Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Byrne: "If any Democrat deserves a crack at Roskam, it's Christine Cegelis."

Illinois Democrats show signs of change

Dennis Byrne, a Chicago-area writer and consultant

December 26, 2005

Might state and local Democrats actually be flirting with democracy?

The entrance of independent, qualified and determined candidates into the party's primaries for governor and Cook County Board president is a welcome sign that at least some Democrats are willing to challenge the established order.

Edwin Eisendrath, a former Chicago alderman, former federal housing official and current college vice president, is an excellent alternative for the many who have tired of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's empty reform promises. Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool, former chief of staff for Mayor Richard M. Daley and a reformer who took on the lakefront sinkhole known as the Chicago Park District, is equally qualified to challenge Cook County President John Stroger.

At last from Democrats we now have hope that some candidates recognize that Illinois needs a good scrubbing with the wire brush of citizen outrage, if there's any left. Every day, there's another story -- or two, or three -- about new cases, in both political parties, of corruption, graft, dishonesty, favoritism, abuse, cynicism, bossism and various creative felonious behaviors. More than school finance reform or a balanced budget, Illinois' No.1 issue is graft and corruption. It steals our money, creates flawed public policy and puts the squeeze on worthy government programs. Only in this climate would the oxymoron of "honest graft" be confused with wisdom.

On the Republican side, a few candidates, but not enough, also understand. Of course every candidate says he's for reform and against graft. Fortunately, in Illinois, we've got a good way to tell if it is true: Only trust candidates that disavow the bipartisan political establishment that runs this state: The Republican and Democratic "leadership," big business, big labor, big lawyers, big doctors and the rest of "the bigs."

That rules out Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka. Shamelessly, she sought the endorsement and money of "the bigs" as a condition of running. That included genuflecting to Republican political wonders in Washington -- the Karl Roves and also the reform-challenged Robert Kjellanders who engineered the 2004 GOP wreck in Illinois. Obviously, reform is not much on the mind of this crowd, as we watch the unfolding of a huge scandal involving indicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. From Topinka's perspective, kissing up to these guys makes practical sense. From ours, it's poison. Amazingly oblivious to any of this is Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who blithely predicts a GOP sweep in Illinois.

Speaking of being bought by the insider crowd, we come to Tammy Duckworth. She has entered the Democratic west suburban 6th District congressional race as a protege of liberal U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) Emanuel heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which means he has a lot of money to buy candidates and their support.

Emanuel set up Duckworth to run in the Democratic primary, with the winner facing state Sen. Peter Roskam, the GOP's unopposed candidate. But if any Democrat deserves a crack at Roskam, it's Christine Cegelis, one of the two other previously announced candidates in the Democratic primary. In 2005, she got 44 percent of the vote against retiring U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, a GOP icon.

Emanuel has committed a bankroll to install Duckworth as the candidate of the party apparatus, even though she is a political novice who lives outside the district and whose political positions have been a mystery. So why would Emanuel run such a political nullity, when a proven candidate is available?

Because she is a war hero. Duckworth was an Illinois Army National Guard helicopter pilot who became an amputee in a crash in Iraq. Emanuel already has trotted her out as "evidence" that Democrats are patriotic and sympathetic with the military. And to inoculate Democrats against the (correct) perception that they're weak on the war against terror. Not surprisingly, her campaign was launched by media toadies, including ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who gave her undeserved exposure on his Sunday TV talk show. Of course, it had nothing to do with the fact that George and Rahm worked together for the Clinton White House.

Using her honorable service in this way is breathtakingly cynical, even for someone as practiced as Emanuel. Even in something as squalid as Illinois politics.

Thanks to the unexpectedly many Tribune newspaper and Internet readers who sent in reasoned, informed and interesting responses to last week's column on intelligent design. The gratifying response from both sides demonstrates even more the legitimacy of the ID debate, especially in schools.



Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Cockburn: The Year of Vanished Crediblity

The Year of Vanished Credibility
by Alexander Cockburn
[from the Nation, January 9, 2006]

Start with Bush. Never at ease before the cameras, he now has the hunted blink and compulsive nasolabial twitch of the mad dictator, a cornered rat with nowhere left to run. Nixon looked the same in his last White House days, and so did Hitler, according to those present in the F├╝hrerbunker. As Hitler did before him, Bush raves on about imagined victories. Spare a thought for the First Lady, who has to endure his demented and possibly drunken harangues over supper. The word around Washington is that he's drinking again. At this rate he'll be shooting the dog and ordering the First Lady to take poison, which I'm sure she'll have great pleasure in forwarding to her mother-in-law.

Certainly it's hard to escape Bush's voice. Every time I turn on the radio, there he is giving a press conference, or yet another bulletin on the great triumphs in Iraq (where the recent election produced utter defeat for the United States and total victory for Iran). There's talk of a Bush bounce in the polls, though I tend to believe the usually reliable Zogby poll, which found on December 13 that after edging back up above 40 percent in November, Bush's job approval rating was once again at 38 percent. I'm sure millions of Americans yearn to approve of Bush. He's officially scheduled to be in the White House for another three years, and who wants a lemon in the garage that long? And indeed, the President does still have his die-hard fans, clustered in their places of worship in the remoter regions of the country. A mid-November poll by SurveyUSA found that in only seven states did Bush's current approval rating even hover around 50 percent. These consisted of thinly populated states where sexual relations with livestock are still commonplace: Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama and Mississippi.

All the same, we've mishandled the situation. When Bush landed on the aircraft carrier and said, Mission accomplished, we all sneered. Wrong move. We should have applauded and said, Now leave! Same thing when there turned out to be no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We sneered again. We should have said, Great! America's safe. Let's quit while we're ahead.

Now Bush is saying that the job will be done when Iraqis enjoy the democratic freedoms guaranteed Americans. We should say, They do! Bought news stories; secret surveillance of phone calls, e-mails and faxes; arrest without warrant; disappearances; torture--you've brought our democracies into sync. Call it a day, bring the troops home and then we can start impeaching you.

But who would do the impeaching? The Democrats have lost as much credibility as the President and the Republicans. Ever since the New York Times loitered a year late into print with its disclosure about the NSA spying program (only the latest in a sequence of unconstitutional infamies by that agency stretching back for decades, mostly against domestic political protesters), I've seen it argued that if the Times had gone with the story last year, Kerry might be President.

But if the Democrats had cared about the Constitution, they could have broken the story last year. Democratic Congressional leaders knew, because the whistleblowers from the NSA desperately tried to alert them, only to get the cold shoulder. Kerry's prime advisers on such matters--Richard Clarke and Rand Beers--knew, because they'd previously been Bush's top functionaries in the "war on terror."

We're heading into a year when the Democrats could be making hay by actually doing the right thing. If 2005 is a pointer, they never will. The latest evidence is that Rahm Emanuel, in charge of selecting Democratic Congressional candidates for 2006, is choosing millionaires and fence-straddlers on the war. He shunned Christine Cegelis, who nearly beat sixteen-termer Henry Hyde in 2004, and whom Illinois polls show to be a popular contender to succeed Hyde. But Cegelis has the disadvantage in Emanuel's eyes of not being very rich and of agreeing with John Murtha on immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. So Emanuel picked Tammy Duckworth, who embodies the cynicism of the "Democratic strategists," being a double-amputee woman Iraq veteran who is not from the district, has a hot-air position on the war and is thought to espouse a "pro-business/centrist platform."

For years Democrats have been dreaming of having a bluff, no-nonsense type, preferably draped in medals, to lead them into political battle. They picked a clunker last year, in the form of Kerry, who had a glass jaw, six houses, a silly billionaire wife and an infinite capacity for talking out of both sides of his mouth. Along comes Murtha, once a Marine drill instructor at Parris Island, who is showing how to talk about the war, how to say it's quitting time. And they flee him like a poisoned thing.

I watched Murtha put Bush away last Sunday. It was effortless.
WOLF BLITZER: Here's what the President said this past week....He seemed to be addressing you specifically...

