Democratic National Security is For the Boys

by: Matt Stoller

Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 14:47

Here are the announced speakers so far for the Democratic National Convention  There are 31 so far, and 7 are women.  That's slightly less than a quarter of speaking slots, and three of them - Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama - are required, as opposed to selected by the campaign.  So this is a convention designed to showcase the male side of the Democratic Party.  But let's look deeper, at the national security evening, on Wednesday.  Here's who is representing the face of the party on national security.

  • Former President Clinton
  • Gov. Bill Richardson, New Mexico
  • Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana
  • Sen. Joe Biden, Delaware
  • Sen. Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada
  • Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado
  • House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, South Carolina
  • Rep. Patrick Murphy, Pennsylvania
  • Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth
  • VP Pick

So unless the VP is a woman, the 'Security America's Future' evening features four Senators who voted for the war in Iraq, one ex-President who supported the war in Iraq, one Congressman who voted against the war in Iraq, one Governor who opposed the war in Iraq, one Congressman who served in Iraq and voted for war funding, and one veteran who served in Iraq, ran a divisive primary and got crushed in a general election.  There are no grassroots antiwar progressives on there and there is ONLY one woman.

What exactly did Evan Bayh do to deserve to represent himself as a leader on national security?  And Joe Biden?  And Ken Salazar?  And Rockefeller?  Really?  All of these people got the big decision wrong, but they are tied together by a willingness to preen around as serious boys who like guns.  Moreoever, the one woman on stage that night, Tammy Duckworth, though she represents a laudable and important commitment to veterans, also represents an explicit repudiation of grassroots antiwar progressives.  

Matt Stoller :: Democratic National Security is For the Boys
Those of you who have been reading the blogs for a few years know that Duckworth ran an aggressively divisive primary in IL-06 in 2006, narrowly defeated a grassroots progressive, and lost badly to a Republican despite massive financial support from institutional Democrats.  She's an Iraq veteran, but there are lots of Iraq veterans.  And there are lots of veterans, period, who are considered leaders in the Democratic Party and do have credibility on national security policies that will be useful to the next President (I could point to a former commander of NATO who won a war, but you know, there are so many of those senior level commanders aching to surrogate for Democrats so I won't bother to list them all).

Tammy Duckworth's race in 2006 was a primary in which Dick Durbin, Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and the DCCC all worked overtime to funnel over five million dollars to Duckworth, and set her up with ABC primetime interviews, and she still lost her race.  More than that, she only narrowly won her primary against an underfunded grassroots progressive.  So why is she speaking?  Why exactly did Obama choose this line-up, except as a signal that the Obama campaign is entirely bought into an elitist conservative establishment mindset, in which the only thing that matters is how much you are willing to suck up to power in the village?

Sure, Duckworth speaking is an utter slap in the face to progressives who worked hard from 2002-2006 to take back the majority from Republicans.  But unless the Obama campaign changes their convention lineup on Security America's Future, the faces they have picked speak very loudly about which half of the population makes policy around war and peace.  

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da rock (4.00 / 3)
Not only was Rockefeller wrong on the Iraq war, he is still wrong by pushing Telecom immunity. I don't believe that he has learned any lessons at all. He would do the exact same thing again if it were to be pushed aggressively enough by republicans.

Either that... (4.00 / 2)
Or it signals a Wesley Clark VP nod.  He hasn't been asked to speak, he has national security wrapped up, and he helps to negate McCain's military strengths.  I'm not necessarily opposed or in favor of such a move, but his name is conspicuously absent from this list as well as from other convention speakers in general.  

Exactly what I was thinking (4.00 / 1)
Surely he should at least be speaking, even after the flap over McCain.  

[ Parent ]
The Flap Over McCain (0.00 / 0)
May have actually been an opening shot in that regard.  Who better to negate McCain's military experience than a former NATO commander?  The fact that Clark has been absolutely silent lately might indicate that he's getting geared up for it.  Furthermore, the utter lack of good voices within that crowd might be a conscious attempt not to upstage him (seeing as how Clark isn't exactly the most inspiring speaker).  

