not know that he was one of Argonne County’s most powerful, influential bloggers. His build is slight and his shoulders somewhat stooped He’s pale and his skin shows signs of the teenage acne that he still, at age 23, was outgrowing. His sandy colored shoulder length hair is shaggy, not in a fashionable way, but just unkempt.
But his blue eyes give away his sharp intelligence and wit. Right now, they were focused on Brad Jones, the sleek aide to Ron Mancuso, the Speaker of Virginia’s State House of Delegates. Although both young men were the same age, Brad, in contrast to Seth, was dressed in sharply pressed khaki slacks, a pale blue Oxford shirt and penny loafers. His light brown hair grazed his neck and fell in an expensive haircut. Brad stood taller than Seth, a difference in height exaggerated by Brad’s erect posture.
“Seth you can’t put this on your blog,” Brad was arguing.
“Of course I can,” Seth said sharply. “I can put anything I want on it.”
The blog in question was Throwing Stones: For People Who Don’t Live In Glass Houses. And it was read by the entire Virginia political establishment, both Republican and Democratic. Activists quoted it and newspaper reporters cited it for their stories. Throwing Stones was equal parts political humor, expose, and spot on analysis of electoral trends around the state.
Brad said, “But this is false. It’ll kill Ron’s chances to run for the Senate.”
“So, you don’t want it to run because it’s false or because it hurts Ron?” Seth asked. “I mean, enquiring minds want to know.”
“Seth, you say you’re a Republican. Why on earth do you want to hurt your own party?” Brad countered.
“It’s not about my personal beliefs. It’s about the truth. I’m a blogger and I have a responsibility to my readers just like any journalist. And by the way, it is true!”
“Oh bag it, Seth. You’re not a journalist, except in the Enquirer sense.”
“And Ron’s not a leader or a good Republican, except in the Tom DeLay sense,” Seth retorted.
Just at that moment, a gunshot rang out. Brad’s eyes widened in shock. “Oh my God,” he muttered under his breath as he backed away. He watched Seth crumble, a look of pained surprise in his eyes as he fell onto the ground. Brad looked up into the killer’s eyes. “Why.”
“You weren’t getting anywhere.” The person snapped. He then turned the gun on Brad.
Ok, the above passage is not the stuff of great literature. It needs work – lots of work – to make it even as commercial, genre fiction. But it’s a start and it’s something I want to work on.
But that’s not the reason I’m posting it here on my blog.
I hadn’t wanted to announce this just yet, but after this election cycle, I’m probably going to stop writing AIAW. My blogging is probably my most important contribution to politics. It’s not that I think blogs are more important than GOTV efforts. I actually think it’s more important to knock on every door and make every phone call, especially if you are at all a people person and can actually hold a normal human conversation.
I’m better at writing.
Seriously, when I phone bank, I pray that the people at the other end of the line won’t be home so I can just leave a message. I’m also better at – and more comfortable with – talking to answering machines than to live people, who tend to fluster me.
My friends don’t realize it because I can be pretty talkative with them, but I’m actually shy. Approaching strangers to ask for something, even a vote for somebody I feel truly passionate about, is way out of my comfort zone. So, while I’ll probably never win a Pulitzer Prize, I’m more comfortable with, and better at, writing than true political campaigning. And at blogging.
So, when I say I’m giving it up, I announce that with great guilt.
But there’s something else that’s pulling me in another direction. It’s the desire to write fiction. I’ve got a couple of short story ideas and one story written that I need to revise and then I’d like to send it out to an old fashion print venue. It would also be nice to be paid for some of my writing. I don’t know if anybody would be willing to pay to publish me, but I’d sure like to fine out.
And one of the projects I’m working on is a full length novel, still very much in the pre-planning stage. That means, still a dream. But ideas, characters, and plot points are starting to dance like holiday sugarplums in my mind. I’m as excited as a kid at Christmas by the idea that I could write a novel someday.
And that brings me to the reason that I’ve decided to announce it now.
I know something about fiction.
It’s the obvious point. Fiction is not necessarily true or factual. It involves acts of imagination as well as craft and hard work.
