Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Elaine's entry on not needing "more of the same"

There's a reason that Rebecca picked Elaine to sub for her at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude while Rebecca's on vacation. It's the same reason that Rebecca and I have urged Elaine to start her own site. We're reposting Elaine's entry in full.

Casualties continue to mount and the Democratic Party needs to find some ideas and a platform that's not "more of the same"

Elaine back again while Rebecca's on vacation. For those who missed it, there's a roundtable up at The Common Ills that's worth reading for a number of reasons but Rebecca participated in it so check it out.

Mike asked me to note this from Democracy Now!

21 Marines Die in Iraq Over Two-Day Period
Fourteen Marines and a civilian interpreter were killed early today in western Iraq making it one of the deadliest days for U.S. forces in months. Seven more Marines died on Monday.

I can remember when the invasion started in 2003. It was probably a week in and someone noted that it wasn't a "big deal," that it wasn't like the casualities in Vietnam. In that first month, 65 American soldiers died. One month of losses didn't seem to matter to this woman because it didn't compare with the years and years of the Vietnam conflict.

We're at 1822 right now. And we've got Donald Rumsfeld saying we could be over there for ten more years. You've got too many Democratics elected in Congress who don't want to address the problem and now Bully Boy's doing the Nixon dance of "I have a plan" as the next election cycle approaches. The plan is a Vietnam retread and it's not much of a plan.

So where does that leave us? Paul Hackett ran for Congress in a special election yesterday and he did pretty well. But there's something that bothered me about the way the election was pushed by Democrats.

Vote Hackett because he's a war hero. Vote him because he's been over there.

There were probably many reasons to vote for Hackett. And he did pretty well. He lost, but he did pretty well.

But the thing that bothered me was the fact that we're still trying to do the 2004 election. Hackett wasn't for bringing the troops home now. He was going to fight a smarter war. Does that sound familiar? He was a war hero.

At some point Democrats are going to have to be able to offer a true alternative.

Bully Boy received no mandate. (Lizz Winstead would say "Mandate my ass!") But when you tried to point out a) how high turnout was, b) how many votes Kerry got, the "thinkers" would dismiss that. They would say only the results matter.

Now the talk isn't that it only mattered who won.

I don't think winning is the only thing matters and I certainly don't believe that we only learn based on who's declared the winner. But it's interesting that we're operating under a different principle now.

I also think it's interesting that we're still not presenting alternatives.

As a people, we're in favor of bringing the troops home. It's only our elected officials, with few brave exceptions, that won't enter that dialogue.

What's more worrisome is that we seem to be resorting, repeatedly, to the idea that only war heroes are worthy of office. We need ideas from our leaders. And the Democratic Party needs to offer some.

Military service is not a requirement for public office. It shouldn't be a liability either.But it's not a platform. Jingoistic cheerleading, and we heard that as Hackett was pushed, doesn't take the place of ideas.

The party needs to get it together between now and 2006. That means offering plans and being an alternative to more of the same.

Hackett didn't have a platform and if you have trouble accepting that, listen, watch or read his interview with Amy Goodman today:

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it's hard to say congratulations on your defeat, but it has astounded many. Can you talk about what happened and the platform that you ran on?
PAUL HACKETT: Well, I mean, I had first confessed that I did not sit around and (quote/unquote) "come up with a platform." There are many issues that I believe in, and believe very passionately in, and those issues, as they came up in the campaign, I shared with the citizens of the Second District. So, it's funny, when I hear the term "platform," I sort of think as though that there was a committee that sat around and said, 'Okay, this is what we believe on this.' I mean, I just felt that in this district there had not been a choice. There had not been an alternative, and that many like me were not being represented, our voices were not being represented regarding many issues in the U.S. government, foreign policy to name a big one that was certainly spoken a lot about in the election campaign, and so forth. And then many social issues, as well. I mean, I just -- I'm just not happy with the state of politics in southern Ohio and, frankly, across the nation.

He feels that the district hadn't had a choice. He didn't offer them any choices in terms of ideas or inspiration. He speaks of having no idea what a platform is. Now the anti-government faction might like that or some factions might see it as "keeping it real," but in terms of a strategy for the Democratic Party, a platform's pretty important.