[ Parent ]
It would also explain the event in Virginia next week (0.00 / 0)
I believe Clark lives there and it is a big military state.

[ Parent ]
isn't he (0.00 / 0)
supposed to be out of the country during the convention?

[ Parent ]
I heard this too... n/t (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
Wasn't that Hagel? (0.00 / 0)
Or it could be a ruse. Gotta love the veepstakes!

[ Parent ]
Both... (0.00 / 0)
Not sure where Clark is, though he's certainly been pretty quiet lately... almost suspiciously so.

[ Parent ]
This is getting to be like what reading the Kremlin used to be. (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
VP (4.00 / 9)
The more I think about it, the more I believe the convention planners don't have a clue who the VP will be any more than we do, which means we are reading the tea leaves the wrong way.

The speakers are all those people Obama and company want to promote or have promote Obama.  My guess is the VP is one of the speakers, regardless of which night they are currently scheduled to speak.

I'll be extremely shocked at this point if it is Clark.

[ Parent ]
agreed (0.00 / 0)
if they were in the picture, there would be leaks.

conclusion: they're not in the picture.

[ Parent ]
Who's the (4.00 / 5)
"governor who opposed the war?"

Not Richardson: he didn't oppose it. I think the only war opponent on the list is Clyburn.

No Jim Webb, No Al Gore, No Wes Clark, No Tony Zinni.

All in all, a sorry list.

really? (0.00 / 0)
I thought Richardson opposed it.

[ Parent ]
No (4.00 / 2)
As I recall, he was running for governor in 2002 and supported the war, although, as you know as well as anyone, he became a leader of the get-out-of-Iraq movement, so that's something.

[ Parent ]
if they were smart (4.00 / 3)
they'd have sherrod brown speak.

Who else would be a good speechifier? (besides Edwards...sigh)

[ Parent ]
seriously (4.00 / 2)
I don't know why the party is not promoting him.  He is a fantastic, clear and focused speaker.  He hits issues of trade like no one else in the party, and is still early enough in his career that he could become quite important to the party in the future.  

[ Parent ]
maybe (4.00 / 2)
because he stayed neutral. I don't know. It's ridiculous. It seems like a bunch of corporate people controlling the message and running the show.

On TPM some people said that the campaign wasn't going after McCain's wealth because they don't want to be accused of class warfare. Why the hell not! Did they forget that class warfare was what brought about the New Deal coalition and a generation of almost uninterrupted power?

Makes no sense.

[ Parent ]
Because you're thinking about (0.00 / 0)
the Democrats versus the Republicans, and they are thinking about the corporate New Democrats versus the rest of us.  They don't want to win at the cost of the balance of power within the party--better to be running a minority party than to be challenged within the majority party.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
They should junk the whole program, (4.00 / 2)
say that national security is in the eye of the beholder, and cut a day out of the convention.  Just the thought of listening to all those "serious people" is painful.

yeah (4.00 / 1)
if we're really serious about protecting people, shouldn't they have Batman come out in costume and give a speech or something?  

[ Parent ]
Our nation's new defense plan: (4.00 / 1)
have the Green Lantern put a giant green dome around the US.

[ Parent ]
The Bobs (4.00 / 1)
Curiusly missing?  Try the Bobs.  Bobby Byrd got it right on Iraq and jay Rockefekker got it wrong.  So why is Jay, who has done a lousy job on Intelligence as well a featured speaker.  Can't be cause they want a speaker from the swing state of West Virginia as Bobby beats him hands down.

If they do want to feature somwbody who got it right from the Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham, the most popular politician in Florida history, is the obvious choice.

Guess Barbara Boxer is too much for them as well.

graham (0.00 / 0)
is a good guy and I hope he re-runs for senate in 2010, but he seriously gave an awful speech at the convention in 2004.

I have no idea why Jay except that he was an early Obama supporter from a state that went by 40 points to Clinton, so there's probably some rewarding going on there.

Here's a question, why no Tom Harkin? Not for national security, but for agriculture and the midwest, plus he's a true progressive. Oh, I guess that last part answers that question.

