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Do Jon and Max Really Think Harry Reid and Russ Feingold Dislike the Troops?

by: Matt Singer

Fri May 18, 2007 at 08:44:36 AM MST

The Senate considered the so-called Feingold-Reid amendment this week. The measure would have basically forced the President's hand. Now, it was never really likely to pass or survive a veto, but it was an issue of going on the record and realizing a few things -- that this President does not respond to criticism at all (hence, we still can't say "former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales") and that for the War in Iraq to end, his hand must be forced.

Now, Max Baucus and Jon Tester both voted against Feingold-Reid. They're in a different place than me. That's fine. I ain't happy about it, but it's understandable. I suppose if I'd spent a long life living in a world where people would actually work together, I'd probably fail to see it when I entered a situation where the most powerful douchebag on the planet refuses to work with the opposition at all.

That said, I think they both really miss the boat in their attempts to explain their votes:

"It's time for a change of course in Iraq, and I'm committed to working together with my colleagues on a solution," Baucus said in a prepared statement. "However, I'm not for pulling the rug out from under our brave military men and women serving in Iraq. I cannot support cutting off funding while they're fighting on the frontlines overseas. It just wouldn't be right."


"I am doing everything in my power as a U.S. senator to end the war in Iraq, but I will not cast any vote that I believe compromises the safety and security of our troops on the ground," Tester said, also in a prepared statement.

"I have said for two years that the president needs to develop a plan to get us out of Iraq," Tester said. "The Congress and the American people have spoken; the president needs to start listening."

There's a couple problems with this -- first and foremost, it's misleading. As a staffer from one of their offices told me himself, there's this whole false understanding that passing Feingold-Reid would literally mean that tanks in Iraq would start running out of gas and the like. That's simply not true -- and it's not how our government actually operates. Our Senators shouldn't perpetuate myths.

Second, they're both using common right-wing attacks to undermine progressive Democratic leadership. They could have both simply said, "My position is that the President and the Pentagon need to come up with a plan. This bill doesn't accomplish that." Instead, they threw in a gratuitous, "Leading members of my own party want to 'pull out the rug' on our troops in a way that 'I believe compromises the safety and security of our troops on the ground.'" Those are Mitch McConnell's talking points.

Third, they've effectively locked themselves in. If this vote was simply out-of-line with their current position, they could move based on new evidence. But they've now said anything like Feingold-Reid is tantamount to voting against the troops -- something that will no doubt be used against them if they change their position down the road as it becomes clear that President Manchild refuses to do anything about the mess he's gotten our country in.

Your thoughts?

An Addendum -- I should add a point that Atrios makes a lot, which is the trap of playing President. A lot of the supposed solutions to the quagmire in Iraq involve the President taking a different approach. All of those solutions are based on a faulty premise -- that this President is willing to adjust anything based on what some inkling body called Congress tells him to do. Even worse, there's a fairly large (roughly 30%) share of the electorate that seems to believe they elected a God or a King, not a President -- and they'll tell him to fight like Hell for the right to keep spilling Iraqi and American blood.

It's time to stop assuming or pretending that there is good faith on the part of the executive and to instead focus on every possible avenue that can be undertaken. That's not radicalism -- it's realism. And people just need to wake up to it.

Matt Singer :: Do Jon and Max Really Think Harry Reid and Russ Feingold Dislike the Troops?
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Write it down and take a picture (0.00 / 0)
As I said the other day, I'm totally behind our Senators on this one.  I see the main problem as being the party leadership here, not Max and Jon's statements or their votes.  We won the election on a protest, but cutting funding to force a withdrawal is the wrong approach. Once again the Democratic party has allowed the GOP to set the terms of the debate and the language.  They have allowed the Republicans to stake out the values position, which makes no sense because we should be in charge. 

Matt, you can't expect John Q. Voter to try and figure out the complexities of government budgeting.  On the surface, cutting funding looks bad, and first impressions count for a lot.  No body likes this war, but hating a war is not a value.  Supporting our troops is a value, and I'm not talking about the GOP soundbyte.  Peace and compassion are values. I think because of the voters in our state (i.e. the Gazette crazies) and their values position, it left our Senators no choice but to make these statements.  When will our party leadership start talking about what they believe in, not just what they think the voters want?

