Blumenauer: A first test for the Democrats

By Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Portland, Oregon.

It's interesting to return to Capitol Hill enthusiastic about the prospects, excited about my new colleagues, and with a torrent of ideas that I have been thinking about and working on for 10 years, which now may actually find their way into reality.

Somewhat disquieting is that much of this luster is tempered by a very hard fought contest for majority leader between Steny Hoyer and Jack Murtha. I find myself speculating more about what this means for Democrats and the new Congress than the race itself. This will be a test about our leadership and about the nature of our Democratic majority, and our ability to deal with difficult decisions.

The Murtha candidacy is fueled by, and much of the support based on, Jack's amazing about-face on the war in Iraq. Jack is perhaps more strongly identified with a strong military defense than anyone else in the House. Once he was convinced that Iraq was going in the wrong direction, being inadequately managed and with money spent not just ineffectively but foolishly, he became the most effective spokesperson against our current policy. Indeed, I think it is no exaggeration to say his decision, not just to oppose the war but to come out so forcefully and clearly, was a defining moment for the Bush administration, the earliest, strongest signal that the Emperor was wearing no clothes.

Murtha's stance also played a key role in the election of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. Jack captured what people suspected about the war and helped energize people across America. There is little doubt that several people were elected as a direct result of his efforts, and that many more were part of a growing tide to which Jack made a critical contribution.

Steny Hoyer has by all accounts run the whip operations well for Democrats. He has been a tireless campaigner visiting dozens of districts and raising millions of dollars. Having a far more liberal voting record than Jack, Steny is perceived as being the moderate choice in this race by most observers, and I dare say most people, in the Democratic caucus.

The presumptive speaker, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader who captains our ship, has been steadfast and amazingly successful. She has shown unprecedented effectiveness in her roles -- first as whip and now as Democratic leader. Her success as speaker in the 110th Congress is critical not just for Democrats but for the American public. A lot is riding on how Democrats run Congress and until this week we have basically managed the last year without a flaw -- especially Nancy's selection of Rahm Emanuel to head up the DCCC and his extraordinary efforts to focus discipline, unity, and hard work. Nancy was my choice for Democratic leader, one that I am proud of and she offers tremendous promise for the new day that is dawning.

Nancy has expressed her support and admiration for Jack and it is clear that she will vote for him to be Democratic Leader. This poses an interesting challenge for the Democratic Caucus. It is not just what we value in leadership and the contrast between Steny and Jack, but is also about having a leadership team that is cohesive and that is comfortable and works well together.

The next 48 hours are going to be a significant test regardless of the outcome. Will Democrats be able to conduct a decision on leadership in a way that is constructive with a minimum of rancor? Will we get the pieces right for the team and be able to make sure that we emerge stronger rather than weaker?

Jack and Steny are going to be fine regardless of what happens. At a minimum each are going to play key roles in an Appropriations Committee that will be energized under the leadership of Dave Obey and key new members. They both will chair critical subcommittees that will deal with important spending priorities. They will both be very powerful voices in our caucus with a devoted following of people who are their friends, admirers, and supporters.

I'm more interested in this as a test for Democrats than for the leadership position itself. Will people have the ability to deal with the selection and then move on in a way that will be the most constructive for our Caucus? Will we find a way to mute and avoid the tendency in close, hard fought contest to make it personal and make it public? I may well be the only person in the caucus who is not trying to persuade people one way or another. Indeed, I may be the only one who is still thinking about my choice and what it represents.

This is the first of many difficult decisions that lie ahead in the next two years. In fact, compared to the consequences of other issues that will be coming down the road, this choice is one of the easiest, with fewer direct consequences. It is not to say that this will not affect some people in what happens to them internally in the House, because it will. But for most members, the hard decisions ahead are going to have more of a consequence on their political future, and most important, on the future of the country. I'm cautiously optimistic that this is a test that we will manage, but it is going to reveal a lot, not just to me, but to the world that is watching.

Comments

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    As an observer the reports are that Hoyer has undermined the Democratic response on the war and Nancy Pelosi. That is a non-starter for me. Murtha has been a strong voice on the war and taken a difficult stand after admitting he was wrong. He is a person who has credibility on military issues and among some conservatives. That is a plus.

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    As Earl pointed out, it is Jack Murtha who led the way for the 2006 retaking of the House and Senate. Nancy Pelosi has to deliver Murtha. Selecting Murtha will demonstate her power in a way that will help the House move forward to conduct it's business for the middle class Americans. Otherwise, she will be challenged by Hoyer and others again and again and again. Let's get the House in order. Best wishes on your vote Earl.

