Saturday, September 22, 2007

Behold, the problem

U.S. Representative John Tanner, a Democrat from west Tennessee, is struggling. As one of the many Blue Dog Democrats who voted for military force to remove Saddam Hussein he is trying to cope with the current stalemate while watching poll numbers turning more towards port every day.

Recall he was one of the pro-war advocates jumped by Michael Moore for his anti-war Fahrenheit 9/11 movie, which speaks volumes about Moore's lack of character.

Tanner is a Navy vet who was on active duty (non-combat) during Vietnam and served honorably in the reserves for 20 years as well. The local paper did a story on him this morning to explain his support of the Tanner-Abercrombie bill in Congress, a compromise to the more radical types who want the US out of Iraq now (come what may), one of which is local Rep Steve Cohen of Memphis.

In the interview Tanner states the problem:
"What you have is ... people on the left who want to get out of Iraq tonight, regardless of the consequences. You've got other people over here who sit here deaf, mute and dumb and appropriate $100 billion-plus every six months with no questions asked," he said. "There's got to be a better way for Congress to engage on behalf of the American people."
Sounds reasonable. However, in making such a comment Tanner is de facto calling others irresponsible for their principled stands, including Cohen, who is part of the "Out of Iraq Caucus" and who helped block a vote on the bill last month.

Problem is, in trying to take this moderate statesmanlike approach Tanner still can't seem to get past the past, keeping the divide nice and wide. Here, he discusses what helped to sway his vote:
He says he acted on the information available at the time. When Vice President Dick Cheney said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, he took it seriously.

"Turns out that what the vice president told us wasn't true but I had no way to verify the truth of his statements at the time," he said.
This is a political trick--shifting blame to a low popularity lame duck politician from the opposition party to explain a past vote, exactly what Hillary is trying to do. By doing this he instantly loses all credibility with the right. The so-called "lies" did not begin after 9/11, they were there throughout the 90s. If they were lies after 9/11, they were lies before 9/11 (in reality none of them were lies). You can find this childish game being played on nearly every message board in America.

That's why righties feel compelled to dig up fossils like this from Bill Clinton in 1998. United we stand, right? The amnesia is fairly interesting, matter of fact. Patrick Fitzgerald, who recently gained fame in prosecuting Scooter Libby (which made him a hero of the left) helped write the US Government's 1998 indictment of Osama bin Laden, in which was written:
Al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the government of Iraq.
Tanner and others who want an orderly withdrawal are certainly thinking more clearly than their brethren who dream of choppers lifting off the embassy roof in Baghdad under RPG fire so they can preserve them in pictures to trash the Republican Party for years. But he's a few mileposts short of statesman city.

As his bill states, removing Saddam was a good thing. It had been the goal of many in our government for a decade. And yes, hardliners on the right need to admit the mistakes made by Bush, some quite grievous in nature, which is crucial to moving forward positively. But if the left cannot also bring themselves to abandon the political brownie points inherent from such mistakes and say, "hey, it wasn't a lie, we all thought he had weapons", things will never change and we'll be left with the carnage of our own political warfare.

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