Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gerry Connolly Needs a Weather Vane to See Which Way the Wind Blows

I was pretty puzzled and surprised when my husband brought in the mail yesterday and showed me Gerry Connolly’s first mailer. In it Connolly claimed that he was opposed to the Iraq war from the beginning. He also promises a vote for him would bring us nearer to bringing our troops home and ending that war.

“That’s news to me,” I commented. And it was. I really never knew Gerry Connolly’s position on the war simply because he never made it clear before. Lowell has a great post on RK exposing Connolly’s claim and contrasting it with Leslie Byrne’s well documented opposition to the war from its beginning, indeed even in the run up to the invasion (actually two posts here and here). Unlike Gerry, who mouthed some pabulum about both sides being entitled to their opinion about it, Leslie spoke out and left a paper trail with a letter to the editor published in the Washington Post in December 2003 in which she defended Howard Dean’s anti-war stance. Here’s a study in contrast. The first is Leslie’s LTE to the Washington Post in December 2003.
The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Dec 20, 2003. pg. A.19

Letter to the editor:

Your Dec. 18 editorial chides Howard Dean for being "Beyond the Mainstream" because he uses the words democracy and stable self- government interchangeably when talking about Iraq. Your paper doesn't like Dean saying that the capture of Saddam Hussein has not made us safer, although none of us has seen the terrorist warning improve from Code Yellow to Code Green. You don't like Dean's questioning the current Bush policy of using unlimited overseas deployment of National Guard units. You don't think that North Korea must join the community of nations in order to reduce the nuclear threat the Bush administration is unable to address.

You continue to support the multibillion-dollar boondoggle called missile defense -- better known as "Star Wars" -- despite the undeniable facts that have come to light about its efficacy, and you believe Dean should go along and keep his mouth shut. You disagree (no big surprise here) with Dean's position that trade agreements must include labor and environmental standards. Last but not least, you don't agree with Dean and millions of other Americans that the United States must shrink its military adventurism and work with other nations to make this a safer world.

Now who is out of the mainstream?

Leslie Byrne
The second is Gerry’s statement in the March 2003 Democrats (h/t to RK for both these)
The 2003 election cycle, however, is overshadowed by the impending war in Iraq. Northern Virginia politics will not be unaffected by such a war. Men and women in our neighborhoods have been called up to active duty. Terrorist threats and planning for heightened terror alerts preoccupy our local media coverage. For the first time since World War II anti-aircraft batteries ring the Capitol in Washington and none of us knows whether an already fragile economy might not tip back into recession with a steeply declining stock market and sharp spikes in the price of oil. The war threatens to crowd out our ability to air and debate local and state issues such as tax restructuring, school funding and transportation that so desperately need to be aired and debated this Fall.

As Democrats, we know how important it is to allow a full discussion about the merits of war in the Persian Gulf region. We remember from the Vietnam era how critical it is to respect the right to dissent. We understand that while the nation needs to protect its homeland security, we cannot sacrifice our constitutional liberties in the process. Whatever our own views on the war, we share common Democratic values about our country and its role in the world. As our election season commences we will strive to remind our community of those values and carry them forward into the electoral battleground this Fall. Good luck to us all and Godspeed.
Admirable sentiments, but essentially he is saying nothing. It's a simple "mom and apple pie" plea for both sides to respect each other and for local government to concentrate on local issues. It takes no stand at all on the actual war.

Meanwhile, Not Larry Sabato’s Ben Tribbett challenges Connolly’s position, also in the flier, on investigating those corporations who had no bid contracts and profiteered in Iraq making huge profits. As Tribbett shows, Connolly is himself a vice president at SAIC, one of those very companies.

When you read Gerry’s comments about the war back in 2003, you realize he was an over cautious politician trying to have it both ways and offend nobody. Of course, now that the war is so hugely unpopular, it's not only safe to oppose it, but in a Democratic primary, it would be foolhardy not to.

But sticking ones finger out to see which way the wind is blowing is not what a leader does. Leslie Byrne, by contrast, weighed the personal cost, took the risk, as she always does, and did the right and principled thing. She didn't need a weather vane to know which way the wind was blowing.

A real leader never does.


Isophorone said...

Careful! Hillary Clinton has that reputation of being a cautious politician trying to have it both ways, particularly on the war.

silence dogood said...

Hypothetical question: what would be wrong with not always being opposed to the war? The majority of Americans were in favor of this war at its outset and eventually came to change their minds later on down the line.

It doesn't really resolve any debate about Leslie or Gerry, I just wonder why we think being opposed to the war from the beginning is a huge litmus test to begin with. Particularly since in the vast majority of cases, folks who were opposed to the war weren't any smarter than the public at large or better informed--Jim Webb's an exceptionally intelligent outlier with regard to the matters, but am I supposed to believe that either Gerry Connolly or Leslie Byrne understands more about foreign policy, defense policy or WMD manufacturing and proliferation than anyone else who regularly reads a newspaper just because they held a contrarian opinion.

