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"In 1964 Barry Goldwater declared: ‘Elect me president, and I will bomb the cities of Vietnam, defoliate the jungles, herd the population into concentration camps and turn the country into a wasteland.’ But Lyndon Johnson said: ‘No! No! No! Don’t you dare do that. Let ME do it.’"
Characterization (paraphrased) of the 1964 Goldwater/Johnson presidential race by Professor Irwin Corey, "The World’s Foremost Authority."
"Democrats Split Over Timetable For Troops; In Close Races, Most Reject Rapid Pullout," the headline atop page one of the Sunday Washington Post informed us as the election season got underway (8/27). Stories like this abound these days, and they should all be prefaced with the single word, "betrayal." Only 17% of rank and file Democrats are for "staying the course," 53% want immediate withdrawal and another 25% are for gradual withdrawal. Among all voters, only 30% want to stay the course, 37% want immediate withdrawal and 26% a "gradual withdrawal (Gallup poll – 9/24/06). According to recent Pew Polls, 52% of voters want a timetable for withdrawal while only 41% oppose setting a timetable.
In contrast to voters’ sentiment, 64% of the Democratic candidates in the 45 closely contested House Congressional races oppose a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Note carefully: not only do these Democrat worthies oppose the Murtha or McGovern bills for rapid withdrawal or defunding the war; they oppose so much as a timetable. (The number of Dem candidates supporting the Murtha or McGovern proposals is vanishingly small.) The position of these Dem candidates is indistinguishable from that of George W. Bush. How did this betrayal of the Democratic rank and file come about? Who chose these Democratic candidates that oppose rank and file Dems on the number one question on voters’ minds, the war on Iraq? How could such candidates get elected in the primaries? Two primary campaigns, now largely forgotten, give us the answer. They are near perfect case studies, and they deserve some reflection although the Dem establishment would dearly like us to forget them.
The first case is the Democratic primary race between Christine Cegelis and Tammy Duckworth in Illinois’s 6th CD, a Republican District, which has elected the disgusting Henry Hyde from time immemorial. Then in 2004 Christine Cegelis, who is only mildly antiwar (1), ran as the Democrat with a grass roots campaign and polled a remarkable 44% against the hideous Hyde in her first run. It was not too long before Hyde decided to retire, and the field seemed to be open for Cegelis in 2006.
Enter Rahm Emanuel, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who dug up a pro-war candidate, Tammy Duckworth. Although she had both her legs blown off in Iraq, she has remained committed to "staying the course" in Iraq (2). Duckworth had no political experience and did not live in the 6th District, but Rahm Emanuel raised a million dollars for her and brought in Dem heavyweights Joe Lieberman, Barak Obama, John Kerry, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton to support her. Despite all this help and with the Cegelis campaign virtually penniless, Duckworth barely managed to eke out a victory by a measly four percentage points. According to a recent Cook Report, Duckworth is not the smashing success that Rahm Emanuel had dreamed of; she remains tied at 41% of the vote with her rookie Republican Rival, Peter Roskam, the same percentage that Cegelis had against the entrenched Hyde in 2004! Recently (9/30), Duckworth was pushed onto the national scene to help her campaign, providing the "rebuttal" to Bush’s weekly Saturday radio address. AP, in its story on the exchange where Duckworth was supposed to differ with W on Iraq, concluded thus: "She offered no proposal for an immediate withdrawal or a timetable for withdrawal."
But in one case, and sadly in only one of the 22 districts, which Emanuel selected for intervention, he did not prevail; but that is also instructive. The second case study is CA’s 11th CD Dem primary where Emanuel poured in money, much of it apparently coming from his own district in Illinois, to bankroll Steve Filson, essentially a political unknown, who opposed immediate withdrawal from Iraq. But in this primary battle the grass roots prevailed and the strongly antiwar candidate, Jerry McNemey, who supports the Murtha bill for immediate withdrawal, defeated Emanuel’s minion, Filson. It is noteworthy that McNemey, strongly antiwar, won, whereas Cegelis, weakly antiwar, lost. Now in the general election McNemey is pulling ahead of his pro-war Republican opponent by 48 to 46% in the most recent poll even though his opponent has outspent him by $1.6 million to $303,000! McNemey has raised a total of only $452,000 to his opponent’s $2.5 million. Some cash from Rahm would ensure McNemey’s victory it would appear, but it is not forthcoming. It seems that Rahm Emanuel is stanching the influx of money in this very competitive race.