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    Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emmanuel, Chuck Shumer, Bob Shrum, James Carville, and all of that crowd at the DLC haven't learned a thing in the past six years. They still think that giving the Big Donors what they want on Deregulation, Free Trade, and the evisceration of civil liberties, is the way to win. I mean, Carville, for crying out loud, is still mumbling aroud about a southern strategy, citing Harold Ford's camo hunting cap and anti-choice rhetoric as the Wave of the Future.

    They are unable to see that the only thing that got Clinton through eight years was his extraordinary personal charisma.

    I'll hang in with you on the Rahm Emmanuel call, Earl, 'cause we are Democrats after all, and the Chicago Rottweiller can be a good disciplinarian if supervised by an actual progressive like Pelosi.

    As for the rest of that crowd, a warning is in order:

    We down here in the vanishing blue collar middle class have had a buttful of giving it away to the international money crowd. Someone besides Dennis Kucinich needs to get a clue. My peers might have mistakenly voted for Reagan, but that was 26 years ago, and they're beginning to understand how badly the system has been skewed against them.

  • LT (unverified)
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    One more voice for Murtha. He actually spoke out on an issue important to him---what a concept!

    Hoyer strikes me as an inside baseball kind of guy--the sort who doesn't want to speak publicly on issues because that might upset someone powerful.

    I like what Pat, Bill R. and Paulie said.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    My concern would be that Murtha is a conservative on social issues. Unfortunately, these are precisely the kinds of issues where who is the majority leader really matters because they are often decided by the willingness of leadership to be flexible. When the Republicans bring a Terry Schiavo issue to the debate, it is the leadership that will determine whether it gets a hearing, comes to the floor and whether and how forcefully the party whips the issue.

    While Murtha's stance on the war certainly helped turn the tide, I would hope that is not the focus of the House over the next two years. There is little it can do to force a change in direction. Bush is still going to be calling the shots and he shouldn't be given the cover of democrats "interfering" with his conduct of the war. On the issues where the House may have role, like protection of civil liberties, its not at all clear Murtha is with the Democratic majority.

    The worst thing that can happen is majority leader who is out of sync politically. Keeping control of the house is not going to be easy. Its going to be a lot easier to persuade members to set aside hotbutton issues when needed if the leaders asking them to make that sacrifice are viewed as sympathetic. With an ideologically divided leadership the Republicans are going to do everything possible to exploit those divisions regardless of well the leadership works together personally.

  • paul in corvallis (unverified)
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    I appreciate Jack Murtha's early position on Iraq, which started the ball rolling to our victory last week. BUT our victory was almost as much about corruption as about Iraq, and Democrats need to have zero tolerance for corruption in Congress. Corruption pervades everything from the failed policy in Iraq (billions wasted on ineffective contracts) to the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare. There are numerous allegations about Jack Murtha's ethical misdealings (see http://www.citizensforethics.org/press/newsrelease.php?view=178).

    Congressman Blumenauer, if you are going to support leader Pelosi and her choice of Jack Murtha, please ensure that this choice does not indicate any backsliding on Democrats' promises to clean up the ethical quagmire in Congress.

  • James (unverified)
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    Has anyone seen this article about Murtha from the New York Times? Talk about undermining the Democrats... He also consistently support drilling in ANWR, is pro-life, and is the biggest reason for Democrats not having an alternative to the ballooning defense budget.

  • BlueNote (unverified)
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    Ahh, the "herding of cats" begins.

    I hate Republicans of every race, creed and color, but as a very left leaning voter I expect I will enjoy the political theater ahead. I suspect that Speaker Pelosi will soon discover that in order to keep her Democratic members "on message", she will first have to figure out what the Dem's "message" is. Once she discovers they don't have one, I expect all hell will break loose.

    How about ending the Iraq war NOW? How about amending the Medicare Act to cover everyone in the country, supported by an appropriate payroll tax?
    How about raising Social Security tax rates and salary caps to fully fund Social Security?

    Now there is a message but unfortunately I don't expect to hear it from Congress.

  • Dickey45 (unverified)
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    Ewwww. Murtha is the defense spending and earmarks king of the Dems.

    Does anyone know who Dean likes?