[ Parent ]
Honestly, does it really matter? (0.00 / 0)
Who speaks at the convention really doesn't strike me as important, unless one assumes the list really suggests how Obama will govern (which I doubt).

Aside from the few prime time slots, won't the rest of the speakers get barely any attention (unless they do something totally disgusting)?

I figure that doling out these non-prime time spots is mostly a matter of keeping harmony in the party, assuaging egos and some small degree of political gratitude.  It would be nice if we had the right dose of symbolism (via representation of minorities, women, progressives), but it's still just symbolism, isn't it?

Or to put it differently, none of this matters a whit if the VP candidate is decent.

yeah! (4.00 / 2)
Nobody at the 2004 Democratic convention made an impression with a speech that launched them to national prominence and an eventual run for the White House!

[ Parent ]
I said "except for the prime time spots" (0.00 / 0)
How many people here - let alone in the public at large - could recall who spoke at the 2004 convention, other than during a couple of the evenings.

[ Parent ]
No. It isn't "just symbolism" (0.00 / 0)
It's the face we show to average people. It's the example we set for our own country and for the world. It says something and it's where intent is shown.

This pathetic lineup (25% female) doesn't show that. And frankly I think it is an indication of how Barack Obama feels about strong, competent women (I don't think, for example, that he is honestly that comfortable with strong women outside of his marriage). Sebelius may be a dazzler in Kansas, but she's meek. Pelosi? Feminist.not. And I don't expect him to appoint exceptional, strong women in his administration, if he is elected because he needs people around him who massage his ego.

I long for the days of Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Bella Abzug, Barbara Mikulski, Joyce Miller, Addie Wyatt, Olga Madar, Barbara Wertheimer. These were women of strength and belief who weren't afraid to show that strength. And we are better for having had them as the public faces of what women can aspire to without timidity.  

[ Parent ]
the big dawg (0.00 / 0)
they are all going to look so lame compared to Elvis. It is like Obama was selecting speakers to make him look good by comparison. I suspect we can look forward to VP Daschle.

The answer is (4.00 / 1)
that you are strong on national secuity in the Democratic Party IF you voted for the AUMF.  Yet, our nominee opposed it in a speech in 2002. So, cognitive dissonance, I think.

None of these folks are national secuity experts anymore.  They voted the right way, as history will judge it.  So they can not speak on national security day.  Only the ones who voted wrong.  

Measure Title:  A joint resolution to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq.

Vote Counts: YEAs 77
NAYs 23

NAYs ---23

Akaka (D-HI)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Byrd (D-WV)
Chafee (R-RI)
Conrad (D-ND)
Corzine (D-NJ)
Dayton (D-MN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Graham (D-FL)
Inouye (D-HI)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Reed (D-RI)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Wellstone (D-MN)
Wyden (D-OR)

Or these in the House:

---- NAYS    133 ---

Brady (PA)
Brown (FL)
Brown (OH)
Carson (IN)
Davis (CA)
Davis (IL)
Hastings (FL)
Jackson (IL)
Jackson-Lee (TX)
Johnson, E. B.
Jones (OH)
Larsen (WA)
Larson (CT)
Lewis (GA)
Maloney (CT)
McCarthy (MO)
Meek (FL)
Meeks (NY)
Miller, George
Moran (VA)
Price (NC)
Thompson (CA)
Thompson (MS)
Udall (CO)
Udall (NM)
Watson (CA)
Watt (NC)

good point (0.00 / 0)
and what's weird, is that they don't have someone like Carl Levin speaking. With, given that McCain is making a huge push in Michigan, and that Carl Levin is chair of the Armed Services committee, seems a bit odd.

Is he a terrible speaker or something? Why not anyone from Michigan? How about Stabenow or Granholm?

[ Parent ]
the female members of Congress (0.00 / 0)
I can think of who would arguably have a National Security profile and who would be great choices to speak on that night are

I imagine at least 1 or 2 of these will be speaking on one of the days, if not Wednesday.

Oh, yippee! (0.00 / 0)
More male-coddling.