I read a work in progress to a writing workshop that I occasionally attend. It was a story that involved a death of somebody close to the main characer. Because it was in the first person, the group was hesitant to say anything. I quickly realized that their silence was because they thought it was a memoir and they were waiting to make sure I wasn't about to burst into tears after completing the reading. I quickly assured them that it was a made up story.
There was a collective sigh of relief and then the dam burst and I got some really excellent feedback. The best was that everybody agreed it was so realistically written that they couldn’t tell that it was fiction. While the group gave me really good suggestions to tighten and improve my writing, the consensus was that it was already a thoroughly believable work of fiction. And I had made them care about the protagonist. I felt tremendously gratified and encouraged by their feedback.
After the workshop ended, I lingered on the steps of the Pohick Library to chat with some of the other workshop attendees. One person wanted to call me Donna, the name of the protagonist. He laughed and said it was because he still thought she was so real.
“Are you sure it’s not true?” He asked again.
“Not a word,” I assured him.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because of the absurd brouhaha the Allen campaign has been making over Jim Webb’s so-called sexually explicit writing in his fiction. Besides the Allen campaign, which apparently has been shopping this non-story to all the major media (only the Drudge Report bought their premise and ran with a story about it), bloggers like Mason Conserative are questioning whether Webb has the integrity and moral fiber to serve in the Senate because of his fictional writing.
But other conservative bloggers (here, here, and here), who are a bit more sophisticated than Mason Conservative, and who haven't drunk the Allen Kool-Aid, have condemned the Allen campaign for their cheap tactic of trying to impugn Webb's character because of his fiction writing.
Just as I’m not Donna from my story, or even the killer from the above fictional passage that I've posted on this site, Webb is not the sexually predatory characters in his work.
Webb is a far better writer than I’ll ever be. That’s not false modesty on my part. I don’t aspire to write serious literature as he already has done successfully. Repeat: He writes literature. Not genre stories.
That George Allen has bragged that he doesn’t read fiction, by the way, is a badge of shame. It’s also the mark of an uneducated boob. Lots of conservative Republicans proudly read works of fiction, including John McCain, Lynn Cheney (who even writes some pretty hot stories herself), and Newt Gingrich, another novelist with some sexually explicit scenes in his historical novel . Even George W. Bush admits to reading novels. Note to Senator Allen: Reading good fiction is not a partisan activity; it’s merely the mark of an educated and civilized human being.
And anybody who reads fiction will tell you that you can’t judge an author’s moral fitness by taking one of his fictional passages out of context. Webb, in his work, is not in favor of all the actions that he has his characters commit. In the same way, the writer of a thriller or mystery might write a very convincing scene depicting a murder. But that doesn’t make that writer a murderer himself.
I hope, someday, to be one of those people who successfully write a murder mystery. However, since the premise of my novel is the murder of a popular blogger, I do promise all of my readers, no actual Republican bloggers will be killed in the making of my work of fiction.
And let me hasten to assure you, no Republican blogger or legislative aide was killed in the writing of this blog despite the opening paragraph. Because that was – well – fiction.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Unlike traditional healthcare plans, these plans require the consumer to pay large deductibles, sometimes as high as $2,000 to $4,000 for a family instead of the traditional $220 deductible, while the premium, which is paid by the company, is considerably lower than the premiums of traditional health plans, including even HMOs.
The new health plans are working; they’re saving companies lots of money. But the main reason they seem to work, according to this story, is because the high price of the deductible discourages people from going for routine treatment and even preventive care. And that’s exactly what these plans are designed to do.
Indeed, the Bush administration and its business supporters have lauded these plans precisely because they shift the burden of the cost onto the consumer and so encourage people to “shop around” for the best, most efficient and cost effective health care. They also encourage people to be more frugal – meaning get less care.
The problem is that’s often a penny wise and pound-foolish solution that leads to health complications and higher medical costs down the road. For example, by not seeking routine care for a cold or flu, a patient with asthma could end up with life threatening pneumonia instead. That could mean a costlier hospital stay with longer and more expensive treatment and serious physical complications for the patient that can’t be measured in just dollars and cents. After all, how can you put monetary value on one’s life and health if it’s your loved one?
And, let me tell you, most of the dazzling advances and life-saving techniques that have helped more people to become cancer survivors boil down to early detection. We don’t have a cure for cancer. Those whose cancer is in advanced stages often still die of their disease. It’s because of better diagnostic tests and public health campaigns, which have made Americans aware of the need to get regular mammograms, ultra sounds, and other routine screening tests, that we’ve been able to save lives.