  • Eric (unverified)
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    Has anyone thought of drawing straws and just going onward? If this gets into a fight it may alienate those voters who we just got on board. I am all for a 'just pick one and move on' thing to happen.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    How about raising Social Security tax rates and salary caps to fully fund Social Security?

    Social Security is fully funded. The Social Security Tax is a regressive tax on wage earners that is being used to fund other government services.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)
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    "Will Democrats be able to conduct a decision on leadership in a way that is constructive with a minimum of rancor?" Good question, Representative Blumenauer.

    The NYT story reads like a "hit" piece. Murtha's a horse-trader of the old school, it seems. It makes him look ominously manipulative, but any veteran lawmaker you inspect closely would likely be the same.

    If the Democrats don't "interfere" with Bush's conduct of the 'war' in Iraq, they should be booted as worthless!

  • Zak J. (unverified)
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    The Dems have got to get Iraq turned around by '08 because that's what we just got elected to do. The choice of Murtha shows Dems understand that the Iraq war is THE issue right now, because he has a high profile and credibility on that issue.

    Can Hoyer claim the same? That's the test of whether his is a credible challenge.

  • KISS (unverified)
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    If you check out Hoyer he isn't clean and pretty, shady deals are in his past, and coziness to corporate is his style. Murtha has never been singled out by any women's groups that I know of. Being a conservative sounds good to me. Too many Schumers spoil the party.

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    Not to be rude, but how can you be undecided in this?

    You ether back the Speaker out of the gate and thus give the caucus as a whole a unified voice and grow its power from the get go, or you undercut the presumptive speaker, split the caucus before it even gets sworn in and hamstring the caucus.

    You have to know that the GOP are going to be rubbing any rosary they can find to have an opening to marginalize and put Pelosi "in her place" and play up all the pre-loaded themes about her being an out of touch West Cost (gasp) LIBERAL (the horrors) and a party fight about the leadership will only paint a target on her.

    Seriously, I fail to see any upside to not backing Pelosi's choice 100% at this stage.

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    Wow -- lots of good arguments on both sides.

    Any chance of a third, compromise candidate?

    Somebody who has been correct on the war, is willing to fight the good fight for progressive change, has been open to hearing from the grassroots, and has done lots of good hard work building the caucus...

    Anybody have any suggestions?

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    I'm with Mitch to a great extent, but there also seems to be something missing from the discussion: who will do a better job of LEADING? Forget which policies the candidates line themselves up behind, forget paying back loyal soldiers or capitalizing on a perceived zeitgesit--which of the two can help lead his party?

    And part of that consideration is who will work with the Speaker best. I suspect that the DeLay model will not be followed in the 110th, where a genial figurehead held the Speaker's gavel while the Majority Leader knocked skulls around behind closed doors. This will be a Pelosi House, so even to start with I think overdramatizing this election is a bad PR idea. It's the #2 job. So who makes the best lieutenant may be the most important factor. I would not expect EITHER Hoyer's or Murtha's political framework to be the dominant one for the House; that would be Pelosi's job. She's going to set the agenda; the Majority Leader will do the tough grunt work (with the whips) to get the party behind it.

    If we're going to talk about political considerations though, Murtha is a recognizable face to Americans, and I think what people know of him at that level is favorable. Above all, Murtha doesn't take shit from anyone--and Democrats could surely use someone like that in a position of public visibility.

    I think a healthy but publicly quiet contest for #2 will be fine. And we have to STOP calculating moves based on what "the GOP might say." Screw them; they lost, and nobody believes the BS they're peddling any more.

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    Earl,

    We need to have Murtha for the following reasons:

    1. Pelosi wants him
    2. He is a fantastic spokesperson for the dems. The country will listen to him and the Republicans have trouble debating him.
    3. He balances Pelosi. She is the liberal, he the center-populist. This pulls the party together and gives us reach in the midwest and Rocky Mountain states for '08
    4. The war. Let's remember this was the major (not the sole) issue of the campaign. The public will see this as Dems delivering on their promise. It will resonate with the public
    5. Murtha is a good soldier. He will not subvert Pelosi, but will support her, even on issues that are not his own.

    Having said how much I want him selected, I also want the Dems to restrict earmarks. Murtha has been an abuser of this system and if he uses his new position to increase or support earmarks we will have lost our moral edge. This needs to be discussed in the caucus and Murtha needs to committ to reform.

