Taking the Bait

September 27, 2007 by susan
bait on rat trap

Susan writes:

Folks, they've done it again. The Repugs have distracted us and divided us with the MoveOn flap. We are beating up our own for their votes on this ad, while ignoring their many good votes, and letting the Repugs off the hook for their ongoing rubberstamping of the lamest-duck and most congenitally inept and immoral president in our history as he barrels us beyond the quagmire and into the abyss of Iran.

Read more.

I contribute to MoveOn and gave them money for that ad, but I didn't know they were using the sophomoric Betray-us bit. I think it was a strategic blunder to do the personal attack. It's given raw meat to the Repug pitbulls to chew on well into 2008. I don't care if it filled MoveOn's coffers -- that money won't do anyone any good if candidates running in close races in swing districts, or even in moderate districts (which, frankly, the mushy middle is where most Americans reside) can't take MoveOn money without being accused of calling "a brave general" a traitor. I supported the ad because I was thrilled that MoveOn was refuting the "facts" that Petraeus was putting forth. MoveOn does a lot of good things and thank god some one is out there to do it, but I do think this was a blunder.

Now, let's talk about beating up the Dems who voted for the assine bills in the house and senate to "condemn" the ad. Gimme a break. With all going on in the world which deserves condemnation, this is what they come up with? But anyway . . .

First, huzzah to my congressman Keith Ellison for voting against it. But Keith represents the strongly Democratic urban 5th district, which, unless he's caught toe-tapping in the men's room -- nah, this is the 5th district, so it would have to be more like selling his daughter to the sex trade, is his for life. Still, it's gratifying to have his voice there, free to say what many of us are feeling. Small comfort.

So Amy Klobuchar is the one taking most of the flak for voting in favor of the execrable bill. I've been slow to take shots at Sen. K as many of you know, but this one got to me. So I started to make a stink. Couldn't she have at least taken the abstension route? Not vote on the grounds that it was trivial and inappropriate to waste valuable time on such a thing? I started to dig around, ask questions.

Here are some conclusions, like 'em or not.

First, the abstension. I'm starting to think that's a weasly way out. If you say you're not going to vote on a bill because it's frivolous, well, that'd apply to an awful lot of the bills in congress. We elect our representatives to vote, not to abstain. And some of the time they're going to vote in ways we don't like and they're going to have to defend that vote. You can't just call a time-out when you don't like the action.

As for that thing about the mushy middle? It's true. The other day I ranted to a lefty friend about this vote, a friend who ran on a very progressive ticket for a state wide office a few years back -- and lost. "How could she do this?" I fumed. "Read David Brooks today," he said. Erp. What?? This guy's pointing to Brooks for the answer?

In that day's column Brooks wrote that most of us on the left are out of touch with the middle -- the folks who don't like Bush, don't like the war, those who are being squeezed financially and worry about healthcare, their kids and so on. My friend says these are the people he spoke with as he traveled the state, and they don't much like politics, especially when they drift to the far right or far left. Mushy middle, sure, but not bad people. I think they changed him more than he changed them. And, for better or worse, that's where most people are.

So let's look at some of Amy's other votes around the time of the MoveOn vote.

On the Feingold Amendment to require most troops in Iraq to begin to be redeployed beginning in 90 days, she was one of just 28 Senators voting in favor. It would also end funding for troop deployment to Iraq after June 30, 2008. It was a strong, anti-war vote that went virtually unnoticed. Norm Coleman, you'll be surprised to learn, was not one of the 28.

She also voted for the Reed-Levin amendment. This one was 47-47 (Norm, surprise, was on the opposite side). Reed-Levin would have required troops to be withdrawn beginning in 90 days and all troops out within 9 months (but did not formally cut off funding). Amy also voted for the Specter Amendment restoring habeas corpus; Norm and most of the Republicans voted against. It failed 56-43.

As for the up-chuck vote on MoveOn, she had said earlier that she thought the ad was off-target, as I did. Petraeus's facts should have been disputed, name-calling should have been avoided. I know, the Repugs would have found something else to yelp about, but we, or I at least, could have had an easier time defending it. And, small point, but I believe she criticized the ad, not MoveOn.

