Sunday, September 23, 2007

My party has lost the moral upper hand

I've been really bothered by the rhetoric surrounding Brian Baird, the man who will soon be my US Representative.

Baird was one of the strongest anti-war voices in '03, and he was drowned out. He maintains that the invasion still never should have happened. However, he subscribes to the Pottery Barn theory now, genuinely believing that we need to stick around until the people on the ground are safe.

Regular readers here know that I disagree. I'm a cut-and-runner, and after listening to Baird, I still am. I haven't yet heard anything our troops can do to prevent a massive sectarian/tribal bloodbath upon our exit. Given that I think this will happen about ten minutes after we leave the place, I don't see how sticking around is worth one more American life. Delaying a tragedy isn't worth our troops' blood (although preventing one would be).

But I am absolutely sickened by the loudest portion of my party, who is absolutely lambasting Baird. (For instance, check out Jim's play-by-play of a recent Baird town meeting in Olympia. Baird received a similar reception in my soon-to-be-hometown of Vancouver a couple of weeks earlier.)

Back in 2004, when we re-elected the worst president in American history, I was absolutely crestfallen. I dislike our President for a lot of reasons, but there are a few I want to foreground here.

First, I can't stand the way that Bush insists on sticking to his side dogmatically, even to the point of ignoring (or not seeking) another side to anything he believes passionately. Joe Wilson, Hans Blix...if it didn't agree with him, he wasn't interested.

Second, I hate the way that he sets up the rhetoric so that anybody who disagrees with him becomes the bad guy. Cheney even suggested that a vote for Kerry was a vote for another terrorist attack. I was disgusted by it then, and I'm disgusted by it now.

Third, I positively cannot stand name-calling of good Americans. John Kerry laid his ass on the line in Vietnam, and the whole Swift-boating bullshit and the way that the Republican party absolutely dared to question Kerry's patriotism--well, it still makes my blood boil.

My party--the Democratic party--fought against all of this.

And now, in the Baird situation, my party has abandoned all of these principles. Suddenly, with Baird, we have become the moral equivalent of the Bushies in 2004.

Let's take a look at how we've become all three things we hate.

First off, Baird didn't arrive at his position lightly. His obvious preference is to have never invaded Iraq to begin with. But we're there, and since we're on the ground, Baird decided he needed more information about what to do now. Therefore, rather than golfing or raising money back home over a vacation, Baird went to Iraq himself. This is precisely what I want all of our politicians to do--I sincerely wish they were all this conscientious. Wouldn't it have been nice if Republicans had done this in '02 and '03? While there, Baird saw stuff on the ground that led him to believe that pulling out is a bad idea, and even to favor the surge. He talked to people more expert than him. He made an effort to learn about the situation to help him reach a conclusion. This exact behavior, I thought, was what we fought for in '04.

And for this--letting his interpretation of evidence impact his policy--he is being nailed to the wall.

It is now my party--not the other one--who is saying: "Don't bother seeking evidence. Just let me stick to my dogma."

The second point, that my party sets up rhetoric to make all who disagree with them into the bad guy, is patently obvious to anyone who reads the town-hall play-by-play Jim wrote. Nobody wanted to learn about a complex issue. One questioner even walked away before Baird could respond to his question. "I don't want a response," he said. "I just came here to tell you to go to hell."

Is there a difference between saying "If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists" and saying "If you're not with us, you're with the warmongerers"?


Third, my party is now attacking the patriotism of people whose devotion to our nation should be beyond reproach. John Kerry busted his ass for our nation, and people who haven't been within 5000 miles of an enemy bullet had the gall to attack his commitment to America in the cruelest ways possible. Anyone calling Kerry unpatriotic had damned well better get their butts in harm's way for our country first.