I mean, even if we're going to believe that they both opposed to war, all they're trying to tell me is that they happened to guess right, yes?

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

The question isn't who was opposed to the war first. It's that Gerry Connolly, in his flier, claims to have been opposed to it from the beginning.

But nothing in his public statements from the time back that claim up.

If he had sincerely been for the war, there would have been nothing wrong with it. There's no shame in changing one's position as more facts were revealed.

The issue is that Gerry gave no public opinion, played it safe, and is now claiming something for which there is no evidence.

Leslie spoke her mind on the issue. Whether she was right or wrong, she took a position on a controversial topic. She did what she sincerely thought was the right thing to do and let the chips fall where they may.

That's what leaders do.

Anonymous said...

I know you support Byrne and that is your right. But I am more than a bit surprised that you bought into the spin being spun by her paid attack dogs -- Lowell Feld of RK and Ben Tribbett of NLS. (Yes, Byrne's latest report shows that Lowell has been paid by her campaign.)

The argument being spun against Connolly by these two is specious. They say that because Connolly didn't speak out in some public forum five years ago about his opposition to the Iraq War, he didn't really oppose it.

That is like saying that because Byrne didn't speak out and condemn Prince William Chair Corey Stewart's racist campaign against immigrants that she actually supported Stewart's reign of terror and assault on their civil rights. (Connolly did speak out against Stewart's policies and pushed much more responsible and humane efforts in Fairfax.)

The NLS and RK argument (and now your argument) holds no water. It is just like the case Ben Tribbett is making that Connolly did a poor job of fundraising because Ben putting out a fake inflated number and then said Connolly didn't meet his goals.

The fact is that Connolly raised more than $500,000 in one quarter. That is more than Byrne has raised since she announced her campaign last fall. That is more than all but a handful of the hundreds of congressional candidates across the nation raised in the first quarter of this year.

Go after Connolly, but be fair about it. I don't expect RK or NLS to be fair, but your readers hold you to a higher standard of integrity.

Anonymous said...

It is ludicrous for RK to make this case about Connolly and I am surprised you bought into it..

After all, Lowell Feld of RK was a big supporter of the Iraq War at its inception and chided liberals and progressives for opposing it in an article entitled "A Liberal Case for the Iraq War that he wrote for Intervention magazine. Here are some excerpts:

"A Liberal Case for the Iraq War"

"As the Left becomes stridently antiwar, a liberal argues that morality, international law and self-defense all demand that we unseat Saddam Hussein."

By Lowell Feld

"Two weekends ago, tens of thousands of people marched in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere in opposition to the apparently inevitable U.S. war with Iraq. Most of these people were from the left, even the far-left of the political spectrum: the "Free Mumia" crowd; the "stop-the-Zionist-racist-genocide-against-the-Palestinian-people" crowd; Ramsey Clark, defender of dictators and war criminals everwhere; ad nauseum."

"Forgetting about the "loony left" for a moment, why were thousands of mainstream, perfectly sane, intelligent liberals and progressives marching in opposition to war against one of the worst, least liberal, and least progressive leaders (Saddam Hussein) on this planet? Why, instead, are progressives and liberals not marching in favor of liberating the Iraqi people, enforcing the international rule of law, and putting one of the worst war criminals in decades on trial in The Hague?"

"They haven't thought through the extremely strong case that can and should be made -- from a mainstream progressive/liberal perspective -- for war against Iraq."

"To put it simply, the progressive/liberal moral argument for war against Saddam is simple and overwhelming."

"Simply put: if one knows of an evil taking place in the world, if one is even partly responsible for creating that evil, and if one has the ability to DO something to end it, one must act or become an accomplice oneself. All of those conditions apply in this case. Therefore we must act, and the sooner the better."

"Aside from constituting the only morally correct choice, war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq is completely consistent with progressive/liberal humanitarian values."

"In fact, U.S. action at this point -- unilateral or not -- would actually strengthen international law, not weaken it."

"With all the strong arguments for taking out Saddam's brutal regime, why do so many liberals and progressives apparently oppose doing so at this time? Very simple: they don't trust George W. Bush. Nor should they. Having said all this, I must still conclude that liberals and progressives are wrong to oppose war with Iraq, even with Bush as Commander-in-Chief."

Note: Lowell Feld is a freelance writer living in Washington, DC. He holds a Master's Degree in Middle East Studies

DougHed said...

Ok, you do understand your own title: "Gerry Connolly Needs a Weather Vane to See Which Way the Wind Blows " is a play on Bob Dylan singing "don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" which is not about weathermen, but weathermen, as in Ayers, as in ridiculous BS debates like last night. Yes, Bob Dylan was referring to that ridiculously innefectual domestic "terrorist" group 40 years ago.

Did you know that was the real meaning of that Bob Dylan line?

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Um, yes. Actually the radical group the Weathermen took their name from the Dylan song, which came first. It's called "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and it's from the album Bringing It All Back Home, which I still have. For a clip of Dylan singing that iconic song go here