I am not a Politician

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UPDATE: Gab and Steny Hoyer will be at
the Lodge on the Desert, 306
  N.Alvernon Way on Tuesday, May 29, 12:30 –
1:30. I encourage all who can to show up and let them know how you feel about their votes on Iraq and their failure to stop the war in Iraq.

Link: Howard Zinn: Are We Politicians or Citizens? | The Progressive.

I read the latest issue of The Progressive yesterday and I found Howard Zinn’s article focused my thoughts about the Democratic leadership’s performance on Iraq withdrawal.

I am sick to death of my fellow citizens acting like they, too, are politicians. Politicians compromise, and deal, and take what they can get; that’s their job. Our job is to demand more and to hold our politicians’ feet to the fire over matters of principle. Those who encourage active citizens to fall in behind politicians when they do their ugly business fundamentally misunderstand the citizen’s role in our democracy. Without the pressure of conscientious citizens pressing them to uphold our deepest and highest values, politics becomes merely the art of the probable, instead of the art of the possible.

I am currently writing a letter to Representative Giffords about my disapproval of her votes on Iraq and her position on immigration. Keep in mind that I wrote this before I came across Zinn’s essay. Reading my letter, you might see why his simple insight so resonated with me.

If any of you out there would like to co-sign my letter to Giffords, just drop me a line and let me know. If you have suggestions or critiques, I’d be delighted to hear them (probably…), so please leave a comment.

Dear Representative Giffords,

I have been very impressed
and gratified by your first 6 months in office. Your voting record has
been nothing less than exemplary. The sole exceptions have been your
co-sponsorship of the so-called STRIVE Act and your recent votes on
Iraqi occupation funding. In both cases, I feel that you have not given
sufficient weight to humanitarian considerations when casting your vote.

I
was very disappointed by your decision to vote ‘no’ on roll call vote
330 on HR 2237, against the great majority of the Democratic caucus.
The failure of HR 2237 made Congressional capitulation to the
Administration’s demands, embodied by roll call 425 on HR 2206,
practically inevitable. Your vote in favor of HR 2206, on which you
again voted against the great majority of your caucus, was also
disappointing.

Despite your best intentions, I do not think that
your votes on the supplemental funding reflect the ethical primacy of
protecting the lives of our American soldiers. The brutal fact is that
every delay in forcing this President to withdraw our troops
from Iraq ensures that more of our soldiers will die in a misguided and
lost cause. In my view, your votes have traded the lives of
American soldiers for purely political considerations that you are
unable or unwilling to fully explain. Of course, taking a firm stand
against the occupation is a political risk, but if this is not a
cause important enough to risk your political future, what possibly
could be? If you won’t make the hard choices on this issue, what will
you risk it all for? If the answer is "nothing", let me suggest you are
in the wrong line of work.

I am not at all convinced that you have weighed the lives of our soldiers heavily enough in your de facto
decision to prolong this occupation. I would like to be reassured that
your first priority is force protection and extracting American troops
from Iraq as soon as possible. Your statement upon voting ‘no’ on HR
2237, which mischaracterized the bill as an immediate withdrawal from
Iraq, left me with no confidence that your support for ending the Iraqi
occupation goes beyond mere rhetoric.

The primacy of
humanitarian concern for life connects the issue of Iraq and
immigration. I do not feel that your emphasis on border security first
and foremost, as demonstrated by your co-sponsorship of STRIVE, takes
into account the humanitarian cost such a policy exacts upon innocent
economic refugees seeking entrance to the United States.

Already,
hundreds of people every year die as a direct result of prior border
enforcement enhancements that redirected immigrant traffic into our
deserts. It is immoral not to consider the increased and continuing
loss of life on our border when pursuing a comprehensive immigration
reform policy. STRIVE and other enforcement first policies fail to
address these human costs or the underlying causes of economic
immigration. I would like to see more visible concern for the lives of
immigrants and strategies for helping make sure that people do not have
to make a decision to leave their homes and come north in the first
place. Consequent of your position as a member of the U.S.-Mexico
Interparliamentary Group, I hope to see much more emphasis on this
aspect of the immigration issue from your office.

As things
stand, your public positions on immigration are doing little to
counter, and much to reinforce, the inhuman and xenophobic rhetoric the
GOP uses to drive this issue. Indeed, I see our entire caucus trapped
by the opposition’s issue-framing, unable to chart a course that
reflects Democratic values and a genuine humanitarian concern for those
whose lives are most directly affected by this issue: the immigrants
and their families.