BUSH: Setting an artificial deadline would send the wrong message to our most important audience, our troops on the front line. It would tell them that America is abandoning the mission they are risking their lives to achieve and that the sacrifice of their comrades killed in this struggle has been in vain.

MURTHA: This is a real war; this is not a war of rhetoric. What the troops get disappointed [about] is they don't have the equipment they need.... I found a shortage of 40,000 battle jackets that they didn't have. That's the thing that demoralizes them. And they know they're targets. I was out at the hospital the other day, and I talked to a young woman whose husband had been to Iraq twice, wounded very badly, lying there in a hospital bed. She says, You know, he enlisted to fight for America, not for Iraq. The Iraqis have to do this themselves. That's the answer to this whole situation.
So that's it for 2005: no credibility for the President, or for the Democrats, or for the New York Times, which took a year to figure out whether the Constitution is worth fighting for. 2006 should be an exciting year. Let's welcome it in.

Copyright © 2005 The Nation

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Hill: Iraq vet faces obstacles to winning Ill.-6 Dem nod

Iraq vet faces obstacles to winning Ill.-6 Dem nod
By Peter Savodnik

Local Democrats warn that, despite Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth’s popularity in Washington, she is likely to face an uphill battle in winning her party’s nomination to run for the seat now held by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.).

Duckworth, who officially filed yesterday to run for the House seat, lives outside the district and has entered the race barely three months before the March 21 primary.

She is also running in the primary against a woman, computer consultant Christine Cegelis, who ran last year — and gave Hyde his closest race in decades — and who has been running in the current cycle since the day after the 2004 election.

Alycia Fitz, a DuPage County Democratic official who coordinates election observers, said Cegelis has a “very loyal following.”

What’s more, Fitz said, there does not appear to be any substantive differences among Cegelis, Duckworth and Wheaton College professor Lindy Scott on Duckworth’s signature issue: the war in Iraq and President Bush’s handling of it.

Steven Kierstead, a DuPage County Democratic activist who runs a weekly e-mail newsletter sent to 1,400-1,500 local Democrats, added that the question of Duckworth’s residency — she lives just over the line in the 10th Congressional District — will hamper her efforts to win the support of party officials.

“It won’t make much difference to John and Jane average voter,” Kierstead said, “but some of the activists are very hot about it. Some of the people in the Cegelis camp already have used it.”

And this lack of so-called institutional support, Democrats add, will make it difficult for Duckworth to avoid looking like a “Washington candidate” imposed on Democrats in the suburban-Chicago district.

Florian Wasik, a retired mechanical engineer who volunteers at the Wheeling Township Democratic headquarters, in the neighboring 10th District, called Duckworth an “intrusion” imposed on the 6th District by Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) who represents the nearby 5th District, in Chicago.

Wasik also said that while there are many “single-issue” Democrats in the Chicago suburbs concerned first and foremost with getting the United States out of Iraq — voters whom Duckworth is counting on — most Democrats care about a range of issues such as healthcare and the economy, matters that, Democrats added, Duckworth has yet to delve into. Wasik said the collapse of light manufacturing in the area, including tool and dye making, had exacerbated concerns about the suburbs’ economic future.

Democrats on Capitol Hill, including Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and Emanuel, appear to think that Duckworth can overcome those hurdles, snag the nomination and give state Sen. Peter Roskam (R), his party’s likely House nominee, a serious race.

One of Durbin’s aides is working for Duckworth. Emanuel spoke with Duckworth on several occasions, presumably to encourage her to run for the seat. And prominent Democratic consultant David Axelrod, whose recent clients include Emanuel, Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), and presidential contender and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), is working for her.

Within hours of Duckworth’s campaign announcement Sunday, the candidate had a website up and running that showcased her military experience. She has taken a less barbed approach than fellow Democrat and Iraq veteran Paul Hackett, who narrowly lost a House race last summer to Republican Jean Schmidt in Ohio’s 2nd District and who repeatedly lambasted President Bush.

Axelrod largely dismissed questions about Duckworth’s standing among local Democrats. “All I can tell you is that she’s filing 4,300 signatures today, which were collected in about a week, which is 500 more than anybody else running for this office, Republican or Democrat, filed,” Axelrod said yesterday. “I think that she has an extraordinary opportunity here.”

