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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Getting military cred from an Iraq war critic
Posted by Jill | 8:55 PM
As the blogger community found out today, Gen. Wesley Clark has endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

Clark's enthusiastic endorsement, and his assertion that she would make an excellent Commander-in-Chief, one around whom he's certain the troops in the field would rally around, is clearly a boost to a candidate who unfortunately, because of her gender, is going to have to prove that she's as tough as the boys are -- perhaps tougher.

Hillary Clinton is the biggest dilemma for progressives that we've seen in my lifetime. It grieves me to no end that the first truly viable female candidate for the presidency that we have is someone for whom 46% of the voting public has already said they won't vote under any circumstances, and one who also has her work cut out for her in rallying the base.

I am part of that base, and the increasing likelihood that Hillary Clinton will receive this nomination before a single primary vote is cast, by sheer power of money and endorsements, illustrates just how rotten the system is, how hard-wired it is to corporate cash, markers called in, name recognition, and schmoozy networking.

I respect Wesley Clark, I respect his judgment, and I have no doubt that he is right on at least part of his assertion -- that she will make an excellent wartime Commander-in-Chief. Where I'm skeptical is whether she will make a good peacetime civilian military leader, only because I am by no means convinced that she has any commitment to roll back American empire-building in the Middle East.

I'm not going to make this a Hillary-bashing post. I used to be on the e-mail list of a woman in my area who sent links to news and blog articles every day, until I dared question the notion that any Democrat is better than any Republican. Of course when you have a Republican party that denies the reality of evolution and that has as its front-runners a guy who thinks having his sons ride a bus around the country stumping for him is national service on a par with fighting in Iraq, a guy who thinks spending 29 hours on the pile at Ground Zero and twice that at Yankee Stadium makes him just like the guys dying of lung diseases now because he said the air quality was just fine, and a mediocre actor who says he doesn't remember the Terri Schiavo case, any Democrat IS better than any Republican.

But is a warhawk, corporatist Democrat who has not spoken out against the insanity of expanding the war in to Iran, is a supporter of expanding the H-1B program and outsourcing American jobs, and triangulates on anything that represents the best that progressive values have to offer, really the best we can do? Does Hillary Clinton really represent that for which the Democratic Party should stand?

There's this meme put forth by conservatives and their lapdogs in the media that America is a conservative country. I don't believe that's true. After six years of fearmongering and "I've got mine and fuck you" economics, I think many Americans are starting to look at themselves and realize that we are better than this. Yes, the Republicans have had some success in morphing immigrants into Al Qaeda, just as they did in morphing Osama bin Laden into Saddam Hussein. Yes, Gen-X loves to blame the baby boomers for everything that's wrong with this country, just the way we used to blame the WWII generation. Americans afraid for their own economic security respond with fear and loathing to the poor because when we look at the poor we see our own future, and it terrifies us. So as long as we can make the poor "the other", we think it insulates us from financial ruin resulting from outsourcing and overleveraged houses and debt and catastrophic illness.

But when push comes to shove, we are better than what we've looked like over the past six years, and we are better than our government. Not good enough, but better. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast, Americans all over the country mobilized. We sent canned goods and bed linens and clothes and furniture to help people rebuild their lives. Some went down there and volunteered to rebuild houses. Some went and rescued abandoned pets. If we have a fault, it's that our memories are short, or that we give up, or that we finally realize that simple volunteerism, while admirable, works best when it is combined with a government that cares for its people. I remember watching television in one of the conference rooms at work, where they had set up TV sets for those who wanted to see what was going on. I remember a group of ironworkers headed to downtown Manhattan on foot to see what they could do to help. I'm sure that some of these same ironworkers ended up supporting the war in Iraq because they believed what the president and the media told them. But on that day, when people in trouble needed them (or so we still thought), they didn't think about the danger to themselves. And in the ensuing days, when other rescue workers toiled tirelessly, they didn't care whether the people for whom they were searching were rich or poor -- or even American.

And THOSE are progressive values. Those are the progressive values that people like me hold dear, and that is why we hold our representatives' feet to the fire. That is why we get so frustrated when we see leaders like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and yes, Hillary Clinton, try to finesse and compromise with evil people who have no conscience and long ago gave up their souls. Because we know that in their hearts THEY are better than this. And they know Americans are better than this. And we want them to be the standard bearers for the progressive values that gave us Social Security, and the civil rights movement, and guaranteed free public education for all of America's children, and the G.I. Bill after World War II. We want them to remember the progressive leaders that came before them, people with courage who did what was right even if it meant political trouble for them. When Lyndon Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he knew that it meant losing the south. But he found the courage to do it because it was the right thing to do; because it was an American value.

American values aren't about who has sex with whom and how they do it. It isn't about punishing women who have sex by making them have babies they don't want. It isn't about who goes to church the most often and who reads the Bible the most and who believes that God made the earth in six days. It's about remembering WHY this country used to be special, and about restoring us to that beacon of hope and freedom and opportunity that we used to be.

I am not convinced that Hillary Clinton is the leader to do that. I'm sure that Wesley Clark is correct, that she is tough enough to handle the military. I'm just not sure that she is tough enough to handle a Republican Party, even if in the minority, that's bound and determined to strip away everything that helps ordinary Americans and turns us back into a 19th century oligarchy.

I am supporting the candidacy of John Edwards for as long as he is in this race. I'm doing so because I think that of the candidates who are running, he best reflects my values. I'm doing so because until the party shoves Hillary Clinton down my throat, I reserve the right to support the candidate I want, not the candidate that the corporations, K Street lobbyists, and the talking heads of the media want (if only so they can enjoy the Clinton scandals all over again).

By November 2008, she will be the nominee. She will be the de facto nominee long before my state's primary, and that's going to be February 5. And when I step into the voting booth, and look at either the name "Willard Mitt Romney", "Fred Thompson", or "Rudolph Giuliani" as the alternative, I will once again be a good soldier and pull the lever for her.

And then I'm going to spend the next four years holding her feet -- and the feet of everyone in Congress who capitulates to Republican insanity -- to the fire. And I'm going to continue to work like hell to change this party -- to stump for candidates who have the courage to be Democrats, not the party of "We're Just Like Them -- Only Not As Batshit Crazy" -- and work to replace those in Congress who think being less crazy than Republicans is enough.

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