These two issues, Iraq and immigration, are,
as I’m sure you aware, going to shape perceptions of at least your
first term in office. My plea is that your voice on these issues not be
a careful, poll-driven compromise urged by your advisers and
strategists to ensure the security of your seat, but a true reflection
of your deepest convictions as to the best interests of this nation and
our state, and genuine concern for those whose lives are at risk. If you are sure that your current policies arise from such values and not primarily from political calculation, I am content. All I
ask is your best and bravest effort. You are engaged in the work that
will define your life: make sure that you will be proud of the results.

Sincerely,
Michael Bryan

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Michael founded BlogForArizona as the Howard Dean campaign blog for Arizona in 2003, and has been blogging ever since. Michael is an attorney living in Tucson with his wife Lauren Murata. In 2008, following some health issues and new time constraints, Michael stepped back from regular blogging and began remaking BlogForArizona into a collaborative project. Michael now contributes occasionally to the blog and provides editorial and publishing direction. Also if you want to keep up with the latest Arizona and National political news that Mike finds important, check out the BlogForArizona twitter feed, which he curates.

23 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve also sent a letter to Giffords about the war funding bill. The very first letter to a congressman I’ve ever written. I’m in college, and I always fear the President will unilateraly declare a new draft. End the war, no more potential draft, simple.

  2. Get over yourselves, Giffords Apologists. Of course, she will have her political blah blah blah prepared to defend everything she does. That means something??

    Here’s an interesting excerpt from today’s broadcast of “Democracy Now:”

    “The Bush administration has announced it expects to maintain a massive troop presence in Iraq as it has in South Korea since the Korean War. The U.S. currently has thirty-thousand troops in South Korea in a presence dating back more than fifty years. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said the U.S. would remain in Iraq as it has in South Korea — what he called “a force of stability.”

    The only difference is that 30,000 troops won’t be enough to defend Exxon’s oil infrastructure investments and operations unless, of course, the American taxpayer is bankrolling twice that many private contractors for “stability.” And, this will be for the next 35 years or so, or until the oil is gone.

  3. I think it might be asking a bit much of the average Democrat to show up at an event in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday to ask a question. Besides, I have personally visited her offices in town to express my opinion, and will continue to seek an answer until I’m satisfied. Her statement cited here tells me nothing about her vote I don’t already know. It doesn’t address the central choice between forcing the President’s hand with funding and letting our soldiers continue to be killed.

  4. FYI, Giffords’ explanation of the Iraq vote from the Cactus Roots Newsletter.

    An Update on Iraq

    Since I was elected to Congress I have been a consistent critic of the Bush Administration’s mishandling of the war in Iraq. When I traveled to Iraq in February I came back convinced by General Petraeus that the conflict there is essentially political, not military. That view has been confirmed over and over again in hearings and briefings on Capitol Hill.

    I voted against President Bush’s surge plan and I voted four times to send him a supplemental appropriations bill with firm timetables for a responsible redeployment from Iraq. That includes my vote to attempt to override his veto.

    President Bush has not heard the message from the American people and Congress that we want our troops out of Iraq. He fails to understand that terrorist groups are not confined to a nation’s borders. Iraq had no connection to the attacks on 9/11 and it had no weapons of mass destruction. The President’s preemptive war in Iraq attracted and inspired terrorism in that nation that did not exist before. As long as these elements are there, our tactical anti-terrorism forces must remain but maintaining a U.S. presence of over 200,000 soldiers, airmen and private security guards is morally repugnant, fiscally irresponsible and destructive foreign policy.

    Our troops are embroiled in an untenable civil war between Iraqi factions; our soldiers are not fighting a bilateral war against a singular enemy as some of my colleagues allege. Anti-American sentiment has penetrated many Iraqi sects and some top U.S. military generals believe that Iraq stability will only occur when our troops leave.

    But now, time has run out on this current effort to force the President to do the right thing. General Richard Cody, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, recently testified before Congress that if a supplemental appropriations bill is not approved by June, the Army’s ability to provide equipment to soldiers on the ground in Iraq would be significantly compromised.

    For that reason I voted last week for the latest version of the supplemental. I simply cannot, in good conscience, allow the military to run out of money while American service men and women are being attacked every day. The bill I voted for also includes eighteen key benchmarks that the Iraqis must meet to receive reconstruction funding, including oil revenue sharing, training Iraqi Security Forces to take over from American troops, improving the rule of law by reforming the Iraqi police, and protecting the rights of political and ethnic minorities.

