Some fifty years ago, a Democratic Senate candidate of Florida, George A. Smathers, campaigned against civil rights, even accusing the incumbent he was challenging as being 'excessively friendly to blacks' (according to the book, House And Senate by Ross K. Baker). After Smathers defeated Claude Pepper, Smathers (who was in the House as he ran for the Senate) explained his recent opposition to civil rights, which contradicted his pre-campaign voting record in the House:
"There was an adjustment in my record. I voted against the so-called civil rights bills such as the one in 1957. Now looking at it from heaven down, you'd know I was wrong. Looking at it as a practical political situation, I could not have gotten elected. I couldn't have gotten the votes in north and central Florida if I'd voted for those civil rights bills."
Does anybody care to excuse Mathers for this blatant dereliction of duty?
Fast forward to October of 2002. With only weeks before the midterm elections, Congress faced a vote authorizing President Bush to use military action against Saddam Hussein. Many key Democrats (in a Democratic controlled Congress) placed votes that almost ensured an invasion to come. It seemed to make sense at the time being that this vote only confirmed their commitment to four years of hawkish rhetoric against Hussein, citing wmds, nuclear ambitions and a threat to American security.
Democrats have since become fair weather friends of the war that they helped initiate. As time goes by, the support dwindles and morphs into opposition. The 2004 campaign saw most Democratic candidates waffling on the war, opposing elements in order to pacify an anti-war constituency while simultaneously trying to paint themselves as the next Commander-in-Chief. This approach was cemented in history by candidate John Kerry's famous line, "I voted for the 87 billion [funding for the war] before I voted against it." 2006 saw a more cohesive and bolder opposition to the war.
So now, in 2007, as we brace for another presidential election, some of these same Democrats (and their shameless apologists) are using every technique available to disavow their previous vote. The excuses are as numerous as Hillary Clinton's positions on the war. Of course, it all leads to the notion that it's George W. Bush's fault that they voted the way they did!
But the reality is, like the Smathers example above, folks like Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, John Kerry, Chuck Schumer etc. etc. voted for party and personal political gain. "Looking at it as a practical political situation, [they] could not have gotten elected" had they obstructed Bush on the war; they put American lives at risk and threw the world into a policy lurch to protect their own political ambitions. Most House members and a third of the Senate were up for re-election in just weeks. Others, were looking ahead to 2004. They all knew that a month before the elections, a year after 9/11 and in an environment where most Americans supported the president and his stance on Iraq - voting against regime change in Iraq would have been political suicide, both as incumbents and as presidential hopefuls.
Democrat apologists (DA's) actually defend them for their pre-war votes, which is difficult to understand. It begs the question: are you anti-war first or Democrat apologists first? I ask because many of the DAs opposed the war in 2002 yet refuse to hold their officials feet to the fire on this. They cite claims that Bush only released information and intelligence that supported his desire to oust Saddam (which doesn't explain how he affected their hawkish rhetoric on Saddam before October of 2002). The DA's of course, spin this to mean that Bush lied to the Senate.
Yes - the idiot, the pretender, the resident-in-chief, the known liar, the cowboy, the chimp that we all knew was trying to launch a war for oil! and profit! and revenge! and imperialism!...fooled 29 of the best of the Democrats in Congress. Journalists, pundits, bloggers, even some fringe Democratic politicians (like Jim McDermott and Cynthia McKinney) all knew at the time that Bush was full of it; yet Hillary, Edwards and all of the rest didn't have a clue. They were so tuned out that they didn't even let it weigh on their decisions to grant him his war.
These Democrats began making hawkish statements against Saddam when supporting Bill Clinton's unapproved attack on Iraq in 1998 and in support of the subsequent Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998, passed unanimously by the Senate and signed by Clinton, which set a policy of regime change in Iraq and the prosecution and imprisonment of Saddam Hussein. It wasn't until after it became clear that we weren't going to find wmds and that the troops weren't coming home anytime soon that Democrats finally decided that Saddam Hussein was never armed, nor a threat.
It's not the job of Congress to validate a war for a president but rather to decide if the president is justified in that validation; in other words it's Congress's job to make sure that the president doesn't launch an unnecessary war. It's also not the president's responsibility to make sure that they vote against him.
Herein lies the dereliction of duty. The United States Congress had a duty - to the world, to the American people, to the military and their families, to the men, women and children of Iraq who are under attack to this day - to make a decision in the best interests of everyone at the whim of national security. DA's want to argue that these representatives of the citizens of America didn't have all of the information, or the 'right' information while ignoring that fact that most of the 'yea' voters had already stated their own personal beliefs that were in sync with the presidents. If there were unanswered questions about the justification for invasion, the time to deal with it was in October of 2002, not four years later and after the fact. Yet, rather than get p---ed off at the Democrats for initiating something that was detested by many from their camp, the DA's excuse and explain away their 2002 vote, regardless of whether or not that Congress person has since denounced their vote.
Writer and player in California Democratic state politics, Deborah White, suggested last December that we honor the 156 members of Congress who voted against military authorizations, citing that "In the end, 156 members of Congress from 36 states had enough information and personal insight and wisdom to make the correct decision for our national and the world community", suggesting that they "courageously voted their consciences in 2002 against the War in Iraq".
She makes it a point to give a pat on the back to the Senators and Representatives who had what they needed to know that a war with Iraq was not a necessary endeavor. DA's find it productive to protect the rest of them who couldn't be as persuaded as upstanding folks like Senator Kennedy, who stated in Senate debates over Iraq just days before the vote:
"...the administration has not made a convincing case that we face such an imminent threat to our national security that a unilateral, pre-emptive American strike and an immediate war are necessary."
Did 29 Senate Democrats not show up for these debates? Or did they just blow Ted off? Kennedy, one of the most powerful and influential Democrats in the Senate, seemed convinced that there was no case for a yea vote to give Bush the green light. Senator Kennedy and 20 other Democrats made a decision against the war based on the same information that the DA's claim tricked 29 others into voting for it! Something is amiss here...
The message coming in loud and clear from DA's is that Senators like Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and John Edwards are too incompetent to be trusted on decisions of war. And we're supposed to look to these people as possible next presidents? Are these Democrats as stupid or foolish as DA's would have us believe?
No...I think they practiced the George Smathers method of politics: regardless of the damage, regardless of right and wrong, they voted for themselves in October of 2002. Which makes it quite probable that their current positions on Iraq have as little to do with principle as their pre-war support of it and as much to do with again, voting for themselves.