Also from the interview, he speaks of the importance of dissent but then goes on to offer this:

And the only criticism that I have heard about my comments regarding this administration are usually of those who have never served in the military. And a very, very small percentage of people have come up to me and said, "I was in the military. That wasn't right." And usually then, when I then ask them, "Have you ever been in combat?" the answer is "no." I have yet, and, you know, I am not asking -- this is not an invitation, but I have yet to have somebody say, "Hey, you know, I was in combat, and what you said was wrong." That I have not heard. Almost unanimously the word from the veterans that have contacted me by email, by telephone, and come to work with us in person have been overwhelmingly supportive, and so --

Those who disagreed hadn't served in the military. So Hackett doesn't value their opinion. Is that a Democratic message? More importantly, as he did throughout the campaign, he then goes further. Not seconds later, he's saying that actually some did serve and their opinion doesn't matter because they didn't see combat.

The message behind those statements was never examined. No one can disagree with Hackett if they didn't serve and if they didn't serve in a combat zone. Statements like that came out of his mouth constantly. I didn't note it because I didn't want to blow his chances.

But the election's over now. And people need to look at what went down because he didn't have a platform and his public statements often contradicted statements made moments before.

But what's really bothersome is the fact that there's this attitude that was pushed by others and by him which is only those who served in the military can weigh in. That's not democracy.

Back to the interview:

AMY GOODMAN: So, you would return to fight a war that you think is unjust?
PAUL HACKETT: Well, I've not said it's unjust. I have said that it's been mismanaged by the administration. I have said it was a poor use of our military. I'm not quite sure the implication of the label of unjust, so I'm uncomfortable using that. I have been critical of it up and down, but to me, that's not inconsistent with my desire to want to serve and my desire to want to lead marines and be with them in the field.

He's not sure whether it's a just war or an unjust war. He ran for office. He ran on his military record. But he can't weigh in on a very obvious question, one raised by the Pope in 2003. Amy Goodman wasn't bringing up an obscure theory and the election was over. But we can't get an answer on that question from him.

He has "no empathy or sympathy" for Camilo Mejia and that's bothersome. Mejia made a moral choice. And Hackett doesn't want do the work to determine whether the war is just or unjust.

But he's perfectly happy to talk about consequences. Whose consquences?

Mejia has to take consequences for his actions, according to Hackett, but he won't weigh in on the consequences of the war itself.

What is Hackett's plan?

From the interview:

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that the U.S. should get out of Iraq?
PAUL HACKETT: I'm not there yet. I think that -- let me step back and say, when you say, 'Should the U.S. get out of Iraq?' Yes. Eventually, yes. The question is, are we going to do it tomorrow, or are we going to accomplish the bare minimum and allow the Iraqis to survive within their defined government and social structure? And right now, I don't think that any form of security force in Iraq is capable of providing that for the people. And, while it may seem difficult to comprehend on this side of the world, at this point, I believe that Iraq will spiral out of control. And even though it's in a terrible condition today as a result of the insurgency phasing into civil war, perhaps, I don't think it's currently today as bad as it will be if we were to pull out tomorrow. I think that the administration has got to permit the American military over there to fight that fight and train the I.S.F., the Iraqi Security Forces, in a manner acceptable to our military, which I argue they're not -- the administration is not allowing that, so that the I.S.F. can be up to speed and we can get out of there. I think that, as a citizen of the United States, setting aside, you know, my uniform and so forth, I think we need to turn up the heat on the administration and demand some sort of oversight, as citizens, as to what successes the administration is having in training the Iraqi Security Forces.

There is nothing inspiring about that and nothing you couldn't read in a Thomas Friedman column. Or, for that matter, in a William Safire column if Safire was still writing op-eds. This was a campaign based on "We're not pulling out now. At some point we'll leave, but not yet." That's the Bully Boy's plan.

A lot of people, including Hackett, invested time and energy on his run for office but there was no real campaign. There was no plan, no proposal. Instead it all came down to "He served in Iraq!" Democrats need to find a way to offer proposals, plans and alternatives.

If this was a try out for the 2006 races, Democrats need to realize that we need real voices, with real ideas and real plans. We didn't get that from Hackett and the cheerleading and the applause that greeted his constant use of the term "chickenhawk" didn't provide any solutions or alternatives.

If the party wants to seriously try to win some elections, they're going to have to do better than presenting poster boys and thinking that a chorus of rah-rah cheers replaces real ideas and real thoughts.

(Thanks as always to C.I. for acting as a sounding board and offering encouragement.)

"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center)
The only thing that's been a worse flop than the organization of nonviolence has been the organization of violence.
Joan Baez

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