Matt is right that cutting funding would not mean Humvees are running our gas on "red" roads, but again we missed our chance to set the terms of the debate.  Furthermore, cutting funding does nothing to solve the problems in Iraq right now, for which we still have responsibility, even though it was a tragic mistake to invade in the first place. I'm not saying that the funding route is totally for naught, but we better start telling voters what that really means.

I don't think our country can solve this problem on our own.  We need to use diplomacy (which our president and Ms. Rice ain't so good at) to get help from our friends in the global community and we need to deauthorize the president's command of this situation.  Everyone knows we went to war under false pretenses, including the Republican leadership.  The way Arlen Spector and others are shooting from the hip should give us a clue of what we can accomplish if we frame this right. Otherwise I think we're going to give back all the ground we gained in '06.

So...the solution is...? (4.00 / 1)
Kilgore, you've made some good points, and some points I don't necessarily agree with. Whatever. The one thing missing from your comment is a solution to the problem. You advocate diplomacy, but realize it's not going to happen.

IMHO, I think the status quo is unacceptable.

I also think there's no evidence that Iraq necessarily will turn into a blood bath were we to leave. A majority of Iraqis want us to do, and it looks like the Iraqi government is going to ask us to go.

So...what can Congress do? What can you or I do?

[ Parent ]
How is cutting funding different from cutting authorization? (0.00 / 0)
Really, what either of these measures do is simply tell the President -- by date X, this thing has to be wrapped out and you've got to pull out our troops. Every other characterization of this is just flat-out misleading and promotes the right-wing way of thinking of it.

Now, maybe Democratic leadership shouldn't have brought up this amendment for a vote (although the ability to limit that in the Senate is pretty slim), but I'm glad that they're working hard to find ways to end this war. Frankly, I thought you would, too.

[ Parent ]
My brain really hurts (0.00 / 0)
I am glad that they're trying, but they need to respond to the Right morally. We're not talking about our base here. Once again, I don't think that the funding route is totally useless, as long as we make it clear to the voters how funding works. I don't believe we are doing a good job of that right now. If you want to people to understand that we're not 'pulling out the rug', then you better find an easy way to explain why we're not to the average voter, and that explanation has to include good progressive values. Tell 'em, tell 'em what you told 'em, and tell 'em again.

I believe that is why Jon didn't support it. Max will say anything. They need to find a way to frame the debate that says "This war is immoral", not just "the American people hate this war." 

I disagree with Jay on the bloodbath.  The Shiites are going to get back at the Sunnis for the Saddam years.  There already is a civil war and I think it will get worse.  The concern is that the conflict won't stay confined to Iraq.  Can we take that chance?

Again I'm not a genius and I don't have a one step solution, other than impeachment, which I was totally against in January. I thought it would be counterproductive for the new Congress to jump right into impeachment inquiries but at the rate they're going it could end up being difficult to NOT impeach the President. I think they are doing a great job on that front and they are depoliticizing it as much as possible with help from Spector, Hegel, McCain and co. 

Here's why I'm thinking this way so please respond to this paragraph if nothing else.  If our entire economy didn't depend on gasoline, then total chaos in Iraq would not matter so much, at least not to us.  But if we leave and gas goes up to $8 a gallon, get ready to be hungry. I like the grocery store, I don't know about you. I just don't think we can take the risk.  But neither can any other industrialized nation in the world.  It will effect everybody.


[ Parent ]
In that case (0.00 / 0)
The last thing you'd want to do is actually mislead the people on what it means. Saying it decreases security is doing the opposite of what you're saying they should do. I agree.

[ Parent ]
A Lawmakers Job (0.00 / 0)
A lawmaker's job is to educate the public about the effects of a particular bill, not just ride the public waves. Allowing a myth to perpetuate and then play to its effects.

I support a more direct approach, personally. Revoke authorization or impeach. Doesn't really matter which. However, I, like you, don't appreciate hearing Republican talking points from my Democratic senators.

I fear that both our senators might be buying too far into the notion that they are elected by republican crossover votes, so they should cater to those peoples perceptions. This is NOT a red state, or even a purple state. It is a blue state. (Brad Johnson and a one seat advantage in one body of the legislature does NOT a purple state make). While I am for the most part happy with one of them and pleased that the other at least caucuses with the Democrats, both would do well to remember that their core constituency are watching them very closely and not listen to birdies in their ears that tell them to be republicans in democratic clothes.

