“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.19The second is Gerry’s statement in the March 2003 Democrats (h/t to RK for both these)
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?
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.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.
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.
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.