She also voted for the Boxer Amendment (which Norm did not) that condemned the ads taken out by Swift Boaters against Kerry, Max Cleland, etc. Shouldn't we be directing our fury at Coleman and the Repugs who will condemn an ad that insults Petraeus, but not the ones that smeared Kerry and Cleland? We take the distraction bait every time.

And yesterday Amy was one of 22 who voted against the “sense of the Senate” measure on Iran, which one could argue would give the Bush Administration the green light for military action against Iran. It was a wide spectrum of Senators who voted against – from Boxer all the way to Lugar and Hagel, with Webb and Tester in between – but again a clear, anti-war vote.

So, instead of bashing Amy for a vote we don't like, shouldn't we give her at least a bit of credit for the ones we do? Shouldn't we stop blasting those who vote with us 95% of the time and save our -- um, fire for those who consistently vote the little miscreant's every wish?

Progressives alone did not elect Amy Klobuchar -- many in the mushy middle did their part as well. But we carry on like prima donnas -- or jack asses -- when she doesn't vote just as we hoped. Yeah, we need to keep speaking up and pushing for our views, but we're also going to have to learn to get along with the mushy middle, or continue to lose elections.
***
Speaking of elections, and Hillary, (was I?) anyone see Mr. Hillary on CNN the other night? Someone sent me this clip of him blasting the congress for the hypocrisy of the MoveOn vote. It's Bill at his best. When he's like this I start to warm to the idea of him as the first lady. And yeah, it's what I wish Amy had done. But I'm not in high dudgeon anymore that she didn't. More like low dudgeon.

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Comments

Anonymous (not verified) | September 27, 2007 - 10:14pm

Every time I have watched or listened to Bill Clinton in the last 2 years, I am just astounded by his incredible focus and insightful comments. This is, of course, comparing him to our current president, who is so sadly lacking in these skills.

I don't know if Ms Clinton has the innate intellect as her spouse. While Mr. Obama is extremely intelligent- he is young and surrounded by youthful supporters and that does make him "game" for the skillful Republicans during the "real" campaign.

Maybe Hillary Clinton would challange the inevitable Republican "Smear 2008" campaign. Watching her just laugh at Chris Wallace- well, she may have cackled like a witch, but I loved it!

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paul miller (not verified) | September 27, 2007 - 10:19pm

"The US government now has greater authority to eavesdrop without warrants on American citizens' telephone calls and e-mails after President Bush signed new surveillance legislation into law on Sunday. Authored largely by the White House, the new law, officials say, provides a legal framework for warrantless monitoring that was already being conducted by the National Security Agency outside of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)." - Christian Science Monitor

thanks Amy!

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | September 28, 2007 - 8:57am

Susan says: "We elect our representatives to vote, not to abstain."

Barbara responds: We elect our representatives to represent us. To keep their promises. To mean it when they say they're accountable to the people who hired them. Amy is, sometimes.

Like it or not, perception is reality. (WARNING: extended breakfast metaphor follows.) And there's a perception out here that the Dems are waffling and lying down like limp pancakes for the Reps. Who's egging them on? Senate leadership, I suppose.

Susan says: "Progressives alone did not elect Amy Klobuchar -- many in the mushy middle did their part as well. But we carry on like prima donnas -- or jack asses -- when she doesn't vote just as we hoped."

Barbara responds: This pisses me off. It implies that we should sit quietly in our seats like nice little boys and girls, feet on floor, hands folded, refraining from crying out, "NO! Don't do this!" when we strongly disagree. That's precisely how we got into the global mess we're in. And for the record, I do not consider people who protest prima donnas nor jackasses.

Susan says: "So, instead of bashing Amy for a vote we don't like, shouldn't we give her at least a bit of credit for the ones we do?"

Barbara responds: Yes, we should.

Susan says: "Shouldn't we stop blasting those who vote with us 95% of the time . . ."

Barbara responds: No, we shouldn't.

Susan says: " . . . and save our -- um, fire for those who consistently vote the little miscreant's every wish?"

