On Sestak

So I've kept Joe Sestak on my list of possible saboteurs of the supplemental, which has frustrated many Sestak partisans.  As far as I'm concerned, passing this legislation is an important part of disengaging the Democratic party from the pro-war brand, so a vote against it is a problem.  That said, I'm more charitable to progressives who vote against it as a mechanism for creating left-wing pressure, though I have serious reservations about the progressive caucus as an (dis) organized group.

Sestak appears like he's in the liberal camp.  Here's his statement about the legislation.

"Although I am dissapointed there is not one fixed date certain by the end of the year to redeploy out of Iraq, as my legislation proposes, in order to permit a change in strategy to where the Iraqis as well as Iranians and Syrians have an incentive to work for stablity, I am pleased we are moving in the right direction for an end date to this War, so we can enhance our security around the world."

He has also proposed his own legislation which would fix a withdrawal date.  Still, here's why I'm keeping Sestak on the list.  In late February, he stabbed Murtha in the back in the Washington Post with a right-wing frame.

Freshman Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a retired Navy admiral who was propelled into politics by the Iraq war, said Murtha could still salvage elements of his strategy, but Sestak, an outspoken war opponent, is "a bit wary" of a proposal that would influence military operations.

"I was recently in the military, and I have to speak from that experience," Sestak said.

Ratifying the idea that Congress has no place in military affairs and that the Murtha legislation meddles in military strategy is not appropriate for a progressive, so he's not really in that camp.  I don't think his legislation on withdrawal is particularly useful as anything but a communications strategy, and while communications is not unimportant, undercutting the Murtha plan the way he did destroys any PR credibility his plan might have had.

Sestak is currently undecided on the supplemental, but like many of us, he's moving to embrace the progressive parts of the current bill.  Still, because of his earlier right-wing foul, I'm going to judge him on his vote, because that's where the rubber now meets the road.  I'm sure this won't satisfy the ardent Sestak partisans, but hopefully it is an explanation of this somewhat unique case.

UPDATE: As I somewhat expected, there are a whole bunch of people accusing me of making up an accusation of Sestak, despite it being pretty cut-and-dried in an important newspaper article that Sestak actually undermined Murtha's plan from the right. I still haven't heard anyone actually address that problem, which is the source of my criticism of Sestak. Also, I'm not against Sestak, I think he's great. He just screwed this one up, and has a chance to remedy his error. It's good he has his own plan, but that's not remotely an issue, because everyone including Sestak knows that no one is voting on his plan.

There's more...

Blue Dog Supplemental Saboteur List, Updated

Once again, here's the list of the Blue Dogs (plus Sestak) who are against the supplemental because of the conditions it imposes. I removed Kirsten Gillibrand, because she signaled she'd vote for the bill after internal deliberations and public pressure from her supporters.

Here's the list, with three new members (Lincoln Davis (TN-04), Joe Donnelly (IN-02), and Bob Ethridge (NC-02)). Lots of Indiana reps on the list, which is nice because it's Evan Bayh whose wavering in the Senate (along with the Nelsons, of course).

Michael Arcuri (NY-24)
John Barrow (GA-12)
Melissa Bean (IL-08)
Dan Boren (OK-02)
Jim Cooper (TN-05)
Bud Cramer (AL-02)
Lincoln Davis (TN-04)
Joe Donnelly (IN-02)
Brad Ellsworth (IN-08)
Bob Ethridge (NC-02)
Kirsten Gillibrand (NY-20) ???
Baron Hill (IN-09)
Tim Mahoney (FL-16)
Jim Marshall (GA-08)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
John Salazar (CO-03)
Joe Sestak (PA-07)
Heath Shuler (NC-11)
Gene Taylor (MS-04)

Today's big win in the Appropriations Committee is good for momentum. Win or lose, Pelosi is an amazing Speaker.

List of Blue Dog Saboteurs

From a source close to the House Democratic caucus, here's a list of Blue Dogs that don't want to vote for this bill because it has a certain date for withdrawal.  