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    Hoyer and his aides have consistently worked to undercut Nancy Pelosi since she defeated him to become minority leader. Now Nancy is backing Jack Murtha over Hoyer, the current Democratic whip. Why would a shrewd operater like Nancy take such a risk before even being sworn in as speaker? Simple: She thinks Hoyer, as majority leader, will work as hard to cut her throat as to perform his duties.

    I read the NYT hit piece on Murtha. Rap your fish in it. I was an outspoken defense liberal when I was in Congress and Murtha was a hawk. But we trusted each other and worked beautifully together. Jack is tolerant of opposing views and would take the same approach as majority leader.

    I had a friendly relationship with Hoyer, too, but all you need to know about Steny's politics you'll find in David Sirota's book, "Hostile Takeover: How Big Money & Corruption Captured Government--and How You Can take it Back." Better yet go to Sirota's blog. He's a K Street Democrat.

    We don't need K Street Democrats as part leaders, we need progressive populists.

    Them's my views.

    Les AuCoin

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    DLC types relentlessly try to take the party in exactly the opposite direction it needs to go. Democrats must be more progressive and populist if they are to establish an identity that will resonate with voters. Democratics must not be corporate shills.

  • Tamerlane (unverified)
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    Murtha seems like an ideal choice. Admired by liberals, but with the conservative Democrat street cred. to carrol the new wave of conservative Democrats. In a job that requires a strong public image, a personage the American people have come to admire and support. And, also very important, united and coherent leadership in the Democratic caucus. But then again, this is an outsider's point of view; you also need to know whom you yourself feel more comfortable working with. Keep making us proud!

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    Posted by: torridjoe | Nov 14, 2006 1:15:23 PM I'm with Mitch to a great extent...

    Thanks.

    but there also seems to be something missing from the discussion: who will do a better job of LEADING?

    I don't disagree, though I think the most salient point is one you yourself bring up here:

    So who makes the best lieutenant may be the most important factor. I would not expect EITHER Hoyer's or Murtha's political framework to be the dominant one for the House; that would be Pelosi's job. She's going to set the agenda; the Majority Leader will do the tough grunt work (with the whips) to get the party behind it.

    I posit that you underscore the crucial aspect beneath all of the surface debate I have seen for the past few days over the issue of Majority leader with that. Where Hoyer and Murtha are is not quite so much an issue as who will back Pelosi's lead and be a force multiplier (to use the DoD term) for where Pelosi is going to be charting the course for the caucus. The only down-side (and the apply to both names mentioned) are thart neither is Ivory soap when it comes to the hyper-scrutiny that will bubble forth, as it pertains to ethics and oversight issues, which will be front and center in the months to come as Congress reasserts itself as an oversight body of the Executive branch. This is why I have stressed that making a big show of publicly kicking William Jefferson to the curb in the LA-02 runoff, in the loudest possible terms, is crucial before Waxman or Conyers start sinking their teeth in once they get their powers of subpoena.

    This is why I have added Karen Carter to my ActBlue page and implore anyone and everyone here to help her slam the door on Jefferson in the runnoff election.

    In summation as I see it, we have to not undercut Pelosi out of the gate by getting her the team under her that she is asking for, which will only improve the power and position of the entire caucus (a fight would seriously undercut the speaker and the caucus) and to make clear that we ARE not coddling unethical members of Congress, regardless of party ID.

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    Pelosi needs to have a majority leader she can trust for the next two years. If she trusts Murtha more than Hoyer, then Murtha is the obvious choice, despite any differences they might have in policy.

  • Benjamin (unverified)
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    I'm with Pelosi, but very guardedly. I lived in the Bay Area when she was still a liberal.. she changed a great deal when she started to have national ambitions.

    To quote a previous poster, "Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emmanuel, Chuck Shumer, Bob Shrum, James Carville, and all of that crowd at the DLC haven't learned a thing in the past six years." Amen to that, brother. I would just add, "They haven't learned a damned thing, and its too late in the game to teach them anything."

    I say support Pelosi, but put her on notice. We aren't 'Republican lites'.

  • Garlynn (unverified)
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    Kari said:

    "Any chance of a third, compromise candidate?

    "Somebody who has been correct on the war, is willing to fight the good fight for progressive change, has been open to hearing from the grassroots, and has done lots of good hard work building the caucus...

    "Anybody have any suggestions?"

    Well, as much as I'd like to see Earl himself in this role, I'd have to say that, for the next two years at least, Murtha would seem to be the only way to go. The focus really does need to be on getting this country elegantly extracted from the quagmire that Dubya and the Repubs got us into in Iraq AND in Afghanistan, while also leaving behind the framework in both countries for democracy and peaceful recovery and reconstruction.