    Make no mistake, the effort to require a timeline for redeployment of troops is far from over. I will continue to vote in support of a responsible shift of troops from Iraq to targeted regions around the world where there are serious threats to America.

  5. What I am wondering is if people WANT to hear why she voted the way she did…or if they want to just criticize.

    Don’t strain yourself.

  6. Funny…I showed up for the Hoyer/Giffords event. What was funny was that with all the outrage I am reading here, NO ONE…and I mean NO ONE…(including me) asked her or Hoyer to explain the bill they voted on and that we criticize. I will say that I saw people in the room, very liberal individuals who are on the blogosphere and who have critized her…say nothing.

    She was prepared to talk about it and a few stayed around to ask her and she talked about the vote…maybe to the satisfaction, maybe not.

    What I am wondering is if people WANT to hear why she voted the way she did…or if they want to just criticize.

  7. As for Giffords lying to the voters of Southern Arizona and buying the CD8 Election with a (2) two million dollar purse filled with I-O-U’S!

    I Told You So!

    I have held the same convictions as a life long Democrat dating back into the late 1950’s!

    I was never a registered Republican as was Giffords in 1999 and did not engage my Campaign for Congress in CD8 in 2006 because of The Party Platform and I did not agree!

    I would not Lie to you and say That I could represent a Platform that I did Not Believe in, but I could have and thats what you now have in Giffords the Tire Queen!

    Now the chickens have come home to roost. Giffords is who she always was a Stock Broker who would sell here own business into bankrupty then bail out; with the Tazpayer of Arizona footing the bill ; as with the Giffords LLC Land Trust being paid for by Mike Hein and The Rio Nuevo Project to the tune of a 55 year lease and $160,000 a year plus all enviornmental clean up at tax payer expense!

    Campaigns such as mine will become the norm as more and more candidates reject high dollar amounts and focus on The Peoples Rights no matter who they are or from what party the say they come from!

    The People are Waking up; and are beginning to get it!

  8. The Iraq War is making us in Southern Arizona more vunerable to attacks from the Mexican Border across the scale by taking away boots on the ground from The Border Patrol to The National Guard.

    I support Governor Napolitano’s statement that The War in Iraq is hurting your and my security at home!

    The Idiot Secretary of Security Chertoff says; “We need to pull troops from our borders and hire Border partol Agents for contractors securing The Borders of Iraq First; so we don’t have to fight them on our Borders at home!

    Well if this guy would get his head out of his ^&*& long enough to see what is going on at the Arizona Mexico Border Towns he would see they are already here and we need to Secure The United States Borders for The American People First!

    Pulling half of The National Guard away from The Arizona Border in September before The Border Patrol is ready is insanity, before they have enough agents to do there job!

    But you can see a strategy here that the Bush Administration is counting on The Amnesty Bill to Pass Congress so that they can say; ” See The Guard Is No Longer Needed On The Mexican Border nor are The Border Patrol Agents because All Mexican Nationals in Country and those that are comming are now LEGAL! We can now
    send The Guard Troops on our Borders and The Border Patrol Agents to Iraq!

    Yea Sure!!!!!

    I now understand why The Amnesty Bill and The Iraq War funding Bill came up in The Senate at the same time; its called Smoke and Mirrors!!!

  9. As I have said for years , we need to take the politics out of both the War Effort and The Immigration Bill and look at it as American Citizens!

    Both have huge consequenses for our survival as a Nation of Laws!

    As Senator Lindsy Graham said; The American people are wrong on Immigration and he and the President are right?

    Holding closed door secret meetings with our Senator John McCain who is suffering from post trumatic stress disorder from being held captive in Viet Nam has given us McCain Feingold as disaster and now McCain Kennedy the Breaking of the back of America as you know it today!

    Stop trying to calculate Congressional Seats and Senate Seats at the sake of The United States Taxpayer and slap them in there faces by selling citizenship rights to lawbreakers!

  10. When The President chose the Veto over the First Bill with Soinach and aid for peanut farmers for 25 Billion it should have been notice to change the direction of the debate.

    The President wanted a bill to support his War I would have given him a bill to support his War with funding never seen before for every V shaped up armoured truck; to body Amour and to get the vehicles into theater as quickly as possible I would have bought the Ford Assembly Plant in Viriginia that was closed down; making the bill a Trillion Dollars!

