Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Did you get the message, Nancy? Did you get the message, Harry?

Congress reconvenes today after an August recess. The recess is a time for Senators and Congresspersons to vacation and also to return to their districts to talk to their constituents.

Here in Oregon and in our sister-state, Washington, two messages came through loud and clear: End the occupation of Iraq; investigate and impeach Junior.

Oregon's senior senator, Ron Wyden was inundated with angry demands along those lines last month. Wyden has opposed the war from the start and has generally taken stands with which most progressives will agree (at least, as far as the war is concerned; his stance on NAFTA and "free trade" is another matter). Nonetheless, he was upbraided during his recent town hall meetings for not doing enough.

Congressman Brian Baird, representing Vancouver, WA, is currently being chastised mercilessly for his wavering resolve against the war. Baird, recently returned from Iraq, said that he felt that the "surge" had succeeded in calming the situation in Anbar province, and that he no longer supported a "precipitous" withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Since that time he has been bombarded by outraged constituents. If Baird does not reconsider this change of heart, he could lose his seat next year.

Congressman Peter DeFazio, interviewed this morning on the THC radio show, said that he, too, had heard many calls for an end to the occupation and for impeachment proceedings.

And, Senator Gordon, well....Smith didn't have any town hall meetings. I imagine he calculated that it was better to stay hidden than to have cameras and reporters record what he might hear when confronted by his constituency.

Granted, Oregon is a blue state, but if the same messages are being conveyed to congress throughout the country...

The real question now becomes this: Have Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid received the message? All along they have stone-walled and made excuses for not aggressively confronting the Bush administration. Will they finally find some spine and do what 70% of the country is howling for?

Personally, I doubt it. They hear the message, alright. But, to their way of thinking, why should they risk anything politically by confronting Bush? They imagine that they can win simply by doing nothing. Public anger toward Bush is white hot and poisonous. There are people who cannot even bear to hear his voice without being overcome with paroxysms of rage. Pelosi and Reid know this well. They don't want to do anything to cool that anger. After all, it could very well mean that they will both be the leaders of significantly larger majorities in the next congress. If the left wing base of the democratic party is disgusted with their weak performance, what of it? It's a small price to pay for the potential dominant majorities. And besides, they imagine, the left has nowhere else to go. What will they do? Vote Republican?

So Reid and Pelosi are happy to make half-hearted gestures in lame protest without effecting any real change as Junior continues down the road to perdition. But neither Reid nor Pelosi have impressed me very much with their prognosticative abilities. They could very well be too clever by half. The anger that is now directed at Bush and the Republicans could readily spread to include the purposefully ineffectual Democratic leadership, could suddenly erupt in some political bird flu that will consume all of them: Bush, Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner.

Poor, mad Cindy Sheehan has announced that she intends to run against Nancy Pelosi because of Pelosi's waffling and spinelessness. While I might wish for a more stable representative of the progressive left, I admire Cindy's courage, and I think Pelosi and others of her ilk should take notice of what Cindy's quixotic campaign represents: an unwillingness to sweep Iraq and the myriad of Bush crimes under the carpet. Let none stand before the people's righteous anger.

If this anger does grow, does become a white hot rage that engulfs all of the current Washington power brokers, I believe it will be good for our country. The purifying fire that cleanses through agonizing pain. New leaders will emerge from the ashes. Leaders like John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich. Leaders with new ideas and new vision.

If, however, everything peters out, and Bush is allowed to cover up his crimes and retire to his presidential pension without being exposed as the war criminal that he is....well, then we will have consigned ourselves to his path of cynicism, jingoism, fascism, and fear.

Sargeant Dave Karsnia, the officer that arrested Senator Larry Craig last week for attempting to engage in lewd behavior in a public restroom perhaps said it best. When Craig denied what Karsnia had seen with his own eyes, he commented in disgust: "Embarrassing, embarrassing. No wonder why we're going down the tubes."

Hear, hear.

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