    I think that Jack Murtha probably has the skillset to help the Dems deliver these objectives, even if he may not be the best choice in terms of his own domestic policy views.

    Hopefully, Pelosi will set the domestic policy agenda herself, and not allow Jack to get in the way of that. Instead, he can be the front person for the Iraq/Afghanistan issue, and help to steer the Dems through the minefield that lays between them and a successful '08 election.

    And besides -- don't we want Earl to take out Gordo in '08? ;-)

  • Terry (unverified)
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    This is truly a no-brainer. It's gotta be Murtha. Why? First, he's Pelosi's choice. Second, he's right on the only issue that matters for the next two years --Iraq. Why Earl Blumenauer chooses to dither is beyond me.

    But don't just take my word for it. Listen to Dennis Kucinich, one of the few House Dems worthy of the name:

    "The American people voted in a new Congress because of the war. We have to recognize that. We have to recognize that the American people demand a new direction."

  • Nate Mills (unverified)
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    Well said, Congressman Blumenauer.

    Although I hope Steny Hoyer is the next Majority Leader, the most important thing after this election is for the Democratic Caucus to come together, and work together to pass good legislation to make life better for all Americans. I believe Hoyer will work well with Speaker (!) Pelosi, as he has for the last 4 years.

    I believe Hoyer's liberal voting record is important. Murtha and Hoyer both voted for the war. Both are now against it, and have called for staged redeployment of troops out of Iraq. But Murtha is anti-choice, wants to drill in ANWR and the outer continental shelf, and has supported Pombo's efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Murtha has voted against funding for international family planning (the UNFPA), voted against choice for US servicewomen, and has opposed requirements for better safety devices on handguns (how most kids accidentally shoot themselves).

    I support Hoyer because he introduced the bill to increase the minimum wage (that R's blocked, and paid the price for), and has introduced legislation to explore alternative energy techologies. He's introduced legislation to put Roe v Wade into law, introduced an amendment to ban the use of torture by the US govt (Murtha voted against), and has consistently opposed Repub "Paris Hilton" estate tax cuts.

    FYI, I used to live in Steny Hoyer's district, and have been paying a lot of attention to this race. I support him not only because I know who he is, but because I think Murtha is too conservative to lead the Democrats in Congress every day-- when Pelosi's away, I want Hoyer standing up for Democratic principles, not Murtha.

  • KISS (unverified)
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    I'm far from being a Blumenauer fan[ bicycles are not the way of the path for me] But on this I would readily vote for Earl over that lying son-of-bitch, Smith.

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    I think the American people were voting against corruption as much as weighing in on Iraq. In fact, Iraq, and the stupendous spending and contracts and sleeze...is simply part and parcel of the corruption they've come to recognize as intrinsic to the Bush/Republican regimes. Just something to keep in mind.

    I think it's silly to oppose a wheeler-dealer when that's been the name of the game, and nothing suggests that game is changing. Can't we trust Pelosi to be the leader she obviously has the capacity to be?

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    As a Democrat who understands "herding cats" (thanks BlueNote)I'd be disappointed if there weren't some of it going on. It is to the credit of our Party that we do thrash about, compared to the lock-step of R's.

    Having no experience with either candidate, I'm inclined to trust Les' analysis. This is also why the decision lies with those who have to live with it, US Rep (D). Some of them know from being fellow Reps what they want and the smart newcomers will look to those closest in outlook for advice.

    I sincerely distrust a public push on Majority Leader, the knowlege base is too "propaganda" driven. I also question the base of knowlege held by the media, I can't see where they've particularly paid attention to business the last six years...

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    If the Democrats don't "interfere" with Bush's conduct of the 'war' in Iraq, they should be booted as worthless!

    Nice to agree with you for a change, Ed.

    Today's NY Times spells out how hard this is going to be, though. God help us if Democrats choose the route of adding more troops now with the goal of bringing all the troops home later, as though all we've lacked in this misadventure has been sufficient firepower. Think Vietnam. Let's get it over and be done with it before more of our troops die. Recognize that we're not helping, and that we're not positioned --and never have been-- to undo a civil war that's been going on a long, long time.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    God help us if Democrats choose the route of adding more troops now with the goal of bringing all the troops home later, as though all we've lacked in this misadventure has been sufficient firepower.