Barbara responds: There's plenty of fire to go around.

"Yeah, we need to keep speaking up and pushing for our views, but we're also going to have to learn to get along with the mushy middle, or continue to lose elections."

There's some truth in this. It's a fine line for sure. Like walking a saggy tightrope. But I think the time for being ever so careful has passed. We need a new "middle."

"Protest that endures...is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence."
~ Wendell Berry

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susan | September 28, 2007 - 11:12am

Well, to continue the breakfast metaphor, I waffle on this one a too. Even as I wrote it I found myself thinking, "do I really feel this way?" Because those who know me know that I'm not a lie down and take it sort of woman.
I agree we should be screaming and yelping and calling and writing and not be little flat pancakes, but I also think we're spending a lot of energy beating up Amy for her notably stinky votes, and are perhaps overlooking the good ones. One of only 22 voting against what Commondreams and others suggest just gave the prez the go-ahead on Iran? That was a good vote, and I think we need to notice it and others and not get sucked into simply condemning her as a sell out.
And to say, "all our work was for naught, we elected another typical spineless Dem." isn't -- fair or balanced! Imagine if we hadn't, we'd have had Mark Kennedy in there, and you can imagine his votes, and if the middle roaders like Testor and Webb hadn't been elected, we'd still have the Repugs in charge of the entire shebang.

I'm just starting to read Charlie Savage's Takeover --Return of the Imperial Presidency etc. and when you realize how far Cheney et al pushed us off course, and how the Repugs gleefully went along with every bit of it, I think we have to admit that having a Dem majority is better. And it will be even better if we can get enough elected next round to be veto-proof. It takes a 1000 ft. ore boat something like five miles to stop, and at this point we just have a dingy trying to stop an ore boat.

Still, I agree it's a crashing disappointment when Amy, whom we put a lot of stock in, votes wrong on FISA and MoveOn. In fact, I started that whole post intending to take her to task. It was only when I began to look at who voted how on the ad, and then her other votes of the day, that I began to feel that I was being a bit of a prima donna (sorry Babs) for expecting her to do it my way everytime.

Am I a sell out? A compliant mushy middle person? Again, if you know me, that's not my style. But I'm old and tired and I know that only 300 people showed up at a peace rally last Sunday afternoon and that we aren't the majority we sometimes think we are and that I want my candidates to get elected over people like Norm Coleman and Tim Pawlenty and Michelle Bachman. Just watch how many compromises are made by whomever runs against Michelle, she of the evangelical church of the holy homophobe, in the conservative 6th district. But, do we want to send her back to congres where she is an embarassment to our entire state? Well, we can do that, if we demand hardline positions on social issues from her opponent.
Aw fukkit. It's a beautiful day. I'm going to go outside and sell my soul to whoever'll take it.

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | September 28, 2007 - 9:28pm

Just so you know? She didn't sell her soul today. Instead, she had lunch with me. We concluded that it's one seriously screwed up world out there with no easy solutions. Most of them are systemic (e.g., election reform) and will take eons to implement. Mighty difficult to keep the faith. Which reminds me of Nick (do NOT confuse with Norm) Coleman's excellent and very funny commentary in today's Strib about faith-based bridge building, i.e., praying that you'll make it across. Evidently they're looking for new language to replace "structurally deficient" for bridges that are, umm, structurally deficient. You know that thing about a rose by any other name? My suggestion is to start calling them "IFFY" bridges, acronym for "infrastructure failing f**k you." Thought you should know. Time to go do my pre-bedtime brooding.

