First let me say that I live in Brian's district and am active in my county's Democratic Party chapter. Secondly, let me say that I have commented previously on this matter to the effect that we will have a primary opponent for Mr. Baird next August.
The campaign was covered in USA Today, on Fox News, the Politico, and in the New York Observer. Anonymous Democratic strategists are attacking me with the straw man argument that criticism will jeopardize Democratic seats, wingnuts are flipping out, and some local Democrats are very very angry. I've heard of possible primary challenges in several districts where Bush Dog Democrats are in power.
It's really amazing what a little criticism from a few of us can do.
And now, as we head into a pivotal September, let's we have the language to actually help Speaker Pelosi whip her caucus on the new supplemental, the $50B waste of money, and any other core fights. We won't win them all, or even any of them, but we're sure as hell going to raise the costs of enabling Bush and being, well, a Bush Dog Democrat. Because now we know who they are.
Let's start with the Bush Dog Democrat causing us the most trouble: WA-03 Democrat Brian Baird, who recently did a media campaign touting his recent trip to Iraq and the success of the surge. Mitch McConnell is using Baird's support of the surge as a talking point to create the 'Democrats disagree narrative'. Baird's position is so effective at weakening Democrats that Bush thinks nothing of pushing another $50B of supplemental funding through Congress in September.
So out of all the Bush Dog Democrats, it makes sense to focus on Baird. But what, specifically is Baird doing that the others are not? Why is he more vulnerable to a primary challenge? What makes him more Joe Lieberman than Ben Nelson? I don't think it's just his district. Here are the three keys to Baird's Bush Doggedness.
1) Baird serves as a useful idiot: In an era where the key sin of bad leaders on the Democratic side has been believing spin and reaping media rewards for it, Baird regurgitates right-wing propaganda and gets play on right-wing media. He has secret evidence from middle eastern leaders that we are not privvy to, and therefore his opinions cannot be challenged (unlike Jan Schakowsky, who got back from Iraq and pointed out that the military presentations she got were a PR campaign). Read this interview on Tucker, where Baird explicitly argues that a secretive approach to Iraq, 'out of the harsh glare of Presidential politics', is a better course.
2) Baird has taken a Broder turn: Baird believes, like David Broder does, that courage is betraying the people who voted for you. In response to criticism from constituents who argued that he is helping the Bush administration, here was Baird.
[Baird] also vigorously disputed several points made by the speakers and defended his independence from the Bush administration. He insisted that he is taking the courageous path...
"The easiest thing in the world would have been to go over there...and just say, using partisan rhetoric, 'Get out now,'" he said.
Aside from a completely misguided view of courage, Baird also believes that everyone would agree were it not for that nasty partisanship. Here's his Op-Ed titled 'Our troops have earned more time'.
Despite the enormous challenges, the fact is, the situation on the ground in Iraq is improving in multiple and important ways. Regardless of one's politics or position on the invasion, this must be recognized and welcomed as good news.
So we see that Baird is a very serious person whose opinion cannot be challenged, that anyone who doesn't agree that progress is being made is just playing politics, and that betrayal of one's constituents while sending troops to die in a war you're not fighting is courage. And like Broder, Baird is out to lunch on where the public actually is.
[Baird] now opposes a withdrawal timeline - and said he thinks that most of the country agrees with him.
Jane Hamsher dispatches with this canard. But just the fact that Baird thinks that the public opposes withdrawal suggests just how out of touch and elitist he has actually become.
3) Baird hides behind American exceptionalism. What does this mean? Baird makes a specific moral case about his position which implies that disagreement with his position makes you immoral. Well, first of all, he hides behind the troops, which you can understand from the title of his recent Op-Ed 'Our troops have earned more time'. Neat trick, isn't it? If you don't think the surge is working, you don't want to give the troops what they've earned.
After hiding behind the troops, Baird hides behind the Iraqis themselves. Here's why Baird doesn't want a quick withdrawal.
In the ensuing chaos, the courageous Iraqi civilians, soldiers and political leaders who have counted on us will be left to the slaughter. No American who cares about human rights, security and our moral standing in the world can be comfortable letting these things happen.
There's another neat trick. If you believe in a quick withdrawal, you don't care about human rights, security, or our moral standing in the world.
So that's Brian Baird for you. Despite spending a grand total of TWO days in the country on his last trip, he knows the truth about Iraq that ordinary citizens cannot know. Furthermore, people who disagree with him are motivated by a craven political sense of ignorance and partisanship, and don't care about our troops or the Iraqis who will die because of their irresponsible ideas. The country agrees that withdrawal is a bad idea, and that only nasty partisanship and a very public Presidential debate over Iraq is keeping the idea alive.
Baird is a specific type of Democrat, an old school politician who believes, like Lieberman does, that he can be out of step with his constituents on the most important issue of our generation. He believes that bad and stubborn judgment is principle. And though well-liked by constituents, Baird is willing to lose an election so that he doesn't have to represent them.
"I am truly impressed by Brian's willingness to stand here and take it gracefully," said Joy Overstreet, a Vancouver writer, as the meeting passed the two-hour mark. But she said she would consider voting out the congressmen next year if there is a "viable alternative."
"It could well cost me the next election," Baird said at the end of the meeting. "That's alright."
It is extremely unlikely in the near term that we'll ever have another Democratic politician as bad and high profile as Lieberman, but Brian Baird definitely patterns his career after Lieberman. It's all there: the useful idiocy, the Broder turn, and the hiding behind American exceptionalism.
This is no longer tolerable behavior for Democrats leading into a big September fight over Iraq. Moveon is running ads against him in his district. Bloggers are blogging about him, and local activists are looking around for a primary challenge with the goal of changing his position or removing him from office. Long-time friends of his are frustrated. Democrats in the House are quite angry that he swallowed the Dog and Pony show.
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