Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…

Obama threatens the vulnerable sitting on his left flank

Given the 'successful results' of the recent Congressional votes for new funding for America's current wars, funding intended to keep the machine going until the end of the fiscal year, it follows that the President and his Party took ownership of these wars from the Republicans who initiated them, as Joshua Frank rightly points out here:

No longer can the blame for the turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan rest at the feet of George W. Bush alone. This is now Obama's War on Terror, fully funded and operated by the Democratic Party.

With great power comes great responsibility, according to Peter Parker. But the Democratic Party's assumption of full future responsibility for Bush's wars was not the only partisan war-related issue which made the news this past week. As Norman Solomon writes (see also this and this):

Days ago, a warning shot from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue landed with a thud on Capitol Hill, near some recent arrivals in the House. The political salvo was carefully aimed and expertly fired. But in the long run it could boomerang.

As a close vote neared on a supplemental funding bill for more war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that "the White House has threatened to pull support from Democratic freshmen who vote no." In effect, it was so important to President Obama to get the war funds that he was willing to paint a political target on the backs of some of the gutsiest new progressives in Congress.

But why would a president choose to single out fellow Democrats in their first congressional term? Because, according to conventional wisdom, they're the most politically vulnerable and the easiest to intimidate.

Well, a number of House Democrats in their first full terms were not intimidated. Despite the presidential threat, they stuck to principle. Donna Edwards of Maryland voted no on the war funding when it really counted. So did Alan Grayson of Florida, Eric Massa of New York, Chellie Pingree of Maine, Jared Polis of Colorado and Jackie Speier of California.

To be sure, Obama selling out those sitting to his left no longer counts as news. But his actions in this matter have put the center-left Democrats in an untenable place. 'Their' candidate clearly does not believe he must justify his actions to them. Rather they must justify their actions in his eyes — or suffer the consequences for failing to accomplish this to his satisfaction. Obama does not, therefore, represent the center-left Democrats in a full and meaningful sense of that term. Solomon provides a remedy to the problems generated by this situation: Defeat the pro-war Democrats when they stand for reelection.

This is a crucial time for anti-war activists and other progressive advocates to get more serious about congressional politics. It's not enough to lobby for or against specific bills — and it's not enough to just get involved at election time. Officeholders must learn that there will be campaign consequences.

In other words, the center-left Democrats must struggle to make the Party leaders accountable to them. They must seek to lead the Democratic Party. This strategy also generates problems in the short-term. But Solomon remains undeterred by them:

When progressives challenge a Democratic incumbent in a primary race, some party loyalists claim that such an intra-party contest is too divisive. But desperately needed change won't come to this country until a lot of progressive candidates replace mainline Democrats in office.

On behalf of his war agenda, the president has signaled that he's willing to undermine the political futures of some anti-war Democrats in Congress. We should do all we can to support those Democrats — and defeat pro-war incumbents on behalf of an anti-war agenda.

To conclude, I find it interesting, to put it mildly, that Obama would rather risk splitting his party and, moreover, risk alienating the many Americans who oppose what were Bush's wars in order to fund the neocon's crazy adventures. Besides placating the insatiable ghosts of triangulation which necessarily torment any Democratic administration that follows the Clinton presidency, one can only wonder what Obama expects to achieve by associating his name and thus prestige with these failed, despised and irrational wars? What might his payoff be that it would equal the risks he is taking? Who or what is effectively holding him accountable for his actions in this matter? What does he expect to gain from keeping his Party on the right?

1 comment:

Demdog said...

I may be looking at the situation through rose colored glass but I am going to give Obama a break for now. He only wants to fund the war through the end of the year.

Now I wait to see what he does with his new budget. Does he include war funding in the regular defense budget and thus continue the newly owned war? Hell I hope not.

I also question Obama's turning his back on the GLBT community with his lack of action on DADT.

And then there is organized labor who were a large part of those who voted for him who are getting the shaft in the GM & Chrysler bail outs. Of course OL should bear some of the blame them selves. But that is a topic for another discussion.

Yep, Obama is sure looking more and more like he is abandoning the base who got him where he is. And it is hard to believe because of the majority the DEMs have in Congress.

Shame on you President Obama.