Post-Election Issue #1: Iraq Exit Strategy Hearings
- Bob FertikWant to meet our members? Click 'Join' above!
Barring an October Surprise invasion of Iran or 15 Stolen Congressional Elections, Democrats should emerge from Election Day with a majority in the House and the opportunity to offer an agenda different from George Bush's.
So a debate is now underway: what should Democrats do if we win?
One of the "rules" of the Corporate Media is that when Republicans take power they have a green light to do whatever they want, as Bush and the Republicans have done in spades.
But when Democrats take power they are told they must do absolutely nothing to change things.
Those of us old enough to remember President Clinton's victory in 1992 know that he won by emphasizing the need to boost the sluggish economy - James Carville's famous campaign slogan was "It's the Economy, Stupid."
Clinton held an economic summit shortly after his victory to solicit advice and ultimately offered his centerpiece proposal: a $60 billion public investment program to kickstart the economy. And what happened? Even though Clinton beat incumbent George Bush by 6% and earned a solid "mandate" for economic stimulus, Republicans and the Corporate Media declared "over our dead bodies." In the end, Clinton had to settle for $20 billion, and his popularity began a steady decline that ultimately cost Democrats control of Congress in 1994.
So what should House Democrats do if we win?
Nancy Pelosi recently offered a 100-hour agenda containing minor changes to Republican policies:
- Day One: Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation."
- Day Two: Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
- Time remaining until 100 hours: Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, maybe in one step. Cut the interest rate on student loans in half. Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.
- Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds _ "I hope with a veto-proof majority," she added in an Associated Press interview Thursday.
- All the days after that: "Pay as you go," meaning no increasing the deficit, whether the issue is middle class tax relief, health care or some other priority.
With the exception of raising the minimum wage, none of these items are top priorities for progressive activists - a.k.a. the Democratic "base" - who are putting their hearts and souls (and wallets) into the battle to put Democrats in the majority.
And in fact the last item is a direct slap at the Democratic "base" because it blocks significant spending increases for anything the "base" really cares about: education, health care, environmental protection, housing, etc.
Of course if Democrats want to disprove the "tax and spend liberal" myth, there are urgent battles Democrats could wage on behalf of the "base" that wouldn't cost a penny: repealing the "Torture Act," the "Sneak & Peak Act," and the "Debt Slavery Act." But those battles would meet fierce resistance from the White House, and House Democrats have proved since 2000 that they are terrified of battling Bush's White House and its ideological attack machine at FOX.
So Pelosi's Democrats will probably avoid Constitutional battles like the plague and focus instead on "kitchen table" battles that the "mommy party" can win.
But both Constitutional and "kitchen table" battles are dwarfed by the 800-pound gorilla in Washington: Iraq. And if Democrats have any brains at all, they will not run from this battle but instead embrace it - by making an Iraq Exit Strategy issue #1 after the election.
Why? Obviously it's by far the most important policy issue facing the U.S. We are spending $2 billion per week but things are going from disastrous to hellish. That viewpoint isn't held only by bleeding heart liberals - it's held by the head of the British Armed Forces, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-VA), and Chuck Hagel (R-NE).
Of course, the American people are paying for this disaster with both blood and treasure. And after four years of White House lies, Americans are angry about it, as every poll now shows.
How should Democrats fight this battle? The assumption is that Democrats must propose a Definitive Plan for Iraq. But why should Democrats try to find a magic solution for a disaster that cannot be easily fixed?
A far better approach for Democrats would be simply to hold hearings, and demand direct testimony under oath from the people who created this disaster, to find out how they see the current situation and how they plan to fix it.
The people who should testify are Donald Rumsfeld and the top people at the Pentagon; Gen. Peter Pace and the top people at the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Stephen Hadley and the top people on the National Security Council; Condi Rice and the top people in the State Department; Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte; Dick Cheney and the top people in the Vice President's office; and James Baker and the top people on the Iraq Study Group.
Together, these top officials have spent over $400 billion to create this disaster. After five years of focus on Iraq, they ought to have some clue as to why things have gone to hell there and how we can avoid getting dragged into hell ourselves.
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO) is the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, and he would chair these hearings. Skelton is not a liberal - in fact he's the 5th most conservative Democrat. Skelton was one of only 81 Democrats who voted for the war in 2000, when 126 Democrats voted against it, and Skelton has tried to support the war for as long as he possibly could.
As one of their last Democratic supporters, the White House would have an impossible time "swiftboating" Ike Skelton. As an unwavering supporter of the military, our truly patriotic leaders would be proud to testify before his committee. And as a former prosecutor, he would have no patience for Busheviks who dodged his subpoenas or lied under oath.
The only way to develop an Exit Strategy for Iraq is to get public testimony under oath from the people who got us into this disaster, to find out a) where things really stand now and b) what ideas they have for getting the U.S. out of Iraq without leaving behind chaos.
Technically, Skelton would not become Chairman until the new Democratic majority was sworn in on January 6, 2007. But the crisis in Iraq is so urgent that he really wouldn't need to wait until January. He could simply ask the current chair, Duncan Hunter (R-CA) to convene bipartisan hearings immediately; if Hunter refused, that would be the final act of Republican contempt for Democracy that would justify denying Republicans any say at all in the Democratic-run Congress.
And Skelton could simply convene Democrat-only hearings in a basement room in the Capitol, as John Conyers was forced to do in 2005 and 2006. Those hearings would be even more riveting to the American people if they were held in spite of Republican obstructionism and contempt.
So that's my proposal for the first issue Democrats should take up if we win the House on November 7. What's yours?