In today’s column, the Seattle P-I’s Joel Connelly writes about the reader response to his previous broad defense of Sen. Maria Cantwell. While he says the response was mixed, he excerpts quite a few vitriolic letters from the anti-Cantwell camp.
In reading through Connelly’s column I think it becomes clear that the most fervent Cantwell haters are operating under two basic misconceptions, that a) engineering a Cantwell defeat will somehow pull the Democratic Party further to the left, and b) that Cantwell is actually pro-war.
Connelly correctly concludes that to Cantwell’s fiercest critics, her Iraq war authorization vote and her failure thus far to recant it, trump all other issues. But I agree wholeheartedly that there are other issues — like global warming — with a far greater impact on a far larger number of people. Yet while Cantwell has been one of the Senate’s most outspoken and effective leaders on energy and the environment, she continues to be vilified by some on the left.
This prompted one of Cantwell’s supporters to ask, “What are these people thinking?”
A clue was provided in an e-mail entitled “Progressives MUST defeat Cantwell” from reader Donald Suppner.
“Cantwell is Lieberman Lite,” he wrote.
“One more DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) corporate whore.”
Alluding to the Green Party’s candidate, Suppner added: “If progressives vote for Aaron Dixon in numbers that would have elected Cantwell, and the D.C. Dems fall one seat short of taking the Senate, THEN the cowardly Dem politicians will realize that they MUST deal with our issues. It worked for the right-wing religious perverts. Bushco kisses their feet on cue.”
See, the problem is, people like Suppner have it backwards. The “right-wing religious perverts” have influence within the GOP far exceeding their strength in numbers because they helped Republicans seize power, not because they threatened to undermine them. Indeed, at the national level, the theocrats essentially seized control of the Republican Party by working from within.
Compare that to Ralph Nader and the Green Party’s success in pulling the Democrats to the left by handing the White House to Bush. How’s that goin’ for you?
(And let’s be blunt: while there were many other factors, Al Gore would have won in 2000 if not for Nader. So all you unrepentant Naderites out there should be blaming yourselves for the Iraq war, not Cantwell.)
In short, you want to make the Democrats more progressive? Make yourself an indispensable part of Democratic success. That’s what me and my fellow progressive bloggers are in the process of doing.
But all that strategery stuff aside, I’m convinced that the most vitriolic Cantwell critics are all talking out of their asses when they attempt to portray her as a hawkish war monger.
Yes, Cantwell voted for the Iraq war authorization… as did most of the Democratic leadership. And no, she has not stood up and given a mea culpa asking for our forgiveness.
But neither is she a defender of the Bush administration’s war policy.
The truth is, she’s actually said relatively little publicly about the war, and what she has said has admittedly been rather muddled. It is easy for those of us on the left or the right to view the war with all the clarity of a passionate ideologue, but my guess is that like the majority of Americans (and the majority of Washingtonians she directly represents,) Cantwell is genuinely conflicted about the war and the best way to extract our nation from it, while honoring our commitments to both the Iraqi people and our own troops.
It is easy for me to condemn President Bush for lying to the American public and the world in selling his cynical, misguided war, and for the incompetent, immoral, and ultimately disastrous way he has conducted it. But I’m not a U.S. Senator. I don’t have to worry about how my public statements will be interpreted by our allies and enemies abroad, or about what impact they may have on the morale of our troops and their families. Cantwell does.
I don’t know if Cantwell does or does not regret her vote for authorization, and I’m not sure she’ll ever come out and tell us. But either way, she can’t take back that vote, and her actions and words in its aftermath must now be calculated to make the best of a very bad situation.
You and I can rail against the war all we want — and we should — but we don’t have to look a soldier’s mother in eye and tell her that her son died in vain.
There are no simple solutions to the war in Iraq, and I don’t expect any from Cantwell. But what I do know is that I’d rather have Cantwell and a Democratic majority in the Senate providing a check and balance on the Bush administration, than yet another Republican rubber stamp like McGavick.