But with high deductibles, how many mothers and fathers will go without those tests and routine checkups so they can have the money for their children’s healthcare? How many older people on fixed incomes will forego necessary testing and routine care?
Now, today’s Washington Post has an article that Bush has been talking about reviving his dead on arrival Social Security reform.
With the erosion of secure pensions and health benefits, a strapped middle class may lose the last of its retirement security at a time when it’s being pushed from all directions and economic insecurity is epidemic.
In fact, that’s why the so-called good economy is not benefiting Republicans. Although people tell pollsters that this is a strong, healthy economy, they also say they are not personally benefiting from it. They are very aware that how good the economy actually is depends on which side of the boardroom you sit on.
Meanwhile, Republicans in tight races are running away in droves from Bush’s happy talk about reviving Social Security reform. But make no mistake about it. Bush is stubborn. He doesn’t like defeat. He’s a spoiled preppy at heart and he sulks when he doesn’t get his way. And then he comes back, and back until he wears you down. If the Republicans keep Congress, he’ll make one last putsch to get his Social Security reform. He and his new Treasury secretary from Goldman Sachs want one final gift to give to their friends in the boardrooms and on Wall Street.
And if Republicans aren’t defeated this time, they’ll know they can do anything. Hide stock options, launder funds, take bribes from lobbyists, hit on teenagers, send sexually explicit messages to pages, and gut Social Security and finally drive their stake through the heart of the middle class.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
But the reality on the ground - the one that actually exists - is just the opposite. By now, most people who bother to read newspapers or blogs or who watch television or listen to radio know that the National Intelligence Estimate has said that our invasion of Iraq has increased terrorism. We've destabilized Iraq and turned it into a successful recruiting station for international terrorists who are offended to have non-Muslim Westerners occupying that country.
Most people are also familiar with Bob Woodward's book State of Denial, which says that the Bush Administration has consistently painted an overly optimistic picture of progress in Iraq.
Nobody, however, has yet to state the obvious. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein was the dumbest, worst strategic blunder that could have been made in the region. The trouble is that Hussein was such a genuinely bad man that it's hard to conceive that no good could come from his being ousted.
But as bad as he was, those now running wild in the streets of Bagdahd are so much worse.
I've harped for months about the difference in the situation of women. Under Hussein, women enjoyed relative freedom. They dressed in Western fashion, styled their hair, went to beauty shops, wore makeup, held down jobs, traveled, were educated. In short, they lived what we would call normal lives.
Since the invasion and the overthrow of Saddam, women are veiled. They are afraid to walk the streets, they seldom go places unchaperoned. In short, the fanatic Shiite leaders with whom we have replaced Saddam, have turned Iraq from a modern country into one as backward as Afghanistan under the Taliban, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. One more sad place where women's freedom does not thrive. Does not even exist.
But the latest casualty of Iraqi Muslim extremism is Christianity. As this article in today's New York Times shows, Muslims have seized upon the recent remarks by Pope Benedict as an excuse to throw still another temper tantrum against anyone not Islamic enough by their fanatic standards.
I'm not going to defend Benedict's remarks. They were insulting. But Pope Benedict is the same man who engineered a document, Domine Iesus, that declared the Protestant faith deficient. Lots of Protestants were offended. But you didn't see Baptists and Episcopalians rioting in the streets and burning down their neighbors' churches. They wrote letters to the editor like sensible people.
I don't know if anybody else on the left is getting as damned tired of Muslim rage as I am. But this quote from the Times about sums up the intolerance of the situation:
Muslim fury over Pope Benedict XVI’s public reflections on Islam in Germany a month ago — when he quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor as calling Islam “evil and inhuman” — has subsided elsewhere, but repercussions continue to reverberate in Iraq, bringing a new level of threat to an already shrinking Christian population.
Several extremist groups threatened to kill all Christians unless the pope apologized. Sunni and Shiite clerics united in the condemnation, calling the comments an insult to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. In Baghdad, many churches canceled services after receiving threats. Some have not met since.