Michael Arcuri (NY-24)
John Barrow (GA-12)
Melissa Bean (IL-08)
Dan Boren (OK-02)
Jim Cooper (TN-05)
Bud Cramer (AL-02)
Brad Ellsworth (IN-08)
Kirsten Gillibrand (NY-20)
Baron Hill (IN-09)
Tim Mahoney (FL-16)
Jim Marshall (GA-08)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
John Salazar (CO-03)
Joe Sestak (PA-07)
Heath Shuler (NC-11)
Gene Taylor (MS-04)

It's sad to see some freshmen we supported on the list.  Joe Sestak, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Arcuri had some online support from the progressive netroots.  Tim Mahoney, Heath Shuler, Brad Ellsworth, and Baron Hill were mostly to nearly all Rahm recruits.

These people are the Democrats that held Pelosi and the progressive hostage on the language for a firm withdrawal.  They are keeping the war going.  They need to be brought over.

UPDATE: Sestak isn't a Blue Dog, and I'm told that Kirsten Gillibrand just wants to see the bill first. Mmmkay. Color me skeptical. A simple public statement would do wonders.

UPDATE AGAIN: Kirsten Gillibrand has publicly stated she will vote for the supplemental.

There's more...

House Leadership Won't Go To the Mat Over Iraq Bill

Via Skeptic06's diary on the subject, this really pisses me off:
House Democratic leaders will not whip the Iraq supplemental spending bill, on grounds they don't want to apply political pressure on a matter of war and peace.

"It's a conscience vote," House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said after yesterday's Democratic Caucus meeting. But he added his office had begun to "survey" members now that more are looking at the 170-page bill.

"Have we got the 218 votes to pass it? I don't know," Clyburn said.
Bullshit. The House leadership quite decidedly whipped the progressive caucus on the Iraq bill less than a week ago:
A meeting in Pelosi's office Thursday stretched from 1:30 to 4 p.m., as 35 to 40 Democratic liberals hashed over the legislation with Pelosi, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.) and Pelosi's political consigliere, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.).

Miller's pitch was blunt: If the liberals team up with Republicans to bring down the Iraq bill, Democratic leaders would have no choice but to come back with a spending bill that simply funds the war, without any policy restrictions. It would pass easily, with Republican votes and the support of many Democrats.
Why are they letting them off the leash now? Probably because, as Matt reported earlier today, seventeen Democrats--who are mainly Blue Dogs--said they could not vote for a fixed date on withdrawal.

In other words, progressives get whipped into voting for a compromise, and Blue Dogs get to "vote their conscience." Progressives are expected to compromise their beliefs, but then the leadership won't even stand up and fight for a compromise they wrangled out of the progressives.

If the leadership is suddenly giving up on whipping votes after spending so long working on whipping votes, it can only mean one of two things. On the one hand, it means that they now have 218 votes, and are letting everyone else go. On the other hand, it means they have given up on trying to reach 218 altogether. Either way, I am certainly not going to bother trying to whip Gilibrand, Arcuri, and Sestak on this tomorrow, as I had planned. The result is currently a foregone conclusion, and / or the leadership isn't willing to go to the mat over this compromise. I am not going to fight for Dems that don't fight for themselves, and I am not going to waste my energies on a foregone conclusion (well, sometimes I will, but not in this case). Another thing I definitely won't do is raise money for any Democrats who are too squeamish to even vote for a fixed withdrawal date eighteen months down the road. Democrats like that can use their political cowardice to secure re-election in 2008.

Democrats Act As A Caucus, Republicans Act As A Party

Given the revelations in the Sunday, March 11th Washington Post on the House Democrats' divisions on Iraq, there is growing reason to doubt anything effective will be done by the new Democratic Congress, despite its November victory, to end the war in Iraq, or, according to late reports, do anything to prevent an attack on Iran.  

There is a particularly distressing aspect to the current "debate" among Democrats in the House of Representatives on what to do.  As party we do not seem to be able to learn from the successes of conservatives.    A major reason Republicans are so united and disciplined is that their leaders are not afraid of going to their rank and file to discipline errant members.    

Democrats in Congress are acting as a caucus:  Republicans are acting as a party.    This is a major reason why they win.

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