The consultant added that Duckworth would be getting help from two of Illinois’ leading Democrats. “I think both Durbin and Obama already have indicated that they’re supportive of her candidacy,” he said.

Joan Berman, an assistant to Democratic Committeeman Wilbert Crowley, in the 10th District, said Cegelis has an organization but predicted that, with Emanuel’s help, Duckworth would win the primary.

Berman also said that Democrats, far from being annoyed with Emanuel’s or Durbin’s getting involved in the race, would appreciate any help they can get winning a district that has supported Republicans for years.

Wasik, like other Democrats, said that portions of the 6th District are gradually shifting into the Democratic column.

Republicans, for the most part, scoff at Democratic hopes of capturing the 6th. Roskam, who worked for Hyde and Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) in the 1980s, has been endorsed by Hyde and has been raising money at a rapid clip for a House contender. As of Sept. 30, the end of the last filing period, the Republican reported having raised roughly $286,000 in the third quarter, leaving him with just shy of $550,000 on hand.

A GOP source from Illinois familiar with the 6th District said that while Cegelis did relatively well against Hyde in 2004 — capturing 44 percent of the vote versus Hyde’s 56 percent — that result reflected voters’ sense that it was time for Hyde to go after having been in Congress since 1974, not growing support for Democrats.

© 2005 The Hill

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces on Active Duty

SUBJECT: Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces on Active Duty

References: (a) DoD Directive 1344.10, "Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces," September 25, 1986 (hereby canceled)

(b) Title 10, United States Code

(c) DoD Directive 5200.2, "DoD Personnel Security Program," April 9, 1999

(d) DoD Directive 1325.6, "Guidelines for Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces," October 1, 1996

(e) through (h), see enclosure 1


This Directive:

1.1. Reissues reference (a) to update DoD policies on political activities of members of the Armed Forces on active duty (AD).

1.2. Implements Section 973(b) of reference (b).


This Directive applies to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Military Departments (including the Coast Guard when it is not operating as a Military Service in the Department of the Navy by agreement with the Department of Transportation), the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Combatant Commands, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense, the Defense Agencies, the DoD Field Activities, and all other organizational entities within the Department of Defense (hereafter referred to collectively as "the DoD Components").


The terms used in this Directive are defined in enclosure 2.


It is DoD policy that a member of the Armed Forces (hereafter referred to as "member") is encouraged to carry out the obligations of a citizen. While on AD, however, members are prohibited from engaging in certain political activities. Subject to the guidelines in enclosure 3, the following DoD policy shall apply:

4.1. General

4.1.1. A member on AD may: Register, vote, and express his or her personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Armed Forces. Make monetary contributions to a political organization. Attend partisan and nonpartisan political meetings or rallies as a spectator when not in uniform.

4.1.2. A member on AD shall not: Use his or her official authority or influence for interfering with an election; affecting the course or outcome of an election; soliciting votes for a particular candidate or issue; or requiring or soliciting political contributions from others. Be a candidate for, or hold, civil office except as authorized in paragraphs 4.2. and 4.3., below. Participate in partisan political management, campaigns, or conventions. Make campaign contributions to another member of the Armed Forces or an employee of the Federal Government.

4.1.3. To assist in applying subparagraphs 4.1.1. and 4.1.2., above, to particular situations, enclosure 3 provides guidelines and examples of permissible and prohibited political activities. The guidelines in enclosure 3 do not supersede other specific requirements and policies, such as those established in DoD Directives 5200.2 and 1325.6 (references (c) and (d)).

4.1.4. Enclosure 4 provides a summary of Federal statutes restricting certain types of political activities by members of the Armed Forces.

4.2. Candidacy for Elective Office. A member on AD may not:

4.2.1. Campaign as a nominee, or as a candidate for nomination, for civil office, except as authorized in subparagraph 4.3.3., below. When circumstances warrant, the Secretary concerned or the Secretary's designee may permit a member to file such evidence of nomination or candidacy for nomination, as may be required by law. Such permission shall not authorize activity while on AD that is otherwise prohibited in subparagraph 4.1.2., above, or enclosure 3 or 4.