“After the pope’s statement, people began to fear much more than before,” said the Rev. Zayya Edward Khossaba, the pastor of the Church of the Virgin Mary. “The actions by fanatics have increased against Christians.”
Christianity took root here near the dawn of the faith 2,000 years ago, making Iraq home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities. The country is rich in biblical significance: scholars believe the Garden of Eden described in Genesis was in Iraq; Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees, a city in Iraq; the city of Nineveh that the prophet Jonah visited after being spit out by a giant fish was in Iraq.
Both Chaldean Catholics and Assyrian Christians, the country’s largest Christian sects, still pray in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
They have long been a tiny minority amid a sea of Islamic faith. But under Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s million or so Christians for the most part coexisted peacefully with Muslims, both the dominant Sunnis and the majority Shiites.
But since Mr. Hussein’s ouster, their status here has become increasingly uncertain, first because many Muslim Iraqis framed the American-led invasion as a modern crusade against Islam, and second because Christians traditionally run the country’s liquor stories, anathema to many religious Muslims.
Over the past three and a half years, Christians have been subjected to a steady stream of church bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and threatening letters slipped under their doors.
Estimates of the resulting Christian exodus vary from the tens of thousands to more than 100,000, with most heading for Syria, Jordan and Turkey.
I know that was a long quote. And I'm not one to usually cut and paste without commentary. But it's so important to get back from the alternate reality of Republican ideology to the accurate reality on the ground over there. It's time to state the obvious.
No, we are not better off with Saddam out of power. The world is worse off with the fanatics that we have put in his place. Bush's father and Brent Scowcroft and James Baker III all understood this. That's why when they invade Iraq in 1990, they left Saddam in power. They left him in charge but severely constrained. The first Bush Administration understood the power vaccum in Iraq and they didn't dare leave that country with extremist Shiites in charge.
We are not better off now. And certainly the Christians of Iraq, some of whom are descendents of the earliest Christians, are far less well off. And that's not wishful thinking or an alternate reality.
It's the only reality we actually have. The true one.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Excuse me but didn't that tactic fail when Republicans tried to shift the blame for 9-11 to Clinton? Clinton hit back and Bob Woodward and others validated Clinton's own claims that it was the Bush Administration that actually dropped the ball and failed to heed CIA and FBI warnings on bin Laden? Do the Republicans now want to go for 0 and 2?
Two terms - six years into an administration - these guys have got to begin to take some responsibility for their inaction and incompetence. They might as well, generals and diplomats who are normally sympathetic to the Republicans are pointing fingers at them. That includes some members of Bush, Sr.'s Cabinet such as Brent Scowcroft and James Baker III.
For a party that came to power preaching the need for individuals to take responsibility for their actions, nobody in this party seems to be able to practice what they preach.
Accountability - it's not just for poor inner city kids anymore. Rich white people, perhaps, need to also be responsible for their failures and misdeeds too.
What about Mark Foley being a pedophile didn't the Republican House leadership get? And what about the House leadership's personal moral responsibility for the protection of minors did the party of family values and personal responsibility also not understand?
The Republicans have been frantically looking for excuses and targets so they can deflect blame from themselves for this scandal. They've been spinning this faster than my head spins after too much Pinot Noir.
According to this report from David Corn, Republican strategists were divided over whether to blame Democrats for leaking it as an "October Surprise," which Newt Gingrich suggested last week on NPR, or to go after gay Republican Hill staffers, the so-called “Velvet Mafia,” for protecting Foley and then engineering his downfall. In fact, a list of gay House staffers has been going around Washington, DC and Corn claims to have a copy. He also refused to divulge it.
But here's what he does say about the list:
Corn then goes on to claim that Republicans are afraid that if they harp too much on how many family values candidates have gay staffers in their employ they run the risk of angering their values voting constituents. Besides this constituency's ideological revulsion for gays anyway, it already hasn't escaped their notice that despite all the politically correct rhetoric coming from their representatives, few of their pet issues have ever actually become the law of the land. The Republican Congress has been better at bringing home the bacon to their corporate donors and big bucks contributors than they've been at delivering to the religious right. They've managed to give tax breaks, laws protecting off shoring, perks for oil companies all gift wrapped with nice little bows. But they failed to give the religious right the federal Constitutional amendment that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman. They haven't made much of a dent on pro-life issues (though that could change with the new Supreme Court). But over the years, religious conservatives have expressed dissatisfaction and threatened to desert the Republican Party because of the party's lack of success at getting the social issues legislation so important to them passed.