    The Democrats aren't going to make that decision, Bush is. Which is why I think you are both wrong about the role Democrats should take the next couple years. The 2006 elections made it clear people want a change in direction on Iraq. But there was no mandate for a specific change and the President is still the "decider" here.

    And if the Democrats try to make it their decision, they are fools. I think it is very likely Bush will decide to add troops, rather than withdraw. And the Democrats ought to make it clear they disagree, but they shouldn't start trying to stop him from doing it.

    There are two reasons for that.

    First, its not clear there is any way out of Iraq that doesn't leave it in a bloody civil war. So the short run argument about more or fewer troops is probably not very meaningful. Either one working to prevent a civil war is a long shot. The Democrats shouldn't take Bush and the Republicans off the hook for this failure.

    Second, I don't think there is any chance of our getting out of Iraq while George Bush is President. No matter what happens, there is not going to be the political will to finally withdraw over the next two years. So we are stuck until 2008 and we ought to be looking to what happens then. If we elect a Republican I think it will be with a mandate for a major new infusion of troops, maybe even a draft. Any Democrat who gets elected will have a mandate to get us out. Getting impatient and trying to force that decision now, just makes it more likely that the "more troops" argument wins in 2008.

  • Christopher Walker (unverified)
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    I too hope whichever choice is made it won't be divisive and any resentments fade quickly.

    I understand thoroughly, and share, the general feeling that Congressman Murtha has truly earned a lot of good will in the 2006 cycle. Not only did he provide a buttress against the perception that the party is somehow weak on defense and security; but also the Speaker-to-be asked him to campaign across the country, which he hasn't done very much of before, and he did. He deserves thanks and credit.

    But I wonder if he hasn't already reaped that? Before the Iraq war made him so prominent, the left and even the left-leaning middle of the Party had small use for Jack Murtha. He now has innumerable friends and supporters in parts of the party where he had none, before. Out in the general public, even people who aren't political hobbyists like us know his name and like him. A whole litter of freshman Congress members owe him thanks for his help in their campaigns. He has de facto Party leadership on Iraq, whether he does or doesn't win this formal leadership position.

    Murtha worked very hard for the Party in the 2006 cycle. But Hoyer, regarded by some as a Party drudge, has worked hard for many cycles in a row, raising tons of money, and is more representative of where the democratic majority is, on social issues and domestic issues generally, I suspect. I think leapfrogging Murtha into leadership on the basis of one cycle and one issue is rough handling for Hoyer, who has waited so long while the party was in the minority and who deserves what he's waited and worked for.

    But, again, the most important thing is to coalesce, after the choice is made.

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    The New York Times piece really worries me -- even if, as Les says, it's a "hit piece," perception is reality. I don't think we can be seen as "soft on ethics." If both Hoyer and Murtha are vulnerable on that, we need ANYBODY else. But if Hoyer is less vulnerable, I think it should be Hoyer, although Les' comment gives me great pause.

  • BlueNote (unverified)
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    My problem with Hoyer is that he appears to be the love child of the Democratic Leadership Council. Check out their web site (www.dlc.org)and once you get past Hillary's beaming smile on the front page you will quickly get to the glowing endorsement for Hoyer.

    We are in the opening days of an intra-party war over the 2008 elections. Will the Dems choose candidates who have strong positions on traditional Dem values (Murtha), or will they blindly follow the DLC (for the 3rd time) and again end up with a bunch of centrist candidates who are more interested in getting themselves elected than they are promoting the welfare of the Democratic party's traditional base (Hoyer)?

    It is a pretty basic question, and I will be interested in seeing how things work out.

  • GaryB (unverified)
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    I know the aruments about Steny (pro war) but I think if we(Dems) are truly "Cleaning House" then Rep. Murtha is not our man.

    I know he is partly responsible for the Dems big win in Nov, he is also one of the first to call for troop removal, BUT......

    Rep. Murtha while being right on the War in Iraq, has a closet full of skeletons that the Republican party is just salivating to exploit.

    He has issues that date back to ABSCAM!! He is very good at steering appropriations to campaign donors(earmarking).

    While I know it is impossible to find a Rep in Washington that does not have a few skeletons they wish to ignore/hide, I think we need to place a person with the "LEAST" conflicting issues as the Speaker of the House.

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    Gary, the election is for Majority Leader. Pelosi is the Speaker, no question.

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    But there was no mandate for a specific change and the President is still the "decider" here.

    I didn't realize the President had absolute authority to declare war...oh, he doesn't? He's only "the decider" in his head?

