Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hillary and the Anti-war Congressman

From my "Capital Games" column at www.thenation.com....

When Philip Johnston, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Massachusetts, first heard the news, he was stunned. Representative Jim McGovern, the six-term Democrat who represents the state's Third Congressional District, had endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton for president. On March 29, the Clinton campaign had issued a press release announcing that McGovern was backing the former First Lady in the Democratic presidential contest. The notice proclaimed that McGovern considered her the "best candidate to end war in Iraq." To Johnston, who's backing Democratic Senator Barack Obama's presidential bid, and other political observers, this Clinton-McGovern meet-up appeared curious: a fierce critic of the war backing a politician who has been accused (rightly or wrongly) of being hawkish.

McGovern is renowned as a liberal legislator. In the 1970s and early 1980s, he worked for Senator George McGovern (no relation), managing the senator's second-time-around 1984 presidential campaign in Massachusetts. Since before the Iraq invasion, Jim McGovern has been an outspoken opponent of the Iraq war. In November 2005, he introduced legislation that would end the war by prohibiting the president from using any taxpayer dollars for the deployment of US troops in Iraq (except for the "safe and orderly withdrawal" of troops).

Hillary Clinton has been slammed by anti-war activists for voting to grant George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq and for not apologizing for that vote. Her anti-war detractors have hounded her, protesting at her office and campaign events. Though she recently proposed cutting off money for Bush's so-called surge in Iraq and voted with her party to tie troop withdrawals to ongoing funding for the war, she had previously been critical only of the execution of the war, not of the idea of the war. She had seemed more supportive of the endeavor than her two key Democratic rivals: Obama, who spoke against the war before its start, and former Senator John Edwards, who (like Clinton) voted for the war but later apologized for having done so. On the campaign trail, Clinton now declares she will end the war should she return to the White House. Still, her past stance suggests she and McGovern might be odd foxhole-fellows.

Not so, says McGovern. Asked to explain why he partnered up with Clinton, he notes,

"I just decided to do it. I called her office. I talked to a number of people close to her over a period of weeks. They suggested it would be more useful if the endorsement came sooner than later. I've known her for a lot of years, and I respect her and admire a lot of what she did as First Lady. Even though HillaryCare did not fly, she was on the right track. She's out front as someone committed to universal health care and to early childhood development. She held conferences on childhood development at the White House that I attended. We need to get serious that education begins at age 0 and that we need universal preschool."

McGovern also offers an up-close-and-personal reason for the endorsement:

"I picked up my daughter from kindergarten the day after Hillary announced her presidential campaign, and all these five-year-old girls were talking about Hillary. I found it amazing. They were excited about Hillary's candidacy. I realized if she's elected, she breaks an important glass ceiling. These little girls learn about presidents who are only men. For me this is a very powerful moment. A lot of people portray her candidacy as a cautious and establishment candidacy, as if she's the Walter Mondale of this campaign. I see this as a bold, history-making campaign."

But what about the Iraq war?

"I believe her when she says that if it's not over when she takes office, she will end this war. If this war is still going on then, you're going to need somebody with skill and experience to bring everyone together here in the United States and within an international coalition. On the war, there's not a dime's worth of difference among the leading Democratic candidates. They're all voting for or supporting timetables and withdrawals. It's not as quickly as I want. My bill would start a safe and immediate withdrawal. If I were president, this war would be over now. But I can't get 218 people [in the House] to agree with me....People say, 'How could you do this when Hillary voted for the war.' John Kerry, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden voted for the war. I can't change the past. I can only try to shape the future."

Hillary Clinton has refused to apologize for her vote to hand Bush the authority to invade Iraq. Does that bother McGovern?

"Jesus Christ," he exclaims, "I'm not interested in an apology. I'm interested in the strategy. People are saying she has to get down on her knees and beg for forgiveness. This war is such a tragedy. Insisting upon an apology is an issue that trivializes the war. The war is the biggest moral, political, diplomatic, and military catastrophe in our history. I hate this war. I want to end it before the next presidency. And every Democratic candidate wants to end this war." McGovern contends that Clinton is best equipped to do so, citing her ability to work with Republicans in the Senate and her efforts and missions overseas during her husband's presidency. "She has the international statue," he says, adding, "the Bill connection helps."

Political endorsements don't "mean a lot," McGovern maintains. But he has told Hillary Clinton he will gladly work for her campaign, perhaps as an emissary to die-hard liberal Democrats who might harbor doubts about her. "I'm willing to go to New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts, wherever I can be of help," he says. "Some of the people who believe as I do in liberal politics go after her the way they go after George Bush. I can tell them, read what she believes in, listen to what she says."