Meanwhile, even though Duckworth has been the recipient of Rahm’s largesse, to the tune of $1.8 million, the same amount as her Republican opponent, her campaign has not taken wing. You get the picture. If you toe the line for Rahm on the war, the money rains on you like manna from heaven and you are elevated to national celebrity status. But if you are anti-war, Rahm cuts you off at the wallet.
Note that in each of these two cases Emanuel did not pick candidates based on a proven ability to raise money. Nor did he pick them for their ability to win. In Duckworth’s case she damned near lost despite the cash infusion, and McNirney did win despite the money that Emanuel funneled to his opponent. Emanuel is not choosing proven fundraisers or winning candidates; he is choosing pro-war candidates.
Rahm Emanuel’s Stable.
To win the House, the Dems must win 15 seats from the Republicans. Here are the 22 candidates hand picked by Emanuel to run in open districts or districts with Republican incumbents, according to The Hill (4/27/06): Darcy Burner (WA), Phyllis Busansky (FL), Francine Busby (CA), Joe Courtney (CT), John Cranley (OH), Jill Derby (NV), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Brad Ellsworth (IN), Diane Farrell (CT), Steve Filson (CA) defeated in primary by Jerry McNirney (see above), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Tessa Hafen (NV), Baron Hill (IN), Mary Jo Kilroy (OH), Ron Klein (FL), Ken Lucas (KY), Patsy Madrid (NM), Harry Mitchell (AZ), Chris Murphy (CT), Lois Murphy (PA), Heath Shuler (NC), Peter Welch (VT).
If we group these 22 candidates by their positions, it is much worse than one might have imagined. Here it is:
U.S, must "win" in Iraq (9): John Cranely(OH); Jill Derby (NV); Tammy Duckworth (IL); Brad Ellsworth (IN): Teresa Hafen (NV); Baron Hill (IN);Ken Lucas (KY); Lois Murphy (PA); Heath Schuler (NC).
More troops should be deployed in Iraq. (1): Diane Farrell (CT);
Bush (or Congress or Bush and Congress or someone other than the candidate) must develop a plan or timetable for exit. This means that the candidate does not offer a timetable or other withdrawal plan and amounts only to a partisan criticism of Bush without a plan offered by the candidate. (6): Francine Busby (CA); Joe Courtney (CT); Kirsten Gillibrand (NY); Mary Jo Kilroy (OH); Patricia Madrid (NM); Harry Mitchell (AZ).
Biden’s 3-state solution. (1): Phyllis Busansky (FL).
No position. (1): Chris Murphy (CT).
Not for immediate withdrawal (3): Steve Filson (CA) (He lost Dem primary. See above.); Ron Klein (FL); Harry Mitchell (AZ);
Withdrawal in 2006. (1): Peter Welch (VT). (In VT, you could probably not get elected dog catcher without calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Still it is a bit mysterious why Rahm is backing Welch who for that reason probably deserves a bit of scrutiny. Perhaps something "worse" like a Green is waiting in the wings.)
So only one of Rahm’s candidates is for prompt withdrawal from Iraq. And it is notweworthy that Rahm found prowar candidates in both red states and blue, like CT and CA. Check out these candidates for yourself. If you live in their districts, pressure them to change their positions and do so publicly with letters to the editor, withholding of funds and most importantly support for third party antiwar candidates where they are to be found no matter how slight the establishment media regards their prospects. Ask what UFPJ, The Nation and other branches of the peace and justice complex are doing to expose Emanuel’s candidates.
The question arises. Who is Congressman Rahm Emanuel? From what does he derive his power? What are his thoughts on the future for the Dems? And where is The Nation in all this. More on that coming shortly.
JOHN WALSH can be reached at email@example.com
(1.) Cegelis was against the war on Iraq but only in a very timid way. She opposed it before it started, but it was only 4th out of 6 issues on her web site, and she was not for immediate withdrawal. Here is what she said on her web site at the time of the primary. "I have opposed this war from the start. But revisiting what brought us to this disastrous point does not solve the problem. It is time for us to bring our troops home. The Bush Administration must provide a comprehensive timetable for withdrawal of the majority of our combat troops at the earliest possible date. " Notice she does not say "Out Now," like Murtha or Lamont. She leaves it all up to Bush to set a timetable, which is the standard copout for pro-war Dems. Although good enough for PDA (!), it was too much for Rahm Emanuel and company.
(2.) Duckworth says of Iraq on her web site: "The fact is we are in Iraq now and we can’t simply pull up stakes and create a security vacuum. It wouldn’t be in our national interest to leave Iraq in chaos and risk allowing a country with unlimited oil wealth to become a base for terrorists." Not even a mention of a timetable.