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paul miller (not verified) | September 29, 2007 - 9:11am

we have a president that after 7 disasterous years and a looming global enivironmental crisis suggests, ta dom, volunteer reduced greenhouse gas emissions - facts never ever deter Bush from his mindless ideology, the democrats in their infinite political wisdom selected a strategy of appeasement,

very few people on the "left" over estimate our political clout witness the 300 that bother to protest the latest war of choice

While Rome is burning and Nero is fiddling, the Senate is censuring it's citizens, Senator Klobuchar has accepted the fact that she is a cog in the political machine

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susan | September 29, 2007 - 3:39pm

Just so you know, I went out last night and got told off by everyone I know for not being in a blistering fury at Amy for her votes. So, the cheese stands alone. Going to the Human Rights dinner tonight, so I'll probably get blasted there too. Speaking of getting blasted, this morning I was with people who are certain that nukes are being shipped cross country in readiment for bombing Iran, and I'm sure they're right. If not for actual bombing, for hardcore bullying with serious nuke-u-lear back-up, and a few little starter nukes to give them the idea. And the author Jane Hamilton, part of this group, asked in anguish, "What can we do?" In a room of bright, verbal and active people, no one had an answer.
Anyone?

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leftymn (not verified) | September 30, 2007 - 4:19pm

"the folks who don't like Bush, don't like the war, those who are being squeezed financially and worry about healthcare, their kids and so on. My friend says these are the people he spoke with as he traveled the state, and they don't much like politics, especially when they drift to the far right or far left. Mushy middle, sure, but not bad people"

My complaint over the Moveon.org ad was that it negates the ability for progressives to reach out and talk about the issues of healthcare, struggling to survive, education and other pocketbook issues to the "mushy middle"... the response from the Right completely sets up a situation where candidates who want to address these issues but take funding from moveon.org will not be allowed to address the issue, or simply will not be allowed to address the issue because Moveon.org has been made the issue! So count me as someone who is mad at Moveon.org, and equally mad at Sen K as well. I am a progressive who wants my cake and wants to eat it too.

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susan | September 30, 2007 - 6:10pm

Yep, exactly. I, um, had breakfast today with Sen. K and with Sen. Jon Tester. Not a large group of folks, 20 or so of us around a table, very impromptu. (So impromptu that we all had to shout over the din of the Packer fans gathered in the next room for a pre-game buffet.) And we brought up the MoveOn vote. They both said that they felt the Cornyn bill -- a "sense of the senate" bill -- was just another Repub smokescreen to distract attention from all else, so they voted to approve it so the Repubs couldn't keep dragging on the debate, which is what they wanted to do. And that the bill, in the end, is meaningless. You can take that or leave it, but it made sense when Tester said it.

They also said just what Lefty says, that now anyone taking MoveOn money will have a harder time addressing the bread and butter issues which are so important to most Americans. .

And then we had a really good discussion about so many other issues and their votes -- on college loans, deflecting money from coal and oil to research on other fuel sources (not popular in Tester's coal state), the obscene debt we're leaving to our kids, global warming and the environment, strategies to de-fund the war and to fund Social Security, veterans benefits, Blackwater, and on and on. They were well-informed, listened thoughtfully to our questions and responded with candor. And there's something disarming about Tester's flat-top and his background as an organic farmer. He passed easily among the Packer fans because he looked like one of them.

I also saw Amy K. at the Human Rights Campaign dinner last night -- along with Tim Walz -- and her speech on GLBT rights was sharp and passionate and she got a standing ovation.

For awhile I was as down on Amy as some of you, but no longer. I was reminded last night, and again this morning, how bright she is. She may not be perfect, but she sure beats most of the alternatives.

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barbara | September 30, 2007 - 9:05pm

Well, there you have it.

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susan | September 30, 2007 - 11:29pm

If "it" is my opinion, yep, you have it.

Sometimes I wonder if it's hard for me to get enough distance on someone like Amy K, because as you may have gathered, I know her. And because I spend a lot of time in the DFL fundraising lane, I know lots of other elected officials as well.
But, I also have been friends with Peter Hutchinson and his wife for years, and that didn't stop me from taking him on when I strongly disagreed with him about his run as an Independent for Guv.
There are people I really like, but don't support for elected office, and then ones I really don't like, but who I think can do a good job. Mike Hatch comes to mind for some reason. I think he might have been a good governor, despite his well known flaming personality. Which made it all the harder for me to dump on Peter H., who I do like, in favor of Mike.

So although I can't pretend I'm objective, if I thought Amy's votes really were selling us out, I don't think I would have any trouble confronting her. But when I look at the whole Amy picture, I don't think that's the case.

So, there you have it. Again.

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