"What's interesting about The List--which includes nine chiefs of staffs, two press secretaries, and two directors of communications--is that (if it's acucurate) it shows that some of the religious right's favorite representatives and senators have gay staffers helping them advance their political careers and agendas. These include Representative Katherine Harris and Henry Hyde and Senators Bill Frist, George Allen, Mitch McConnell and Rick Santorum. Should we salute these legislators for being open-minded enough to have such tolerant hiring practices? After all, Santorum in a 2003 AP interview compared homosexuality to bestiality, incest and polygamy. It would be rather big of Santorum to employ a fellow who engages in activity akin to such horrors. That is, if Santorum knows about his orientation. "
So, if those values voters see how many of their congressmen's staffers are actually gay they may begin to wonder if that may be the reason for their lack of success at advancing their social agenda. And they may also begin to wonder how many of these politicians whom they've supported with their money, their time, and their votes are true believers and how many have just been talking the talk while taking them for a ride.
So, the narrative that a cabal of gay Hill staffers knew and protected Foley is not a good target. The boomerang's too dangerous.
Unfortunately, venal Democrats who knew about Foley's behavior all along and hid it until it was strategically valuable to them also won't work. And it's their own fault. This group of Republicans has been so partisan and has marginalized their Democratic colleagues for so many years that it's legendary how out of the loop the Democrats are in this Congress. They've gleefully kept Democrats out of every loop on every issue for so long that they just don't have any plausible deniability on this one.
Nope. The public gets it that on this one they can't claim Democrats share their guilt for a cover up. This is a Republican scandal through and through. And it's not about the sex, not about the gay issue. It's the cover up.
Foley is gone. But Hastert is not only still around but he's still refusing to take any responsibility and the rest of them are still in denial. And that's the Republicans' real problem. That and, of course, protecting a pedophile and sexual predator.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Fair point. And it did give me a queasy moment. How could I guarantee that it wouldn’t happen? At that point, Webb was more of an unknown quantity. I liked his resume. I liked what he had to say about economic fairness and economic justice and I certainly liked what he was saying about the Iraqi war. Also his experience in the military and as a former secretary of the Navy gave legitimacy to his criticism of this Administration’s handling of the fight against terrorism. He was the one Democrat, I thought, who could make Virginians feel safe on national security issues.
But was he actually a Democrat?
Tonight’s debate laid that question to rest. While Allen spoke in tired platitudes and tried to raise fears about tax increases (in a state that has one of the lowest tax rates in the nation and that also has been voted one of the best run in fiscal managment while under a Democratic governor), Webb time and again showed his commitment to economic justice for ordinary middle class citizens.
Allen constantly tried to link Webb to Hillary Clinton and to tax increases. Webb meanwhile spoke eloquently about issues of fairness, the problem of the deficit, and the need for genuine economic fairness. When Allen tried to use the typical Republican claim about how good the economy is, Webb bluntly said how good it looks depends on where you sit.
Businesses are making record profits. The stock market is healthy and is benefiting wealthy investors. But the wages of the average worker are flat. And their wages are not keeping up with inflation. And Allen voted against raising the minimum wage.
Allen has voted with the Administration 97% of the time and 100% of the time on foreign policy issues.
Webb said that he favors targeted tax credits that would help the middle class. He stressed that under the current Administration's tax structure some of the largest, wealthiest and most successful corporations pay no taxes. And he said that we can't keep spending at the current rate without a source of revenue. It was clear that he was not in favor of raising taxes for working people but simply making large and rich corporations pay their fair share.
He also favors the U.S. making an unequivocal statement that it does not want to occupy Iraq indefinitely. He also would like to see Iraq’s neighbors in the Middle East get involved in the peace process while the U.S. withdraws to bases outside of Iraq, close enough to monitor dangers in that region but without appearing to be an occupying force. He pointed out that in recent days James Baker III and John Warner have both said that the Administration needs to take a new course in that region because we are failing there.
Webb, of course, has been saying that for three years.