Women aren't faring well in the world today.period. They're hit hardest by the foreclosure and economic crises, by poverty, by elderly poverty, in the workplace, with re: to AIDS/HIV, and in income and retirement (in)security, just to name a few.

So why am I not surprised that Democrats want to showcase da boyz?

Women lose ground and everybody else does, too. Maybe someday a little light will go on in both conservative AND liberal minds that realizes, "Hey! We aren't going to accomplish much of anything (including reducing/eliminating war and international conflict) unless and until we start actually, really, honestly bringing more women to the table --- regardless of their views or political leanings."

THIS is where the conversation and dialogue starts...

It's not really male-coddling (4.00 / 1)

 It's warmonger-coddling.

 Warmongers are disproportionately male.  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

[ Parent ]
What (4.00 / 1)
Was Jane Harman not available?  :o)

So Far (4.00 / 1)
The key words here are so far, as in, "Here are the announced speakers so far..."

Your outrage over a partial list is strikingly similar to your outrage based on rumors that Evan Bayh might be considered a VP choice or your displeasure over the rumors that Tim Kaine might also be considered a VP choice.

There appears to be a familiar theme here where you have a knee-jerk reaction to bash any democrat whenever you perceive that Wesley Clark has been dissed in some way.


Biden is Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee (4.00 / 1)
He became ranking member in 1997 and chaired it from 2001-2003 and then 2007 to present.

he has been involved in many foreign relations issues, primarily Libya, Kosovo and the Blakans, and of course the Iraq War.

He worked on a substitute to the AUMF and turned against the war some time ago, speaking out pretty forcefully.  He is one of the most knowledgeable Senators of foreign policy generally and national security.  

And of course Bill Clinton was, you know, President, and during his presidency was our involvement in Kosovo and Serbia, so presumably he also knows a little about the subject.

And Patrick Murphy is a real Vet, like Tammy Duckworth, in addition to being a congressman.  

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Where's John Kerry? (0.00 / 0)
Considering he was our last Presidential candidate, I'm surprised Kerry's name hasn't been listed as a speaker yet. Could he be a VP contender? I think he'd be a pretty good pick in comparison to some of the others.

Duckworth has been (4.00 / 1)
on the list of possible Senate replacements should Obama leave his seat. Now granted it's not likely she'll be picked but there is the legitimate question of why not Jill Morgenthaler if you need to pick a service woman from Illinois, who just happens to out-rank Tammy and just happens to be running for the same seat Tammy lost.

Jeff Wegerson

Tammy's probably going to be getting a job in (0.00 / 0)
the Obama administration, should it arrive.  

She'll probably be in charge of the VA.  She's currently in charge of Veteran's Affairs in Illinois.

And she didn't get her butt kicked in the GE.  She barely lost and it was due, in large part, to deceptive robocalls coming in at 2 in the morning.

That, and she's not much of a politician.

But Dick Durbin loves her.  

Give me a break --They Don't think to Have A 31 Year Military, Who is the Senior Vet In Congress, Speak On Nat.Security Nite (4.00 / 1)
Matt is spot on with his analysis:

"What exactly did Evan Bayh do to deserve to represent himself as a leader on national security?  And Joe Biden?  And Ken Salazar?  And Rockefeller?  Really?  All of these people got the big decision wrong, but they are tied together by a willingness to preen around as serious boys who like guns"

Where the hell is Sestak, the Congressman from PA!!!

He's "walked the walk", not "talked the talk" for 31 years.  While all these Senators where actually preening as tough on national secuity he actually lived it. A former 3-Star Admiral who commanded an aircraft carrier battle group, with marines and seals, over in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Was Clinton's Director of Defense Policy in the White House on the National Secuity Council and after 9/11, chosen to head up "Deep Blue", the Navy's anti-terroism unit.

Oh and by the way... did I mention that he's the senior military veteran serving in Congress and the highest, ranking former military officer ever elected to Congress...and that he's one of us....a DEMOCRAT!!!

Give me a break...when are the "boys" going to put real leaders like Sestak .. CAREER MILITARY MEN...on NATIONAL SECURITY on that stage!!!!


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