    The bill would have reflected what is really needed in his War and stop the every thre month return to Congress for supplementals that has plagued Congress since The presidents War began!

    The American People would have woken up from there attention on Paris Hilton and American Idol and said NO!

    As with the current Amnesty Bill before the Senate the people saw legalizing 12 to 20 million illegall’s and chain migration of there families of 120 million more for the next 8 years will cost you and me at the local level by increased property taxes for schools and medical care to the tune of (3) three Trillion dollars and the American public is saying NO!

    The Amnesty Bill will send such a quake through the economy that if that bill that is “Christmas for Mexican Nationals” would be signed with the same government idiots enforcing a bill of 1,000 pages that could not enforce the laws signed in 1986 aimed at Border Security that was never built enabling 12 to 20 million Mexican Nationals to break our laws in the first place creating this mess that is no fault of The American Citizen but special interest groups intent on not enforcing those laws!

    What makes you think another bill of 1,000 pages of Laws will stop the next 100 million?

  11. Just so everyone is clear about this vote, there were actually two votes. Due to a procedural rule vote, the original bill was split and the social issues were voted seperate from the supplemental funding for Iraq. Giffords and Mitchell voted yea on both. Grijalva vote nay on the Iraq portion and yea on the social issues.

    Just want everyone to know that Giffords and Mitchell could have vote against the Iraq funding and for the other social issues.

  12. Sorry Francine, the 2 year term limit belief is sheer idealism.

    As a practical matter it is extremely difficult to unseat any MOC and becomes increasingly difficult as their seniority and support structure grows in proportion to their increasing seniority/influence.

    The fact that the heretofore popular issue of term limits for Congress has disappeared from the public discussion is a tragedy in my opinion.

    Given the seniority system and the almost open use of bribes to control legislation, I do not think we will see serious consideration of the peoples business as long as the current system is in force.

  13. Michael, be sure to tell Giffords what you think! Everyone who feels not represented by her activities – or who has an opinion on how she should vote on an issue should be sure to tell her – early and often!!!!!!

    As one who believes we do have term limits (elections every two years), I don’t accept that an incumbent must get re-elected. As for how Kolbe beat McNulty – the composition of the AZ 8 electorate in 1984 was not the same as it is now. So, this is my sugggestion: be sure you tell Gabby how she should vote to represent your interests. And when she doesn’t do that, tell her you don’t like it. And don’t close the door to a primary challenge if it comes from a candidate with whom you feel greater affinity. And no, this is not my way of saying I’m going to run again – but if there is a viable challenger (my definition of viable is pretty stiff!) I will seriously consider working and voting for the challenger.

    It is worrisome to me that we have a governing elite which has been re-elected time and again – in some cases, for an awesome number of years. I don’t think it is good for the country. I think, as did the founders, that many citizens should have the opportunity to go to Congress, make their contribution and then make way for someone else. I don’t admire elites – and I don’t think it is in the best interests of a “participatory” democracy.

  14. The eagerness to line up behind a politician and excuse the compromise of even the most precious principles is what I don’t understand. By letting our elected officials off the hook on the hard cases simply because we can understand the political calculations that made their actions expedient, we abdicate our proper role as citizens. Our primary concern should be truth and justice, not the daily sausage of political hackery. We should not ourselves become politicians just because we understand the tactical environment they inhabit.

    I fully understand the threat to the CD 8 seat. Better than most, in fact. But I also understand that some issues are worth a political risk. It is not acceptable to me to trade the lives of American soldiers for an easier ride in an election. If that’s acceptable to you, please let me know how you live with yourself.

    I would suggest that rather than reconciling ourselves to whatever Giffords thinks is best, that instead we need a Giffords who listens to what we as citizens think is best. I do not accept the idea that we are too ignorant or too naive to understand what is at stake in these matters, and therefore must defer to our Representative’s choices.

  15. Well said TexAZ and Francine…

    The truth is that Giffords will be probably facing Tim Bee in 2008…well liked, home-grown Green Valley, and considered moderate. They also are going to follow this playbook, yanked from the headlines of Kolbe’s political story…

    Here is why Tim Bee is considering a run…and see Arizona Congress Watch…where there is a story cited to lead us to believe he is. Also, think about the newly launched robo-dial that hits Giffords already for “voting with Pelosi 96% of the time”. Then read this:

    From a story on the career of Jim Kolbe:

    “After the loss in 1982, although Kolbe never said it, Badertscher believes “Jim probably decided within 24 hours that he was going to run again.”
    In his next bid for office, Kolbe used McNulty’s record to frame him as a liberal who was out of touch with the district. Kolbe also tapped into his Santa Cruz County childhood to pull rural, conservative Democrats.
    It worked. Kolbe stormed back to beat McNulty in 1984 with 51 percent of the vote.”