Both Hillary and Bill Clinton were helpful to McGovern when he faced difficult congressional campaigns in his early years as a House member. One reporter, McGovern recalls, accused him of endorsing Hillary Clinton as payback for that assistance. McGovern insists he's not redeeming a political IOU--and that this endorsement is not part of a calculated attempt on the part of the Clinton campaign to bolster her left flank. "I approached them," he recalls.

What about the other candidates? Obama, a onetime community activist, has caused many progressive Democrats to swoon. His campaign also can shatter a political barrier. "In his first year in the Senate," McGovern says, "I don't recall him being much of a leader." McGovern notes he admires John Edwards' "focus on dealing with issues of poverty." Representative Dennis Kucinich? This progressive legislator agrees with McGovern that US troops should be removed from Iraq immediately. "On the war, our views are the closest," McGovern says. "I hope he does well. But there's more than just that one issue." Senator Chris Dodd, McGovern notes, is a friend. The two have worked together for years on Central America issues: "I think he's terrific."

But McGovern says there was no competition for his political affections. He's a Hillary Clinton fan. "I think she's a good person," he says. "Maybe because I know her as a woman who cares deeply about a lot of issues and who's motivated not just by ambition. That's how I've seen her for years--not this caricature of a person who doesn't stand for anything and who's secretly pro-war."

For some progressives, the Clinton years were a time of frustration and disappointment--a period of lost opportunity (with or without the Monica madness and other scandals, real or hyped). McGovern doesn't remember it that way. "I wish we could've done more then," he says. "But Bill Clinton protected more land in this country than any president since Teddy Roosevelt. He defended civil rights and reproductive rights. Do I wish he had been more liberal? Sure. I had sharp disagreements with him on Nafta and the [anti-drug trafficking] Colombia Plan. Overall, I thought he was a good president. As time goes on, I appreciate more the job he did."

Endorsing Hillary Clinton was no tough call for McGovern: "I didn't anguish over this. She's who I want to be with. She's the right person for the job. If I thought for one second that she wouldn't do everything humanly possible to end this war as fast as possible, no way in hell I would endorse her." McGovern is now looking forward to trekking from church basements in Iowa to pot luck suppers in New Hampshire to convince other Democrats she ought to be president.

Posted by David Corn at April 17, 2007 03:47 PM


Robert S said...

Sounds like he used the reasoning of five year olds, to me. Of course, it is far more probable that a past Bill came due.

David B. Benson said...

In Sydney and Brisbane, people are urged to install individual rain-catchment water tanks...

Saladin said...

That Buzzflash headline is ridiculous. The gun lobby enabled that as much as the Alcohol lobby enables drunk drivers. We should ban everything that kills people, starting with people, the number one killer of people! Idiots.

Saladin said...

Mr. Benson, I'm surprised that they haven't been doing that all along!

capt said...

People have not been horrified by war to a sufficient extent ... War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige as the warrior does today: John Fitzgerald Kennedy

The pioneers of a warless world are the youth that refuse military service: Albert Einstein

I have seen men march to the wars, and then I have watched their homeward tread, And they brought back bodies of living men, But their eyes were cold and dead: Edmund Vance Cooke

When a whole nation is roaring patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart." : Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism: Martin Luther King, Jr.


Thanks ICH Newsletter!

capt said...

Is Cheney Right About the Democrats?

While some Democrats in Congress have shown backbone since becoming the majority, key members like Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin of Michigan seem willing to acquiesce in giving Cheney and Bush funding to continue the war, no matter what. On April 8, right after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he would cosponsor legislation cutting off all funding for combat troops next March, Levin undercut Reid by telling ABC's This Week, "We're not going to vote to cut the funding, period. … We're not going to cut off funding for the troops. We shouldn't cut off funding for the troops. … We're going to vote for a bill that funds the troops, period. We're going to fund the troops. We always have."

Do you want me to repeat that?

Levin is a smart fellow, but his progressive credentials have been tarnished by his caving in on funding for an unworkable National Missile Defense project, by his working out an unsavory compromise with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on depriving detainees of rights formerly guaranteed them by the U.S. Constitution, and now this.

What would prompt Levin to preempt his own majority leader? One possible explanation might be found in the chutzpah-laden admonitions coming from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) cheerleaders for Cheney, who do not disguise their fervor for the U.S. continuing the war in Iraq. Their gratuitous warnings at last month's AIPAC meeting in Washington that U.S. politicians not show "weakness" on Iraq spring from their conviction that withdrawal of U.S. troops would make the neighborhood more dangerous for Israel. (Israeli politicians should have thought of that before goading Bush and Cheney into attacking Iraq in the first place.)