The exact same principle applies to calling General David Petraeus "David Betray-us." I'd like to see some evidence that he did something other than look at a complex situation and reach a conclusion different from Democratic dogma. Frankly, calling a 30-year military veteran a traitor equates us with this woman--and that's not a place I want to be (or ever thought we would be). There are many numbers on both sides of the issue. I'd like an analysis of them rather than bullshit name-calling of a guy who has been in Iraq a hell of a lot longer than I have.

Because I disagree with Baird, I'd look closely at anyone running against him from either party. But I am deeply saddened at how hypocritical my party has become. They want me to love their dogma more than I love evidence, analysis, and legitimate debate. But my dedication to cool, reasoned disagreement and careful consideration of issues has me defending Baird here.

This issue has become like the abortion issue to me, because I'm finding I hate everyone on both sides of it. But, after '04, I feel that my party is not only guilty of all of the sins of the Bushies, but also of hypocrisy for letting themselves sink to their level.

The Democratic Party has become the thing it hates, and that's a political tragedy of the highest order.


Emmett said...

Best blog post about Baird (after August 2007) ever.

TeacherRefPoet said...

Thanks for the compliment. Did you mean to call me "TeacherRatPoet" on your blog?

tommyspoon said...

I'd like to see some evidence that he did something other than look at a complex situation and reach a conclusion different from Democratic dogma.

How about this for evidence?

TeacherRefPoet said...

How do we know which set of numbers is accurate?

tommyspoon said...

Shouldn't a General of his rank and station have access to accurate information?

You're right, TRP. Neither one of us knows which set of numbers is accurate. Doesn't that disturb you? Doesn't that call into question the General's testimony?

If these numbers are inaccurate, then I'd like to ask the following question: Why did a 4 star General present inaccurate data before a congressional committee? I don't know the answer. But that answer is a helluva lot more important than debating the merits of a political advertisement.

tommyspoon said...

As a postscript: I don't beleive the General's testimony. Does this make me unpatriotic?

TeacherRefPoet said...


Re your postscript: No, it doesn't make you unpatriotic. Where did you see me say that? My entire point was that the Democrats are now every bit as into ad hominem attacks and name-calling as Republicans ever have been. I didn't attack anyone's patriotism.

Re the general's numbers: You start by saying "we don't know the numbers." And we don't. So I'm not going to answer your second, hypothetical question until I have some evidence.

The root point of my post still holds, however. The two of us are just quibbling over one point in the general's testimony. I don't have a problem with trying to research the facts here--that's healthy. I do have a problem with name calling and ad hominem attacks.

Calling Patraeus a traitor when he's laid his butt on the line in Haiti, the Balkans, and Iraq is not different from calling Kerry a traitor when he laid his butt on the line in Vietnam. Attacking facts (as you are) is justified. Ad hominem crap is not, and it's turning me off of politics as a whole.

I don't know that either party deserves a democracy as potentially beautiful as ours, since nobody seems to know how to drive it.

tommyspoon said...

It's not that they don't know how to drive democracy, it's that they don't want to drive it at all.

Leaving aside the fact that is not the Democratic party, your point is well taken. Yes, the partisan bickering is nasty. I don't like it. But I only see one way to lower the volume: a decisive back-breaking victory by Democrats in 2008.

And that includes replacing Rep. Baird and his Sugar Daddy, Joe Lieberman (not until 2012, unfortunately).

P.S. Congrats on the house! I loved being a homeowner; perhaps I'll be one again someday.

Paula said...

Is it our speech background? Why can't people just be reasonable?

In the meantime, I lost a former student in Afghanistan. I understand why we went there, but I believe that, had we not allowed ourselves to be sidetracked in Iraq, we'd have dealt with Afghanistan by now, and Luke might still be alive. I am so angry.

TeacherRefPoet said...


Deepest condolences on your student. I agree that, were it not for the decision to go to Iraq, we'd likely be close to done in Afghanistan by now, have more friends helping us, and have a better reputation worldwide. Sigh...

By the way, I haven't blogged about it yet, but I'm coaching again. Once I get OUT, they pull me back IN...