    Sound familiar? But there is a difference. Kolbe faced McNulty in the election where McNulty won the seat. He came back…ran again…and won. A big difference here and the risk Bee takes. If Giffords wins this time, the chances of ever defeating her again are nil. Bee takes this one shot…and he could win, BUT if he loses, he really risks going down in history as one of the many people who faced an incumbent and lost and were never heard from again.

    As I said on x4mrs blog, this is not those days of Reagan either…this is a time when we can agree that Republicans have drastically harmed America. We also know that Giffords has been in office, what 4-5 months…she has a lot of her term left to serve her district and vote. She will be thinking about 2008…no question…and we won’t all love every vote that she takes.

  16. Rep. Giffords might not vote exactly as I would on these measures, certainly not on the Iraq War supplemental. But I’m certainly not disappointed nor am I surprised. She is doing just exactly what she said she would do during the 2006 campaign. Do you think you would like Randy Graf’s positions on these issues better?

    Giffords is avoiding the political mistakes Jim McNulty made with this seat, which cost S.Arizona Democrats Mo Udall’s seat in Congress for two decades. And if you’ll remember the primary and general elections of 2006, she’s representing the people who elected her.

  17. Comes now the aged contrarian who yields to no one when it comes to being upset about Gabby’s vote on withdrawal. Let’s look at what else was included in the bill: an increase in the minimum wage, something George Bush had vowed to veto. An increase in care for veterans; money for Katrina survivors; money for health care for children. I am not a pollyanna and I am not a Gabby apologist, but I am someone who is sick and tired of the failure of the media to tell the whole story! If the media – and that’s not Fox News and it’s not CNN from whom I really don’t expect any journalistic honesty – it’s everyone else who is prattling out there and spending more time on Paris Hilton and that poor woman who died from an accidental overdose of prescription medicines and Rosie O’Donnell – the Fourth Estate – where the hell are they and why are they failing in their responsibility to inform the public? And is this a good time to ask where they were before this misbegotten mess of a war was launched?????

    ARGHHH!

  18. michael, i agree wholeheartedly with your letter to giffords.. please add my name to yours.

  19. I am disappointed by the vote too, honestly. I am betting it was a tough one for her and I would like to hear her explain it, which she will I am sure. I am sure a large part of it has to do with the fact that the nothing reasonable or productive had been passed or near passed on this issue. I think she did vote “yes” on an earlier bill that failed with timelines and a withdraw date. Then this one comes up, no others are passing, and a no vote to not fund the troops looks bad in a district that is heavily military and still majority republican.

    When I look at her support for the troops in other categories like health care, being properly protected when in battle, and other issues, I feel heartened.

    Again, I am not happy that there is no withdraw date and I think that Michael captures my sentiments well in his eloquent letter. The longer this goes on, the more lives and limbs that are lost and the more money that is spent to prosecute this failed policy.

    I don’t think this war is winnable. We are in the midst of a police action now where the only winning is keeping the peace. We can kill more terrorists, sure, but there is the larger question of how the Sunnis and Shias will ever respect each other or be able to compromise on control of oil and the more basic question of how to govern their society and what law to live under.

    My only worry on a withdraw and big question is a humanitarian one and maybe this is a reason for her vote in the end. A withdraw will undoubtably leave hundreds and thousands more Iraquis dead in this civil war. My concern here is the same that we all had when some of us supported the mission in Bosnia. Without a “rule of law” and institutions that can wield it, there will be ethnic cleansing and bloodshed. There is now. How will good, peace-loving people, accept this reality when we look at Darfur and Bosnia and saw the face of human genocide.

    Best,

    Roger

  20. I think that by linking these votes in a single letter, you lose effectiveness.

    Giffords should be criticized for both of these positions.

    It is more understandable that she would take her position on STRIVE though, given the proximity of so many of her constituents to the border problems.

    But by having that excuse for one of the issues, it is easier for her to rationalize both responses being discussed, and the arguments are then easier to disregard.

    I think your tack on the Iraq vote is particularly persuasive.

  21. I just sent a e-mail to Harry Mitchell expressing my disappointment that he voted for the Iraq Supplemental.

Comments are closed.