Webb also spoke up, without equivocating, and expressed his opposition to the so-called marriage amendment. He said clearly that he was a Christian and believed that marriage was between a man and a woman. But he said that he, like Governor Tim Kaine, would vote against the marriage amendment because it was too broad and would take rights away from both gays and hetrosexuals. Webb showed the courage of his convictions and spoke up to take a stand that is unpopular in Virginia but is the right thing to do. And that is oppose an amendment that takes rights away from citizens.
But the most important thing Webb did was invite others like him to come home to the Democratic Party. As he said, those like him – the so-called Reagan Democrats – who left the party because of their concern over national security issues but who never felt at home with the Republicans’ economic policies, can come back to the party that now has a better solution than the Republicans. These are the working class and middle class people who care about economic justice. Tonight, Webb reassured them that the Democrats get it. The Democrats can be strong on defense, fighting terrorism, national security and foreign policy without sacrificing economic fairness.
Oh yeah. Webb also won the debate!
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Here’s a couple of obvious examples. Somebody saying a too hearty “yes, yes, yes,” to something while their heads are shaking “no, no, no.” Or telling you how good a friend you are while their hands are clenched into balled fists and their smiles are frozen on their faces. In fact, when they smile, their smiles don’t reach their eyes because it’s not sincere.
Well George Allen’s campaign has a metaphorical disconnect between its words and what it actually does that reminds me of all that talk about trusting body language. As a rule of thumb, always trust what people do not what they say. Here’s a perfect example.
George Allen just spent a lot of money to go on TV to implore journalists, the Webb campaign, and the voters to be concerned about issues rather than character attacks. His campaign has been saying for days that it wants to get off “character assassination” and discuss the issues that Virginia voters care about.
But for the past two days, his campaign has continued to run that ad with the female Naval Academy graduates who attacked Jim Webb for an article he wrote 27 years ago. That’s over a quarter of a century ago.
In fact, even Michael Shear noticed this disconnect today in this article in today's Washington Post. Here's a quote:
“A day after paying for a two-minute TV commercial calling for the campaign to focus on political issues instead of character issues, Allen said at the Fredericksburg luncheon that his Webb commercials are about ‘respect for women.’ His campaign vowed to continue attacking what they say is the Democrat's biggest vulnerability.Dick Wadhams vowed that they will continue to run the ad because it’s important to Virginians to know that Jim Webb was against women fighting in the military or attending the military academies (a position, by the way, that is similar to Allen’s position on the subject).
Let me see, Jim Webb was negative about women in the military over a quarter of a century ago and has since changed his mind and grown as a human being. George Allen, on the other hand, made a racial slur about a month ago. And it’s part of a continuing pattern that appears to have gone on unabated since he was in high school but Jim Webb should stop the character assassination but George Allen is right to continue playing that ad because it’s different.
There’s a definition for what this is. It’s called hypocrisy. You could look it up in a dictionary.
Or you could trust your eyes about the bad faith and bad body language here.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
But from what I’ve read and gathered, Allen surrounded himself with all the accouterments of a politician, the lovely and smiling wife, the picture of his father and the football helmet to remind Virginians that, yes, he’s that George Allen, Jr., son of the beloved Redskins coach.
He also admitted that some of his recent problems he brought on himself. Just the proper touch of humility. And he called the racist charges “baseless.”
What amused me most, though, was Allen’s plea to get back on issues.
Let’s face it, you don’t hire people like Dick Wadhams, Chris LaCivita, Paul Galanti, and the rest of the Swiftboat crew so that you can run a clean issue-oriented campaign. That’s not what they do and if Allen hired them to stay on issues and not character assassination he would have been wasting his money.
He hired them exactly to do character assassination. And if the situation had been reversed and they had found dirt about Jim Webb they would have been sanctimoniously telling the reporters and public that character counts.
It does. Theirs are the values voters, after all. And guess what?
Hate is not a Virginia value.
Hatred of blacks, women, Jews, immigrants, and gays is not a family value and it’s not what Virginians do.
On the other hand, Allen better be careful what he wishes for because if this campaign actually becomes about issues, Jim Webb will be even stronger in the polls and with voters than he is now.