4.2.2. Become a candidate for any civil office while serving an initial tour of extended active duty (EAD) or a tour of EAD that the member agreed to perform as a condition of receiving schooling or other training wholly or partly at U.S. Government expense.

4.3. Election or Appointment to Civil Office

4.3.1. Except as authorized by subparagraph 4.3.3., below, or otherwise provided for by law, no member on AD may hold or exercise the functions of civil office: In the U.S. Government that: Is an elective office. Requires an appointment by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Is a position on the executive schedule under sections 5312 through 5317 of reference (e). In the government of a State; the District of Columbia; a territory, possession, or commonwealth of the United States; or in any political subdivision thereof.

4.3.2. A member may hold or exercise the functions of a civil office in the U.S. Government that is not described in subparagraph, above, when assigned or detailed to such office or to perform such functions.

4.3.3. As long as they are not serving on EAD, enlisted members and Reserve officers may hold partisan or nonpartisan civil office if such office is held in a private capacity and does not interfere with the performance of military duties. Additionally, enlisted members on EAD may seek and hold nonpartisan civil office as a notary public or member of a school board, neighborhood planning commission, or similar local agency, as long as such office is held in a private capacity and does not interfere with the performance of military duties. Officers on active duty may seek and hold nonpartisan civil office on an independent school board that is located exclusively on a military reservation.

4.3.4. Unless prohibited by Service regulations, a member on AD may serve as a regular or reserve civilian law enforcement officer or as a member of a civilian fire or rescue squad. Such service shall be in a private capacity, shall not involve the exercise of military authority, and shall not interfere with the performance of military duties.

4.3.5. A member elected or appointed to a prohibited civil office may request retirement and shall be retired if eligible for retirement. If such member does not request or is not eligible for retirement, the member shall be discharged or released from AD, as determined by the Secretary concerned.

4.3.6. The separation and retirement requirements of subparagraph 4.3.5., above, do not apply if the member declines to serve in the prohibited office; if the Secretary concerned determines that the member should not be released from active duty based on the needs of the Service; or if the member is: Obligated to fulfill an AD service commitment. Serving or has been issued orders to serve afloat or in an area that is overseas, remote, a combat zone, or a hostile fire pay area. Ordered to remain on AD while the subject of an investigation or inquiry. Accused of an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U.S.C. chapter 47 (reference (b)), or serving a sentence or punishment for such offense. Pending administrative separation action or proceedings. Indebted to the United States. On AD during a period of declared war, a national emergency, or other period when a unit of the Reserves or National Guard has been called to AD. In violation of an order or regulation prohibiting such member from assuming or exercising the functions of civil office.

4.3.7. A member who refuses to decline to serve in a prohibited civil office after being denied separation or retirement in accordance with subparagraph 4.3.6., above, may be subject to disciplinary or adverse administrative action under Service regulations.

4.3.8. No actions undertaken by a member in carrying out assigned military duties shall be invalidated solely by virtue of such member having assumed or exercised the functions of a civil office in violation of paragraph 4.3., above.


5.1. The Assistant Secretary of Defense (Force Management Policy) (ASD(FMP)) shall be responsible for the administration of this Directive.

5.2. The Secretaries of the Military Departments shall be responsible for issuance of appropriate implementing documents for their respective Departments.


All members of the Armed Forces on AD engaging in political activities shall follow the guidelines in enclosure 3.


This Directive is effective immediately.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Duckworth on Iraq War

Duckworth Il-06 Bid Quite Likely....

Two campaign sources tell the Hotline that it looks very likely that Tammy Duckworth (D), a triple amputee who sustained critical injuries as a Black Hawk pilot in the war in Iraq, will be running in the IL-06 race against state Sen. Peter Roskam (R).

Duckworth has been mum about a potential campaign; she can't comment while on active duty.. but DCCC Chmn. Rahm Emanuel (D) has been actively recruiting her. Duckworth is not originally from Illinois -- she was born in Hawaii, with an undergraduate degree at the University of Hawaii and a graduate degree at George Washington University. She moved to Illinois when she was a doctoral student at Northern Illinois University. She joined ROTC there, and later served in the state National Guard in 1996 before being deployed to Iraq. And according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet, she is presently applying for a release from active duty -- a necessary precursor to officially enter the race.