Levin has received more money from AIPAC than any other senator. It seems an open question whether he is influenced more by the money or by a penchant – akin to that of Republican "neoconservatives" – to see little or no daylight between what they perceive to be Israel's interests and those of the United States.


David B. Benson said...

Locally there are three faculty with close ties to V.T., also the provost was there for many years.

Several people in a state of shock here.

Too bad more are not in a state of shock with regard to Iraq...

Saladin said...

"Too bad more are not in a state of shock with regard to Iraq..."

God, isn't that SO true? The strange and twisted values of America. A 21st century Twilight Zone.

Saladin said...

Nuclear bombs don't kill people, people do. There's a lobby called NNBA, the national nuclear bomb association that argues a nuclear bomb is a natural extension (in the modern age) of our right to bear arms and why not for anyone with the resources to buy one. I tend to agree. They have a tremendous deterrent effect and if nly criminals have nuclear bombs then only innocent people will die.

Saladin said...

Capt, as you probably realize that last post was a spoof. Whoever did it is beyond stupid and hopelessly naive.

Saladin said...

Not to mention a coward.

Saladin said...

VA Massacre Proves Government Can't Protect You
Cowardly cops with sub-machine guns hid behind trees as punk madman went on killing spree

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The loudest message sent by what happened at Virginia Tech yesterday is that government cannot and will not protect you.

Contrast the events at VA Tech with the 1966 UT Tower shooting, which was until yesterday the deadliest shooting massacre on a University campus in America.

The shooter was Charles Whitman, a Marine Corps sniper who carried out his killing spree enjoying "a nearly unassailable vantage point from which he could select and dispatch victims," according to Crime Library, armed to the teeth with an arsenal of high powered weaponry.

The Virginia killer was able to dispatch twice as many victims as Whitman despite having apparently little firearms skill, using only two relatively weak handguns and being surrounded by police and other civilians who could have attempted to apprehend him at any point.

The difference? 40 years ago cops were not cowards, they knew their job was to protect the public and they didn't hide behind trees while wearing bullet proof body armor and toting sub-machine guns, cowering in fear at the prospect of facing up to a punk with a pea-shooter.
So, you are not allowed to protect yourself, and the cops won't do it either. I suppose if a student had a gun in spite of the ban, and took that psycho out before he could have done so much damage, that unfortunate student would have been cuffed and hauled to jail like a criminal. And the gun grabbers would have cheered that justice had been done. Who exactly are the crazy people here??

Saladin said...

9/11 WTC Building 7

Excellent video of collapse. Office fires? yeh, right! I believe that, happens ALL the time! Using the pretzel logic displayed here a couple days ago, all you believers in the "Official" bushco 9/11 conspiracy theory are in very good company, not only the bush/cheney gang but all their neocon cheerleaders believe it too. Just think, Tom Delay, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Mr. Wiener, I mean, Savage, and a host of right wing psychos are among those you can count on your side! I'm convinced.

Saladin said...

A voice of reason.

Liberal: It's Not About The Firearms

Bob Cesca
Huffington Post
Wednesday April 18, 2007

A firearm in the hands of the wrong person can be deadly. The presidency in the hands of the wrong person can also be deadly. Air travel safety regulations have convinced some of us that a finger-nail clipper in the hands of the wrong person can precipitate a terrorist attack. From these examples, it doesn't make sense to ban either the presidency or manicure devices.

What makes much more sense is to focus on the issues that prompt a maniac to use a firearm to kill innocent people; a president to kill innocent people; or a terrorist to kill people. When it comes to the latter, those of us on the progressive side of the nation haven't spent much time blaming the explosive devices or the box cutters, but rather the policies which have fostered so much resentment against the United States. We all know the list and it has nothing to do with hating us for our freedom.

So what causes a maniac to murder 30 people in cold blood? It can't possibly be about the 9mm handguns, in the same way terrorism isn't about access to beverage containers.

Yeah, I'm one of those progressives who has long since conceded the gun debate. It's not because of the gun lobby's simplistic talking points, it's not because of the hunters who think it's most excellent to kill innocent animals, and it's definitely not due to a lack of thought about the issue.

It's primarily about focus. Who or what is really to blame for the shameful level of gun violence in America?

The focus has to be aimed point-blank at the cold, brutal reality that there exists a serious inability to cope with American pop, economic and social pressures; a criminal lack of understanding of mental and physical health issues; and the problem solving examples instilled upon us by our elected leaders in a time when visual and printed access to information is at an all time high. These are just some of the elements at play, and they each carry a significant amount of blame. Not the guns.

