Monday, August 01, 2005

Three Dumb Dems

(see how they run...)

There’s a reason why I give so many plugs to David Sirota on this site, and that is because his posts are consistently excellent. His 7/30 post on the House and Senate democrats who sold us down the river on CAFTA is a good example.

Update 8/11/06: I don't know why I didn't include the link to Sirota's column a year ago, but here it is now.

In this post, Sirota goes after three high-profile Democratic senators in particular who frequently do not face strong opposition when running for re-election and thus have no particular reason to sell out the constituency they purport to represent (of course, running in a difficult campaign is no reason to go “weak in the knees” either). Also, all three of these individuals voted for either the fraud bankruptcy bill, the tort “deform” legislation, or CAFTA, with two of them voting for all three.

As Sirota explains…

But even if you subscribe to the ridiculous "swing state Democrats must sell out" theory and take out Senators who could have potentially tough re-election races like (Blanche) Lincoln (of Arkansas) and Bill Nelson (of Florida), you still have 3 safe Senators who are consistently undermining their party: (Tom) Carper (of Delaware), (Dianne) Feinstein (of California) and (Joe) Lieberman (of Connecticut).
That being said, though, I should point out that, as I reviewed their voting records, I found that all three came down on the right side on more issues than the wrong one. Also, what I describe below are highlights (and lowlights) from their records and not the sum total of their votes.

Of the three, I’ll discuss Carper first.

Carper has done a lot of things right. He has supported AMTRAK funding, voted against drilling in the ANWR (but I’ve found him weak on the environment otherwise, including his support for confirmation of Gale Norton as interior secretary), and voting against the GOP’s phony prescription drug giveaway to Big Pharma.

However, Carper has also voted to repeal the estate tax, and he also voted for rules restricting personal bankruptcies in June 2001 in addition to his recent vote. He also voted for the Iraq War, as did many of his Democratic colleagues. He also supported the so called partial-birth abortion ban unless the mother’s health was at risk, which wins politicians “sound bite” points but can sometimes prove to be a very difficult proposition in the real world when faced with catastrophic medical circumstances. And of course, Carper is also a member of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).

Carper, as far as I’m concerned, is about as “pro-business” of a Democrat as you’re likely to find. However, the fact that he comes from Delaware, the richest state in the nation, doesn’t excuse him one bit as far as I’m concerned. And regarding the three bills I mentioned at the top of this post, he voted for all of them.

Lieberman, thanks largely to his selection by Al Gore as his running mate in the 2000 presidential election, has a huge political profile. Though at times he has been the poster child for whining, condescending liberal moralism (did I just say that?), that has been borne of genuine participation in the 60s civil rights movement, including the fight for voting rights in Mississippi, and like Carper, he also supported expanding the definition of hate crimes to include sexual orientation. I also admired him for his statement in the election that he wouldn’t campaign on the Sabbath, though he did make some exceptions, which is OK by me for whatever it’s worth. Lieberman, also to his credit, has worked effectively with Republican senators, primarily John McCain of Arizona, to pass campaign finance reform legislation and the judicial filibuster compromise (though, as far as I’m concerned, it didn’t give much to the Dems and isn’t going to stop the confirmation of right-wing nut jobs into the judiciary, but I think it was the best deal the Democrats were going to get, even though they’ve now hand strung themselves on the use of the filibuster).

On the other side, Lieberman favors school choice which, as far as I’m concerned, represents the abandonment of our public schools. Worse than that, however, has been his cheerleading for Iraq War II, stating that “Saddam’s overthrow has led Libya and Iran to capitulate” (please…), as well as stating that the war “would lead to Israel-Palestinian” peace, which is total pandering to his Jewish constituency. Also related to defense, he supports the “Star Wars” missile system which, despite approximately $80 million in funding, has yet to pass a single test. He voted yes for eliminating block grants for food stamps, a move I truly do not understand. Finally, he voted yes to ban lawsuits against gun manufacturers for gun violence. And like Carper, Lieberman is a DLC member; also like Carper, Lieberman voted for all three bills.

I don’t really have much of a problem criticizing Lieberman, and I’m a little reluctant to say anything bad about Carper, but I feel genuinely bad about having to criticize Dianne Feinstein. I still have a vivid memory of watching her trembling in shock on the podium announcing the murders of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Castro district supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978 and stating that, as president of the board of supervisors, she subsequently became mayor as a result of that horrifically violent act against Moscone (“The Times Of Harvey Milk” is a landmark documentary about Milk’s life and everything that led up to and followed that event).

Feinstein served as San Francisco mayor until 1988 and then won a special election in 1992 to finish the term of California senator Pete Wilson, who left to become governor of California. Feinstein has served in the Senate to date from that point.

In her favor, she has voted yes to disallow FCC approval of the merger of large media conglomerates (like Carper and Lieberman), voted to fully fund AmeriCorps, voted against the repeal of Clinton-era-passed ergonomic rules on repetitive stress injuries in the workplace, and voted to expand embryonic stem cell research. And aside from voting for telecomm deregulation in the 90s and Iraq War II, I can’t really find much that is bad about her voting record except for her votes to eliminate the estate tax, her support of tort “deform,” and her vote for CAFTA (though that is bad enough…Feinstein, to her credit, did not support the bankruptcy bill).

The votes by Carper, Lieberman, and Feinstein on the bankruptcy bill, tort “deform” and CAFTA bills have huge impacts, and voting on these bills represents a “gut check” that they could not afford to fail, though they did. By doing so, they showed that they do not fear reprisal from within their party.

They should.

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