Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Folly of False Choices

Today's editorial in Foster's Daily Democrat is a classic example of the toxic influence of the politics of false choices that has infected our political process.

Jon Breen's piece seems to think that the debate over Iraq policy can be neatly compartmentalized into two camps, the ostensibly patriotic Americans who support the Bush line with unswavering loyalty; and the poor, misguided liberals, bedecked in peasant dresses and tie-dye, wistfully calling for the immediate return of our troops.

Of course, this is absolute codswallop.

Democratic leaders such as Wesley Clark and Joe Biden have advancd thoughtful and credible approaches to the war in Iraq. Their plans reject a premature withdrawal which could plunge Iraq into chaos reminiscent of pre-9/11 Afghanistan. Unlike the Bush approach, however, these proposals call for a greater engagement of the world community in solving the political, military and economic problems inherent in the reconstruction effort. Unlike the Bush approach, the Democratic alternatives call for genuine benchmarks for progress in Iraq, and demand an open and honest accounting of our progress towards achieving those goals.

The debate over our Iraq policy has generated far too much heat and far too little light. it is time to end the partisanship and polarization and change the course to a policy that leads to a secure Iraq and allows us to bring our troops home.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

November 22

Today is November 22. On this date in 1963, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was to have addressed the Texas Democratic State Committee at a gathering in Austin.

Here are the words President Kennedy was to have spoken at the end of his speech:


This is a time for courage and a time for challenge. Neither conformity nor complacency will do. Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a party is not to our party alone, but to the Nation, and, indeed., to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.

So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation's future is at stake. Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause--united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future--and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Grown-Ups Speak

Hope springs eternal.

Even though Friday's antics in the House marked a new low in rank partisanship and McCarthyite name-calling, the Senate showed that there may yet be a chance to return some degree of maturity and intelligence to the debate over America's Iraq policy.

Last week, the Senate passed a resolution calling for “changes to the policy of the United States on Iraq and to require reports on certain matters relating to Iraq".

Clearly, this is a rejection of the Bush Administration's incoherence and a step in the right direction. The absurdities emenating from the House leadership do nothing to repair a broken policy and do even less to encourage an honest debate on the merits of alternative approaches to the problem.

The Senate resolution is a modest way of demanding that we acknowledge the shortcomings of ur policies to date, of demanding that the Administration at the very least attempt to devise a strategy with clear goals and identifiable benchmarks for success. A policy of incoherence is a precription for further bloodshed; a policy that has some standards will at least present the possibility of a workable exit strategy.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Last Refuge of Scoundrels

House Speaker Dennis Hastert is pushing an immediate, non-binding vote on the immediate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.

This stunt is one of the most disgraceful episodes in his rather sorry tenure as Speaker.

The House Republicans, and their friends in the Bush administration, have mishandled virtually every aspect of American policy in Iraq. Now, rather than create a climate where the future of US policy in the region can be debated in a mature and reasoned manner, Hastert decides to launch attacks on the patriotism of administration opponents.

The most loathsome moment so far was when Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) quoted an alleged message from a Marine:

"He asked me to send Congress a message — stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman (John) Murtha a message — that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

Murtha, for the record, is a decorated Vietnam veteran and a respected voice on military policy. Schmidt has never worn a uniform.

The debate about Iraq must not be allowed to degenerate into simplistic posturing about "staying the course" versus "get out now". It's far too complicated and far too dangerous a situation to allow the dialogue to disintegrate. Let's hope that wiser heads prevail, and that we adopt a policy that sets clear and concrete benchmarks for progress, that engages and respects the international community, and that demands transparency, accountability and a respect for the rule of law.

And what about people like Jean Schmidt? They are a blight on Congress, and those members, like Jeb Bradley, who refuse to denounce their antics are little better.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Election Day Congrats

I want to offer belated congratulations to a few of the winners in last Tuesday's elections.

Steve Marchand is the new mayor-elect of Portsmouth . Steve and I met on Mark Fernald's campaign in 2002, and I consider him to be one of the smartest and savviest local lofficials in New Hampshire. His message of fiscal responsibility and accountability is one that deserves a wider audience.

Jerome Duval is the new alderman from Manchester's Ward 4. Jerome will bring a fresh perspective to a board that too often bogs down in old political gamesmanship. He comes to the board with no strings attached, and will be a refreshingly independent voice in city government.

A tip of the hat also goes to my alderman, Pat Long, and my school committeewoman, Carol Scott, as well as my House colleagues Dana Hilliard, who was elected to the Somersworth City Council and Laura Pantelakos, re-elected to the Poortsmouth City Council.

I also want to congratulate someone I have never met. Portsmouth Councilor Ned Raynolds was re-elected despite being out of state for much of the campaign. Ned is on a tour of active duty with the Coast Guard down in New Orleans, helping that city recover from Hurricane Katrina.

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