President Bush himself has told us that shooting without negotiation is the only answer. The generation of kids in my daughter's demographic has to struggle in order to recall a time without this preemptive war. The only evidence they possess that indicates reasoning and negotiating with an enemy actually works is what they read about in history books. Their president and vice president have told them that the Speaker of the House shouldn't talk to our enemies because open dialogue is somehow a reward, rather than a rational responsibility.

And irresponsible behavior doesn't end at the front gate of the White House or at the steps of Capitol Hill.

Every day we're bombarded from all sides by marketing that tells us that our bodies aren't ripped enough. Our credit score is too low, but that a Visa card is priceless. We need a bigger car. We need more chemically polluted foods, then the diet pills to interdict with the chemicals, then more medications to interdict with the diet pills, then additional meds to give us boners and free-flowing piss when our organs stop functioning from all of the above. We need plastic surgery to feel accepted. We need acceptance in order to be popular on MySpace. We have to redecorate our homes, buy a souped up chopper, eat brick oven pizza with five varieties of cheese and we need to display bumper magnets that prove to the dickhead behind us in traffic that we unequivocally support the troops.

Meanwhile, the divide between the people who can easily purchase all of these items and the people who can barely afford to keep their city water turned on is growing larger and larger, while the middle class is disappearing. It used to be that a guy could work 40 hours a week in a blue collar job and still be able to own a home, send his children to college and take his family on vacation every summer, with a pension waiting for him on the other side.

In every city, as well as a staggering number of suburbs, crime is becoming the only way to keep up with the 21st Century version of the American Dream (now with easier pissing power!).

Besides, aren't our kids supposed to shoot before they talk?

Who should we really be afraid of, anyway? The black kid with the oversized NFL parka or the white man in the suit rationalizing that it's okay if he pollutes the air or pumps our kids with mercury-contaminated vaccinations and high fructose corn syrup until they're fat, diabetic, cancerous globules lumbering diligently from the drive-thru to the waiting list for gastric bypass surgery? Obviously the black kid in the NFL parka is the one to fear because, let's face it, even though it's going to be a painful torturous death, the white man will kill you with snack foods that come in "fun" shapes -- AND he offers a fully stocked biggie-sized menu. (The non-snark answer is that the white man in the suit selling high fructose corn syrup is the one to fear, given the choice.)

Despite all of it -- coupled with gun ownership -- most of us don't run around killing people. The answer, they say, is to ignore these societal factors if you choose to. Be your own person! An individual! You know, like they teach in schools where everyone is forced to dress the same and where the creative arts are being downsized.

Yet in an era when we're being marketed to and categorized without even knowing it, how can we possibly avoid the perils of the modern American Dream (now featuring Crazy Bread!)? Combine this with record foreclosures, record bankruptcies and a health care system that, if you can afford it in the first place, will provide you with something for your Restless Leg Syndrome while refusing to cover your psyche meds and therapy sessions.

Millions of American citizens with an array of mental illnesses are walking around without the means to be diagnosed in the first place, much less to be treated properly -- and a growing number of those Americans are Iraq veterans. Health insurance carriers won't insure you if you have a prior history of anything from basic depression to full blown schizophrenia (2 million diagnosed Americans with schizophrenic disorders and counting), even though many mental illnesses erase the ability to discern between a first-person-shooter video game and a group of students on a college campus. Mental illness is the difference between keeping a handgun for self defense and using it to liberate human beings from their oppressive world.

Give a person with an untreated and severe mental illness a handgun and a target, and another Virginia Tech massacre waits in the wings. Take away the handgun, and it'd be homemade explosives. Take those away and it'd be poison in the cafeteria food (beyond the legal poisons already mixed in). What else can be taken away? Basic freedoms and liberties, maybe? Video games?

The key, as best I see it, is to leave most of the guns alone (and the video games, Senator Clinton) and provide real health insurance for everyone, then to begin the slow process of rebuilding a viable middle class in America.

If the NRA, among others, truly wants to win this debate, it should dedicate a large percentage of its lobbying resources to promoting guaranteed affordable (free is better), comprehensive health care coverage for every American. Additionally, if you want to keep your firearm, tell your elected representatives that tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans should be rolled back in favor of serious tax breaks for the middle class. This will begin to close the divide between crime and earning an honest living. Proper health care will begin to tackle the rate of untreated mental illnesses which, at the very least, will reduce the numbers of gun crimes by those of us who aren't able to handle or fully process the torque of modern American reality.
VERY good points.

micki said...

Oh now look. That cockamamie article posted above is another example of the conspiracy minds at work (using the word "mind" loosely!). This story is from the same guy that suggested the VT massacre was a "black op."

Would that be where the "something fishy" the guvmint is out to get me types get their talking points?


capt said...

New Thread!