The district borders Emanuel's -- and he views this race as a key chance to pick up a seat that GOPer Henry Hyde has held since 1974. It also borders Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R) district, as well. Assuming Duckworth enters, this could easily be one of the most competitive and compelling House matchups -- a talented, aspiring Republican state senator against a genuine war hero -- with members of both parties' leadership right next door. The district leans Republican, but it's clearly a swing district that Dems can pick up. Obama won easily here, and Bush only won with 53% of the vote in '04.

Duckworth's policy views are largely a mystery. But she is likely to take a more favorable view of the war in Iraq than some of the current Dem leadership in the House. As a guest of Sen. Dick Durbin for President Bush's 2005 State of the Union Address, she said: "Getting to see this ritual of democracy in person tonight is not only a fantastic experience, it really brings home what we were over in Iraq fighting for -- this country and the freedoms that go with it."

Sounds more Lieberman-esque, than something coming from Min Ldr Nancy Pelosi. [JOSH KRAUSHAAR]


Newsweek: The Vet Strategy

The Vet Strategy
The public is unhappy. The GOP is on the run. The Dems have a secret weapon: Iraq war vets, deployed on a new field of battle.

By Richard Wolffe and Jonathan Darman

Dec. 5, 2005 issue - A few days after last year's presidential election, Ladda (Tammy) Duckworth was piloting her helicopter north of Baghdad when she saw a ball of fire at her knees. A rocket-propelled grenade had struck her Black Hawk at its chin bubble, close to her seat. When she awoke 10 days later, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, she found she had lost her legs, but none of her desire to serve. For the next year, as she recovered from her devastating injuries, she became one of the capital's favorite troops: an inspirational war story amid the grinding violence of Iraq. She was a senator's guest at the State of the Union and a witness before a congressional hearing on health care for war casualties. As Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson put it, she was simply "a true American hero."

She could have stayed a trophy veteran. But as Major Duckworth met with Democratic members of Congress, she talked about how she viewed politics as an extension of her service. One summer's day she invited Rahm Emanuel, the Democrats' master strategist in the House of Representatives, to the hospital to meet some recovering vets from their home state of Illinois. "We were walking down the hall and you could see the incredible response to her and her leadership," Emanuel told NEWSWEEK. "She goes to see other troops to keep their spirits up." Last week Duckworth returned home to Chicago's affluent suburbs to begin what looked like an unofficial campaign for the open congressional seat now held by retiring Republican Rep. Henry Hyde. Still on active duty, Duckworth cannot declare her candidacy or talk politics to the media. But according to Democratic leaders, she's their preferred candidate.

Duckworth is part of a new breed of macho Democrats, joining eight Iraq veterans who have already announced themselves as candidates in next year's congressional elections. (The party is also reaching out to veterans of wars in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Vietnam, as well as former CIA officers and FBI agents.) These Democrats don't offer a unified strategy on how to leave Iraq. But they represent the most visible sign of the sea change in politics over the past year. The GOP has long held an advantage on questions of national security, but that lead has steadily eroded, offering Democrats a rare opening since 9/11. Recent polls show Democrats running neck and neck with Republicans on terrorism and comfortably ahead on Iraq. For all the lack of alternatives, Democrats have gained ground as public opinion has turned against the war. With relatively few competitive seats across the country, as well as a bigger campaign war chest, the GOP is still favored to retain control of the House. But Democrats believe they have found candidates who personify what voters want: real Americans (not politicians) who represent community, service and, of course, security. The vets also represent the Democrats' best hope of burying their GOP-crafted caricature as the Mommy party of John Kerry—unable to defend the country from terrorists or themselves from political attack. "A macho Democrat is someone who isn't afraid to stand up for what they believe in, to tell their story, to fight back when they're unfairly attacked," says John Lapp, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Their opponents aren't waiting for them to suit up. The White House says it doesn't matter who the candidate is: the Democrats cannot argue from a position of strength on the war given the depth of antiwar sentiment inside their base. One senior Bush aide, who declined to be named while discussing political strategy, pointed to the Democrats' dilemma when confronted with Rep. John Murtha's calls for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. "It took Hillary Clinton five days to respond to the Murtha statement," the aide said, suggesting that Clinton was struggling to reconcile her hawkish position on the war with the demands of the party base. "That shows the dynamic of the Democratic Party. They are always pulled to the left, the same thing John Kerry found out during the primary process." Other Republicans say the war isn't going to affect the '06 elections either way. "Local dynamics will trump everything," says Tom Reynolds, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Reynolds dismisses the Democratic veterans' strategy as "just a bunch of hoopla," saying his goal is simply to recruit the best candidates. With just one Iraq veteran on the ballot (Van Taylor, a 33-year-old former Marine who is running in the Texas district where Bush owns his ranch), the GOP has a far more modest strategy: to persuade incumbents to delay their retirement. Reynolds says they shouldn't abandon the Republican majority right now. "I tell them: stay and enjoy it," he says.