In Virginia, as in the nation as a whole, people are dissatisfied with the way the war in Iraq is going. Most people no longer feel it was worth it to go over there. And more and more people are coming to realize that fighting in Iraq is not necessarily making us more secure at home. It’s not necessary to be in Iraq to fight terrorism and defend our own borders. Especially with the recent revelations from Bob Woodwards’ new book, State of Denial, voters are aware that they’ve been lied to by the Bush Administration on all counts. All Webb needs to do is point out that George Allen has supported Bush 97% of the time. George Allen is not a leader and he’s wrong on the issues.
George Allen is wrong on Iraq and national security. He also has voted against raising the minimum wage. He would vote for Social Security privatization, to continue tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent of the population, and against programs that help the middle class and poor. If you want economic justice, peace and prosperity, George Allen is not your man. But Jim Webb is.
Make the campaign about the issues. Please. Bring it on!
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Yet the truth is they are intertwined issues. And the Republicans are failing on both counts, their handling of the war in Iraq and fighting terrorism.
When Bush took us into Iraq the reason given was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction – nuclear and biological. And as an added fillip, Administration officials kept implying a link between Saddam and al Qaeda.
We now know that there were no WMDs in Iraq. And the link between Hussein and terrorists has been disproved too.
The recent selective leaking of the National Intelligence Estimate confirms what many have suspected for a long time. According to this classified report, the American occupation of Iraq has become a major recruiting tool for al Qaeda. Since we’ve been there terrorists have flocked to that country to wage jihad.
The NIE also confirms that Iraq is spiraling into chaos and civil war. And on top of that assessment, Bob Woodward’s new book, State of Denial, asserts that the situation has been even worse than we’ve been led to believe. The Bush Administration has been withholding how dire conditions really are.
I think, though, that anybody who reads a newspaper every day can guess that it’s not exactly going well over there. Nobody should be in shock over Woodward’s revelations that Bush and his administration have been feeding the public overly optimistic reports.
But it’s worse than we thought. It turns out that the same people who are losing the peace in Iraq were asleep at the wheel when it came to preventing 9-11 after all.
Remember the recent uproar over the highly partisan and biased ABC-TV miniseries on 9-11? A rightwing television writer penned an essentially fictional account of the events leading up to 9-11 that placed most of the missteps at the feet of President Clinton. Neocons have spilled a lot of ink recently trying to lay blame for the intelligence failures that led up to the worst attack on American soil at the feet of the Clinton Administration and the Democrats.
To hear them tell it, Clinton was too distracted with his intern scandal to pay attention to stopping bin Laden. The miniseries even showed fictional scenes of Madeleine Albright and other officials ignoring warnings or passing the buck to other bureaucrats.
Clinton, never one to suffer unfair accusations in silence (he’s the one successful candidate who didn’t let Bob Shrum run any of his campaigns), hit back when he told Chris Wallace angrily that it wasn’t true. Hillary weighed in that her husband tracked down bin Laden aggressively and both said that it was the Republicans and neocons that let him slip through their fingers not the Clinton officials.
Indeed, Richard A. Clark, the former director of counter-terrorism at the National Security Council, gave testimony to the 9-11 commission that directly disputed the neocons’ claims and supported the Clintons’ assertions. Here’s an excerpt from his testimony:
" At the senior policy levels in the Clinton Administration, there was an acute understanding of the terrorist threat, particularly al Qida. That understanding resulted in a vigorous program to counter al Qida including lethal covert action, but it did not include a willingness to resume bombing of Afghanistan. Events in the Balkans, Iraq, the Peace Process, and domestic politics occurring at the same time as the anti-terrorism effort played a role.And now, according to an excerpt from Woodward’s book, as carried in today’s Washington Post, it turns out that the Clintons’ counterpunch and Clark’s statements are accurate.
The Bush Administration saw terrorism policy as important but not urgent, prior to 9-11. The difficulty in obtaining the first Cabinet level (Principals) policy meeting on terrorism and the limited Principals' involvement sent unfortunate signals to the bureaucracy about the Administration's attitude toward the al Qida threat."
On July 10, 2001 CIA Director George Tenet met with his CIA counter-terrorism director J. Cofer Black to discuss intelligence chatter that convinced both of them there was an increasing likelihood that bin Laden was going to launch a major attack, possibly in the U.S.
