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“The Senate’s 47 Percent”: Many Republicans Seem To Believe Anything Is Permissible As Long As It’s Designed To Foil Obama

In September 2002, three Democratic congressmen visited Iraq in an effort to prevent a war they thought was a terrible idea.

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) said very little there, explaining afterward that his sole purpose was to tell Iraqi officials that “if they want to prevent a war, they need to prevail upon Saddam Hussein to provide unrestricted, unfettered access to the weapons inspectors.”

On the other hand, former Rep. David Bonior (D-MI) and especially Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) were quite outspoken while on Iraqi soil. McDermott urged Americans to take Saddam’s promises on weapons inspections at “face value” and charged that President Bush was willing to “mislead the American people.”

Needless to say, supporters of Bush and his policies did not deal kindly with McDermott and Bonior. Writing at the time in the pro-war Weekly Standard, Stephen Hayes called them “The Baghdad Democrats” and said: “What apparently didn’t concern the congressmen was the damage their trip might do abroad to any U.S.-led effort to deal with Saddam.”

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Republicans are now reminding everyone of the trio’s journey. To defend the 47 Republican senators who signed a letter to “the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” they invoke the everybody-does-it argument: that interfering with a president conducting a negotiation is as American as apple pie.

The letter itself, written in strangely condescending language that a good civics teacher would never use, instructs the Iranians about our Constitution. Any deal reached by President Obama without congressional approval would be nothing more than an “executive agreement,” the senators said. It could be voided “with the stroke of a pen” by a future president, and “future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.” It was a blatant effort to blow up the negotiations.

In fact, it is utterly baffling that champions of this letter would even bring up McDermott and his colleagues. For one thing, many of the very same people who denounced the Democratic trio are now praising the letter. Hayes, for example, in an article posted last week headlined “A Contrived Controversy,” said the letter, offered by “patriotic senators,” was “a fact-based, substantive argument, in public, about a matter of critical importance to the national security of the United States.”

Let’s see: It’s patriotic if members of Congress contact a foreign leader to interfere with a president whose policies you don’t like, but outrageous for politicians to do a similar thing to undermine a president whose policies you support.

Which goes to the larger point: The three members of Congress went to Iraq on their own, without any support from their party’s leaders, and were actively taken to task even by opponents of Bush’s policies. At the time, I wrote a column highly critical of the visit that I didn’t enjoy writing because I respect the three men. I also noted that, in light of all the pressures to fall into line behind Bush, “anyone with the gumption to dissent these days deserves some kudos for courage.”

Nonetheless, I argued that just as the Vietnam anti-war movement was damaged by “the open identification of some in its ranks with America’s enemies,” so did the congressional visit set back the cause of those who, at the time, were trying to get Congress to pass a far more restrained war resolution.

By contrast, the 47 Republicans undercutting Obama included the Senate majority leader and the chairman of the Armed Services Committee and clearly speak for most of their party. Only seven Senate Republicans, to their credit, refused to sign, including Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Two stipulations: While I support Obama’s effort to reach an agreement with Iran, I also believe in a strong congressional role in setting foreign policy and embrace the freedom to dissent from a president’s choices on war, peace and diplomacy. And, yes, most of us have had moments of inconsistency when our beliefs about a substantive matter distorted our views on process issues.

But tossing off a letter to leaders of a foreign state plainly designed to sandbag a president in the middle of negotiations goes far beyond normal procedural disagreements. It makes Congress and the United States look foolish to the world. It weakens our standing with allies and adversaries alike. And, yes, many Republicans seem to believe anything is permissible as long as it’s designed to foil Obama.

This is far more damaging to us than what those three congressmen did in Baghdad.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 15, 2015

March 17, 2015 Posted by | 47 Traitors, Congress, Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Disturbing Sign”: Why Are Some Leading Dems Getting Soft On An Assault Weapons Ban?

In the wake of the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, support for re-banning assault weapons grew exponentially inside and outside of the Beltway. It’s only natural when an AR-15 is used to slaughter twenty schoolchildren and six educators, only months after another was used to shoot seventy-one people inside a movie theater.

Yesterday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel—seen as recently as 2006 recruiting pro-gun Democrats to run in House races—said that Newtown was a “tipping point, a galvanization for action.” He’s now calling for an assault weapons ban, expanded background checks, and is ordering Chicago municipal pension funds to divest from all gun manufacturers.

Indeed, it was a tipping point. Five days after the shootings, President Obama stood in the White House briefing room and explicitly called for another assault weapons ban, and Vice President Joe Biden is expected to recommend one this week. Senator Dianne Feinstein announced she’d introduce a strong bill in the Senate, and all the pieces looked to be in place.

But in the past twenty-four hours, there have been disturbing signs of pre-emptive surrender by key Democrats on the assault weapons ban.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told a PBS affiliate in Las Vegas that he didn’t think the assault weapons ban could pass the House, and thus he wanted would “focus” on what could. His comments echoed many pro-gun talking points about Hollywood and violent video games, and Reid openly tried to throw cold water on the gun-control movement:

“We have too much violence in our society, and it’s not just from guns. It’s from a lot of stuff. And I think we should take a look at TV, movies, video games and weapons. And I hope that everyone will just be careful and cautious. […]

“Let’s just look at everything. I don’t think we need to point to anything now,” he said. “We need to be very cool and cautious. […]

“I think that the American people want us to be very cautious what we do. I think they want us to do things that are logical, smart, and make the country safer, not just be doing things that get a headline in a newspaper.”

On Monday, Representative Mike Thompson—appointed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to head the House’s gun violence prevention task force—also signaled surrender on the assault weapons ban, according to Politico:

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Democrats’ gun violence task force, said the magazine ban and universal registration requirement would be far more effective than an assault weapons ban without the political cost.

“Probably the most recognizable thing you can say in this debate is ban assault weapons,” Thompson said. “But the other two issues” – forbidding high-capacity ammunition magazines and requiring universal registration for gun purchases – “those two things have more impact on making our neighborhoods safe than everything else combined. Anytime you try and prohibit what kind of gun people has it generates some concern.”

It’s not that Reid and Thompson are necessarily wrong in their political calculus—maybe an assault weapons ban can’t pass the House.

But publicly dooming the effort before it starts is self-enforcing, and repeats a Democratic proclivity that has frustrated progressives to no end: heading into negotiations and votes with a pre-compromised position.

Americans favor an assault weapons ban 58-39, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll released Monday. The president is about to stick his neck out and propose it, and then push for it in the weeks to come. Moreover, as Thompson and Reid both correctly noted, it’s the headline-grabbing issue here: rampages with assault weapons are what is driving the momentum on gun control.

Democrats would naturally be wise to push forward aggressively on the ban, as they have mostly done up to this point. If they fail, they fail. At least they’d likely be able to wrest more concessions from the GOP on background checks and high-capacity magazine bans during the legislative battle, and potentially force Republicans into a difficult vote where they would effectively be supporting military style weapons on the street.

Yet, it appears Reid and Thompson—absolutely key figures in the legislative battles in the Senate and House respectively—want to drop the assault weapons ban from the legislative agenda. It’s not yet clear that they will, but even signaling a lack of confidence is damaging to both the legislative prospects for meaningful gun control, and for public attitudes and activist motivation. And it’s not the debate demanded by what happened in Newtown.


By: George Zornick, The Nation, January 15, 2013

January 16, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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