The Democrats have been here before. It was only a year ago that they pinned their hopes on Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran and outspoken war critic only to watch him collapse under friendly fire from fellow veterans. Another veteran, Gen. Wes Clark, proved that unelected soldiers aren't always ready for prime time. And two years earlier, another Vietnam hero, Max Cleland, lost his Senate seat as the White House went to war in Iraq—and Republicans declared total war on Cleland.

But that was back when the GOP was still riding high in the polls. This summer, Paul Hackett helped jump-start the Democrats' faith in soldier-politicians. After a seven-month tour of Iraq as a Marine reservist, the untested Hackett entered a special election to fill an open House seat in the conservative second district of Ohio. Combining vocal criticism of Bush's handling of the war with an attack on ethics scandals plaguing the state GOP, Hackett came within 3,500 votes of an electoral upset. (He lost to Jean Schmidt, who earned scorn this month for suggesting on the House floor that Murtha—a decorated Vietnam veteran—was a coward.) Buoyed by his near miss, Hackett decided to try again—this time for the Senate seat held by Republican Michael DeWine, up for election in '06. And Emanuel began stepping up efforts to find other veterans in the Hackett mold.

He found one in Chris Carney, who is running for a House seat in northeastern Pennsylvania. Carney is a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve, but his specialty is intel and counterterrorism. That took him inside the Bush administration as a Pentagon adviser, where he argued the case that there were links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. As a uniformed officer, Carney defended the road to war even as he began harboring concerns about its execution—the lack of troops on the ground and the absence of planning for a possible insurgency. He decided to run—as a Democrat, his lifelong affiliation—in part to reshape policy on the war, advocating a phased withdrawal with clear targets. "For every trained-up battalion of Iraqi security forces, an American battalion should get to come home," he told NEWSWEEK.

While Carney watched the war from Washington, Patrick Murphy decided to get involved in politics shortly after returning from Iraq. A captain in the 82nd Airborne, Murphy was embarrassed by the lack of supplies and support as he helped train Iraqi security forces. If anything, Murphy—now running in Pennsylvania's eighth district northeast of Philadelphia—takes a harder line on the timetable for withdrawal from Iraq than many of his fellow vets. "To win the war on terror," he says, "we need to get the hell out of Iraq." A lifelong Democrat, he happened to vote for George W. Bush in the 2000 election. "At that time I believed the rhetoric that he was a compassionate conservative and that he wasn't going to start doing nation-building," he said.

Despite the national Democrats' faith in these candidates, the hopefuls aren't shoo-ins at home. Some face resistance from local pols who see them as arrivistes jumping ahead in the political pecking order. While the national party leaders love Hackett, the state party leans toward Sherrod Brown, a seven-term congressman; the two will do battle in the primary next spring. In Illinois, Duckworth's emergence has dismayed supporters of Christine Cegelis, a software engineer who won a respectable 44 percent against Hyde last year. And some of the Democratic vets are more conservative than their party's base on crucial issues like abortion and gun rights, let alone how and when to wind down the U.S. presence in Iraq.

