Post-Election Issue #1: Iraq Exit Strategy Hearings

  • Bob Fertik's picture
    Bob Fertik
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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?


The Gore Years is Live!

  • thegoreyears's picture
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This world did not have to happen.

1st order of business...

  • Bob King's picture
    Bob King
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Take away the power given to bu$h to start another war.
Then take back the media by re-instituting the fairness doctrine and the anti-monopoly laws.

To Bob King, I totally agree with your post

  • Kathyschroeder's picture
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Take back the blank check from Bush that was given to him under the Bush Regime. Stop him from doing anything concerning foreign and domestic policy.

Obviously his own father knows he is incompetent, by bring Jim Baker to clean clean up.

So poor George, he will not have anything to do and Crawford seems like a great place to land and stay.

I would also like to have hearings on Cheny and Halliburton. These no bid contracts are treason during a war, in my view, I know it is not treason, but this regime has committed war crimes, etc.

But most of all I want to be there when the GOPers empty their desks and go home.

A agree, but....

  • tseving's picture
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I think some of the top priorities, should be.....
1. Develop an exit strategy from Iraq.
2. Enact legislation requiring paper trails for all voting machines.
3. Repeal the Bush tax cuts for the top 5%.
4. Force Bush to comply with FISA.
5. Ban torture and extraordinary rendition.
6. Reinstate habeas corpus for all.
7. Require that firms such as Halliburton repay all misallocated funds.
8. Investigate the high crimes and misdemeanors committed by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Gonzalez, et al.
9. Fix Social Security by ending the the income cap on contributions.
10. Repeal the current prescription drug benefit and replace it with a plan to guarantee health care, including prescription drug coverage for all Americans.

I could go on and on, but these are a good start.

- Surviving Bush one day at a time.

But Really...

  • yogione's picture
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A slim majority in one house won't allow much repealing of the damage the Bushies have done because 1. you can't get anything through both the Senate and the House unless you have majorities in both AND you can either pull a straight line party vote or woo some defectors (like Newt and Delay were experts at doing).

A slim majority in both the Senate and the House will bring more power to change some of the disastrous votes on torture, habeas corpus, and presidential powers to wage war unilaterally, but your still will not be able to overcome filibusters or get a super majority.

But, what you WILL have, (and this will be DEVASTATING) is:


Time to open all those nasty little Pandora's boxes that the GOP has been huffing and puffing to keep the lid on!

That would make Mark Foley look like a Boy Scout.

And the GOP knows it. For every scandal that's broken open in the past six months, there's probably four or five more that are just BARELY under wraps.

We just keep them on trial until we get a supermajority. Then we open up all the secrets - the secret energy conference, the secret Iraq war planning, the secret CIA detentions, W's interoffice emails and memos.

The GOP would never survive it. Some new party would have to form, because running as a Republican would be the same as declaring yourself a Mafia man (which it is already, just the public image hasn't been stuck on them yet).

Good point

  • tseving's picture
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In fact, it's exactly what I had in mind in my 8th suggestion, and although you are correct that, with a slim majority in one house, democrats may be successful in undoing what Bush has done, attempting to do so is important even if we fail. Investigations will expose the criminal activities by Bush and his minions. Isn't that a wonderful time for citizens to see republicans thwarting attempts by democrats to do good things for the American people? That will give voters a clearer choice and help completing the removal of the GOP from control.

- Surviving Bush one day at a time.

Yogione, The majority party in power...has just that...

the power to run all committees

the power to decide what bills go to the floor for a vote...and those that are held in committee

the power to decide which judicial candidates go to the floor for a vote...and those who are held in committee.

the power to control much of the activities of the House in all areas.

the power to make committee assignments

In other words, control means just that--control.

Bush will not be able to get the bills he wants to a place where he can sign them into law.

Lot of power there.

Add to this that the party in power can make demands for investigations, for subpoenas, for requiring witnesses to be questioned under oath.

The power to change funding levels for Executive fantasy programs.

It is more than just a touchdown or two.

A mind once expanded can never return to its original dimensions.

Anne Hathaway: 1556-1623

The greatest derangement of the mind is to believe in something because one wishes it to be so.

Louis Pasteur


  • johngivi's picture
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Doc, The speaker of the house does not open discussions ...

with foreign powers. That is the function of the executive. The house can approve the suggestions of the President...and provide whatever funding is needed.

Geez, as an Oregonian, I didn't know there were any Dems left in Lake Oswego.

grinch from Klamath Falls.

A mind once expanded can never return to its original dimensions.

Anne Hathaway: 1556-1623

The greatest derangement of the mind is to believe in something because one wishes it to be so.

Louis Pasteur

Negotiations are not chats.

  • Jim's picture
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Negotiations are not chats.


  • Greg3's picture
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The ideal of bipartisanship and honest negotiations between political factions is probably just that: an ideal. The best beginnings are the easiest such as a minimum wage increase, and immediate hearings into corruption and abuse of the Constitution. As the inevitable investigations proceed, it will be difficult to ignore the caustic lies and distractions by the Executive branch and their media friends. Hopefully, all members of Congress will remember who they ultimately serve.
Even if this election is stolen however, there will be a time for justice in the future. Have you heard the story of Oliver Cromwell's hanging?