    The American people voted for change. If they don't get it, if they get more squirrly baloney from democrats now, they'll vote for change again in 2008. As they should.

    And how many more Americans --let alone Iraqis-- should die while Bush "adds more troops" while democrats pout and say they disagree, but don't do a damn thing to stop the madness?

    When you make a claim for leadership you need to provide it.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    I didn't realize the President had absolute authority to declare war...oh, he doesn't? He's only "the decider" in his head?

    He is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Congress can't force him to send more troops or prevent him from sending them short of cutting off funds. And they aren't going to do that and didn't say they would during the campaign.

    And how many more Americans --let alone Iraqis-- should die while Bush "adds more troops" while democrats pout and say they disagree, but don't do a damn thing to stop the madness?

    The basic reality is that the United States, and therefore its voters, have little ability to effect the outcome in Iraq.

    There aren't many Democrats prepared to force an immediate unconditional withdrawal. There aren't many that ran on that platform. The real choices are phased withdrawal or more troops.

    I don't think which of those is chosen is likely to have much impact on how many of soldiers get killed or how many Iraqi's get killed over the next couple years. The dynamics of what is happening in Iraq has little to do with US troop levels.

    The American people voted for change. If they don't get it, if they get more squirrly baloney from democrats now, they'll vote for change again in 2008. As they should.

    The American people elected George Bush president. If you really believe they voted to change that result, then the Democrats should impeach him. I don't think that is a correct interpretation of what people voted for.

    Frankly, I can't see anything better for the Democrats in 2008 than John McCain's strategy being adopted in 2006.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Frankly, I can't see anything better for the Democrats in 2008 than John McCain's strategy being adopted in 2006.

    Where will McCain's "more troops" come from? More enlistments in the regular military? Telling the National Guard that the rules are changing and each of the Guard members must serve 3 tours overseas? Making all Reservists serve in Iraq, incl. IRR? Telling everyone currently serving in Iraq that they must stay extra months past when they were scheduled to go home? No one allowed to leave the military when their enlistment contract expires? A draft?

    Someone testifying at a hearing today (military expert) admitted the US military is stretched. An honest debate about "more troops" would specify where those troops will come from, how they will be equipped, if Guard units that left equipment overseas will be given new equipment by the federal government. And whether their tour of duty is open ended or if there will be some sort of benchmarks that "if the situation with ---- isn't better by____ (next summer, end of next year, whatever) " then the Iraqis are not willing/ able to shoulder the burden and should be told something like "6 more months and we leave".

    "No timetables" sounds to me like "if our military wants today's 8th graders to consider enlisting for service in Iraq when they turn 18, then we should all prepare for that".

    Supposedly we live in a democracy, not a military dictatorship. Democrats didn't make the mistakes which led to the current mess in Iraq, and the people who did make those mistakes should take responsibility for cleaning up the mess. Telling us not to question Iraq policy because the enemy is listening didn't win for Republicans on Nov. 7 because people are tired of being told to shut up, the Bushies know what they are doing in Iraq.

    In 1940 when France fell to the Nazis, FDR changed his "war cabinet" (added 2 famous Republicans--Sec. of War and Sec. of Navy) and Congress passed Selective Service. Unless the current federal government is willing to address where "more troops" come from, I think the debate is largely political.

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    Democrats are ready to lead and prepared to govern. We will take our country in a new direction...Together, we can set a new course for America. Nowhere did the American people make it clearer that we need a new direction than in the war in Iraq. We are committed to finding a new solution to Iraq, but we know that actions speak louder than words.

    That's Nency Pelosi. Committed to find a new solution to Iraq. That doesn't mean sitting on our hands, or lining up behind John McCain. Actions, indeed, speak louder than words.

    This war is a disaster for America and for Iraq. Some of us recognized that before it started, many more of us recognize it now. Democrats need to step to the plate and provide leadership on ending this war, not dragging it out.

    Today's NY Times: In all of Iraq, attacks against allied troops last month averaged 180 per day, up from 170 per day in September and 70 per day in January, General Maples said in written testimony. Daily attacks on Iraqi civilians averaged roughly 40 per day last month, four times higher than the average in January.

    This is not a time to tread water. The water is increasingly turning red with blood.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    Unless the current federal government is willing to address where "more troops" come from, I think the debate is largely political.

    I think the debate is entirely political. I don't think it will make much difference which strategy is chosen, we will end up in the same place in two years. The Iraq civil war contained, but continuing, with a pro-withdrawal Democrat running against a more-troops Republican. That is when the American people get to reverse their decision of 2004.