Speaking of propagating myths (0.00 / 0)
As seen by the results of today's meeting between congressional leaders and the White House, the administration has no intention to negotiate any sort of solution to the Iraq debacle. 

Unfortunately, only garnering 29 votes to defund the mess brought us one step closer to a bill that gives the president a blank check to continue the cycle of violence and cash for another few months. I honestly think that the lack of an aggressive stance by many Sen. Dems emboldened the White House to continue their pigheaded approach. 

Not only that, but justifying votes that encourage the White House's failed policy with GOP talking points further erodes our ability to take more direct approaches like the cited deauthorization.  It's downright maddening to see some of the people that I admire most falling prey to frames that leave the image in voters heads of Democrats leaving troops in the field without ammunition, etc... That's a myth that needs to be stamped out of existence today -- not 12 months from now or any other time.

[ Parent ]
I'm with you Shane... (0.00 / 0)
Impeach or revoke.  I don't know what else to do.

[ Parent ]
Also... (0.00 / 0)
You're right that it sucks hearing the talking points.  I feel that that is what set this whole thing off.  But isn't it leadership's job to develop OUR rhetoric.  If I was the lowest ranking Senator in the U.S. Senate, I don't think I would try to invent my own.  Probably a mistake.  Leadership isn't seeing the forest for the trees.  They need to forcefully stake out that their position is right for the troops with language that is their own. 

[ Parent ]
Bottom line: They wimped out (0.00 / 0)
There's not much to analyze here: Both Max and Jon were both afraid of being painted as "anti troops" and chose not to join the rest of their party in taking strong action to stop the war.

It's not a surprise at all when it comes to Max. But I'm disappointed in Jon. He looks pathetic talking out of both sides of him mouth in the news story you quoted up above. This isn't the type of vote the progressive Dems of Montana anticipated when they helped put him in office.

I figure we're in for lots more disappointments from Tester. Lot's of tough talk, but no follow through when it counts, like it does in this case.

Hell, even Joe Biden voted in favor of this thing! Our guys wimped out, pure and simple.

Matt's right on all counts (0.00 / 0)
There are two things going on here in the votes and statements of our Senators.  One is the substance or solution  and one is the spin.

1. What is our objective in Iraq?  Is it to get out or stay?  The American voters and Montana voters voted to end this occupation and get the troops out and stop getting them maimed and killed thus ending up in a box or as a cripple by the side of the road.  If the answer is "to stay", then you have to vote for the war which both did. So just keep that answer short, guys.  If the answer is "to get out" then you two better try and work to do that or just get out of the way and leave the heavy lifting to the warriors.

2. I expect Max to always talk with Republican talking points because he clearly is a conservative or business moderate or whatever you call the country club Republicans of my day. But yes, I am disappointed with Jon.  A lot of us put time and money into that race to get rid of Burns.  I'm not a Pollyanna so I didn't think Jon was the reincarnation of Huey Long or William Jennings Bryan like Kos or the blogosphere did, but the votes on the war, the drug reimportation bill, the Bernie Sanders bill to fund special education are very sad and worse than I thought.  And the weakness of the statement he made must mean that he has campaign people around him instead of wise policy people. In the old days, you had people who ran your campaign.  Then when you were elected the policy people came in.  With Karl Rove, that has all changed and all it's about now is re-election and money from corporations.

But the real trouble and shame with this vote is that it's Montanans that come out looking self centered and foolish. Since it's all about re-election and not conviction, these Senators must be worried about the voters of Montana, say Radio and TV pundits.  That's what I hear and read.  I hear radio hosts say that the people of Montana just must not get it that the troops won't be standing out in the hot sun with no water and no armor. 

On second thought, they've always been without good armor.  And a lot of us are not as stupid as our representatives think we are. And those who do support these votes are not stupid either but they do so  because the Senators have not educated their constituents as noted above.  And they do that on purpose.  It's like having your wife barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.  Keep 'em stupid and at home  so the boys can party hardy. 
This is George Bush's war not ours and even my conservative friends know it and want out.  There are ways to get us out, but not by playing by Bushco's rules. 


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Purely Hypothetical, of course, but - The best candidate for the Republicans for US Senate is:
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