Tenet and Black called Condoleeza Rice, the National Security adviser, from Tenet’s car and asked to see her right away.
The CIA and others in the intelligence community were all noticing an uptick in the chatter signaling something major was up. Their combined gut instinct was to take it seriously.
Indeed the National Security Agency and even Richard Clark were urging action. Care to guess who the major obstruction was?
The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld!
Rumsfeld was skeptical of the CIA’s information and of the National Security Agency intercepts. He thought it was all “grand deception,” masterminded by bin Laden, a plot to measure U.S. defense reactions and not a serious threat.
We already know from other sources, including former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill’s testimony in Ron Suskind’s book, The Price of Loyalty, that Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush were more focused on Iraq than al Qaeda or Afghanistan even then. Indeed, according to O’Neill’s accounts, as soon as the Bush officials took office they showed more interest in finding a way to invade Iraq than even in fixing an economy that was heading into a recession.
Here’s what O’Neill told Suskind:
“And what happened at President Bush's very first National Security Council meeting is one of O'Neill's most startling revelations. 'From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,' says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11.”And Richard Clark reported in his book, Against All Enemies, that immediately after 9-11 Cheney and Rumsfeld were frantically trying to pin the attack on Saddam rather than bin Laden. Clark was astounded since it ran counter to everything the intelligence agencies already knew.
In fact, as early as June 30, 2001, the National Security Agency had released a top-secret intelligence briefing “Bin Laden Threats Are Real.” And remember from the 9-11 Commission the August 2001 briefing that Rice ignored, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack in the U.S.?”
Immediately after the 9-11 attack, a distraught FBI Special Agent, Colleen Rowley, wrote her open letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller that several agents in the Minneapolis regional FBI office had grown suspicious of Zacarias Moussaoui, a Muslim with ties to questionable organizations who was taking flight lessons but skipping training on how to land planes. Her supervisor and others in middle and upper management ignored these warnings. They were not passing on crucial evidence that might have supplied the missing pieces to a security puzzle that top officials were becoming concerned about.
But middle management rarely acts in a vacuum. Careless functionaries weren’t simply losing this stuff in the bureaucratic maze. Rather, middle management gets a feel early on for what the top political people want. And that’s what they feed them.
Cheney and Rumsfeld weren’t interested in al Qaeda or bin Laden. They set their sights on Saddam Hussein from the beginning.
It’s not like plans to take out bin Laden weren’t formulated. In fact, in closed-door sessions, covert plans were being developed to use a new secret weapon, unmanned Predators or drones with Hellfire missiles to kill bin Laden. But the CIA and the Pentagon were locked in debate over who would pay for it and who would have the authority to fire the missiles.
Because of a turf war and a scuffle over finances, bin Laden walked away to launch his devastating attack on U.S. soil.
As for Black and Tenet, they left their meeting with Condi Rice on July 10 feeling more frustrated than ever. As Black said, “Adults should not have a system like this.” Indeed he felt that the decision to just keep planning rather than heed the warnings and act immediately was “a sustained policy failure.” And Tenet looked back at that meeting as a tremendous lost opportunity to prevent or disrupt 9-11.
The man most responsible for allowing this opportunity to slip through the Administration’s fingers, Donald Rumsfeld, is the same one equally responsible for the massive failures in Iraq. And for the same reason. He has allowed ideology to trump evidence. And he simply disrespects career civil servants whether they are intelligence experts or military leaders. He, Cheney, Karl Rove, and Bush place politics above sound policy.
Do you all feel safer knowing this? I know I don’t. And I think it’s time to challenge the Republicans’ assertion that they are better at protecting Americans and take the issue to the American people. We can’t shy away from it. Not because we want victory in November, although yes we do want that. But there’s a more important reason to fight tooth and nail to expose this Administration’s willful incompetence.
The real security of our nation is at stake. If protecting America meant Democrats losing the next 10 elections, I wouldn’t care. And if losing one election cycle to get rid of Rumsfeld and challenge this Administration to find a real solution that provides lasting security for Americans, then Republicans shouldn’t care if that means defeat. Ultimately the safety of America and its citizens should be more important than politics as usual. It was in the days immediately after 9-11 when we all came together. And it should be again with these revelations.
It’s time to come together again. Whatever the temporary partisan political cost.