    Actions, indeed, speak louder than words.

    Yes, they do. And there isn't a Democratic majority in the Senate that is going to force an immediate withdrawal of US troops. Joe Lieberman was reelected, remember?

    Democrats didn't make the mistakes which led to the current mess in Iraq, and the people who did make those mistakes should take responsibility for cleaning up the mess.

    We are talking about George Bush aren't we? Why would he take responsibility for something now? They are going to do everything possible to put this mess firmly in the Democratic congress's lap. And then run in 2008 on "see, we told you they were weak on defense. Look at the mess they have in their laps now."

    Unless you really think you can fix the mess, you don't take responsibility for it. And I don't think the Democrats can fix it right now. That will take a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress. Like it or not, there is still work to be done.

  • BlueNote (unverified)
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    Per New York Times, Hoyer just won and the speaker-designate has suffered her first defeat, which is a bummer since she does not actually become the speaker until January.

    Why, only a week or two after a great election victory, do I feel like my Democratic party is beginning to circle a great big toilet bowl, and Hillary Clinton's grinning face is in the bottom of the vortex?

    Stop the war NOW!

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    Stop the war NOW!

    That is the right message. It needs to be delivered to George Bush and the candidates running to replace him.

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    "Stop the War NOW...is the right message. It needs to be delivered to George Bush and the candidates running to replace him"

    I think, Ross, this is the message our Congress needs to hear...now. It's the message I think the Democratic Party needs to hear before we settle into the same old, same old...and people are left wondering what makes Democrats different than Republicans.

    We do intend to do something about this war...don't we?

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    We do intend to do something about this war...don't we?

    There is not much that can be done immediately other than holding George Bush's feet to the fire. My fear is that Democrats spend their time blaming Democrats for the failure to change direction and Bush gets let off the hook. If we want to end the war, we need to keep our eye on the prize, which is 2008. Expecting anything to happen before then just isn't very realistic, or at least not anything positive.

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    My fear is that Democrats spend their time blaming Democrats for the failure to change direction and Bush gets let off the hook. If we want to end the war, we need to keep our eye on the prize, which is 2008.

    Excuse me, but the voters are asking for --no demanding-- a change in direction in Iraq in 2006...and we're to tell them "never mind" come see us in 2008?

    With all due respect, Ross, that suggests Democrats have used disllusionment about the war to take the House and Senate...but now we tell the voters, well, sorry, we don't do foreign policy in Congress... so now we'll just wring our hands and finger point?

    The last troops out of Vietnam came home on Richard Nixon's watch, and not because he wanted that outcome. Are you suggesting Bush is a stronger, more popular president? I'm not buying that, and I don't think the American people will either. Are we Democrats really so impotent? I hope not. We can talk about re-setting the American agenda, but it's awfully hard when we're expending $4 billion a month --and losing dozens of American lives-- while we dither.

    I respect Congressman Blumenauer's forthrightness on why he voted the way he did, and agree, we move on. But to deny any Democratic Party culpability for this war, and to refuse any responsibility for ending it short of winning the presidency...I don't see that as a formula for success in 2008.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    With all due respect, Ross, that suggests Democrats have used disllusionment about the war to take the House and Senate...but now we tell the voters, well, sorry, we don't do foreign policy in Congress... so now we'll just wring our hands and finger point?

    People ran for the state legislature on the same disillusionment - are you expecting the Oregon legislature to change our direction in Iraq. I think the American people understand that congress has limited power over the direction of the war.

    The reality is that the Democrats did not run on a "End the war now!" platform. And people need to stop pretending they did. They didn't promise to end the war. And people need to stop pretending they did.

    They did demand that Rumsfeld be fired, and he was. They did demand that Bush abandon his position of "stay the course", and he has. They did say is that they were going to introduce some accountability into the process. And you saw that happen at the most recent congressional hearing where even the Republicans were no longer buying the pentagon's sales pitch.

    So, far from finger-pointing and hand-wringing, the Democratic revolution has already changed the direction on Iraq. Now some Democrats want to raise the bar until they get to failure. I think that is foolish. And I think it will cost more Americans and Iraqis their lives if the Democrats end up saddled by their own supporters with Bush's failures. Because a Republican president elected in 2008 is going to be committed to "winning" in Iraq. Not getting out. And that is going to mean four more years of carnage.

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