But the war has taken its toll on party unity among Republicans, too—as rank-and-file members up for re-election begin edging nervously away from their embattled president. House Republicans cite poll numbers showing that voters may disapprove of Bush and Congress in general, but largely approve of their own representatives. That suggests the GOP should follow localized strategies for survival—or, in the words of one House Republican (who spoke on condition of anonymity about campaign tactics), a strategy best summed up as "Remember Me? You Like Me." In Ohio, Rep. Deborah Pryce is fighting against Democratic efforts to tie her to Bush, Iraq and the indicted former GOP House leader Tom DeLay. Pryce told one Columbus TV station she hoped voters would judge her only "on my performance and my service to them."

For his part, Bush will try once again to reshape the national debate on Iraq this week with a speech in Annapolis, Md., where he will cite a new metric of progress: the amount of territory controlled by Iraqi security forces. Bush's aides want to demonstrate advances on the ground ahead of next month's elections for a full-term Iraqi government, as well as next year's congressional elections here at home.

For many Iraq vets on the path to politics, the well-worn debate about the war — including exit strategies and the rationale for the invasion — is an emotional minefield given their concerns about their fellow troops. Tammy Duckworth, for instance, would much rather talk about veterans' issues and the need to get adequate resources to those in the field. Whether she and her fellow vets can survive the new combat zone will test something more than machismo. Politicians sent them to war. Now they must prove they can campaign — and govern — as well as they can fight.

With Holly Bailey

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10219754/site/newsweek/

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Residency an issue for 6th District rivals

Residency an issue for 6th District rivals

December 2, 2005

BY LYNN SWEET Sun-Times Columnist

Democratic congressional candidate Christine Cegelis said Thursday she did not understand why Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) recruited a rival to run against her who did not live in the district.

Democratic Party of DuPage County Chairman Gayl Ferraro said the residency of Army Maj. Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth "is going to be an issue with a lot of our voters, from what I've been hearing."

Duckworth, who lost her legs and suffered a badly wounded arm when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq on Nov. 12, 2004, is poised to announce her candidacy as soon as she is off active duty.

Duckworth's husband, Bryan Bowlsbey, said Thursday her paperwork to switch her status has been submitted to a medical board but that it was not clear when the Army would act.

Nominating petitions for the 2006 contests in Illinois are due Dec. 19.

Seeks seat Hyde is yielding

Once Duckworth contemplated a run, encouraged by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Emanuel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (the House Democratic political organization), she received guidelines from her commander at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington that limited her public partisan speech, Bowlsbey said.

However, that has not kept Duckworth from quietly laying the groundwork for a bid, working with political professionals and contacting local officials about the seat now held by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), who is retiring. Durbin lent a Chicago staffer, David McDermott, to help Duckworth.

Duckworth met with Ferraro on Wednesday afternoon at DuPage County party headquarters in Lombard. Ferraro said Duckworth told her she "has permission to start circulating petitions" even while on active duty.

On Monday, Duckworth phoned Cegelis to discuss the race. The conversation was brief, Cegelis said. "She just wanted to introduce herself to me, that's all," Cegelis said in a conference call with reporters.

"We didn't talk for very long. We talked a bit about the fact that she does not live in the district and that she does not intend to move to the district.''

Cegelis lives in Rolling Meadows and was the 2004 6th Congressional District Democratic nominee, gaining 44 percent of the vote in a shoestring campaign against Hyde.

Remapped out of district

Duckworth lives in the section of Hoffman Estates in the 8th Congressional District -- whose voters sent Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) to Washington.

Freshman Bean lives in Barrington, in the 10th Congressional District, represented by Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.).

Bean, however, lived in the district when she first ran for the House and is just about 1,400 feet over the line, having been remapped out by Republicans looking -- unsuccessfully, it turned out -- to protect Rep. Phil Crane (R-Ill.), whom Bean defeated in 2004.

After she was wounded, Duckworth's friends remodeled her home in Hoffman Estates to make it handicapped accessible, and as a practical matter, it would be difficult for her to move at this time. Emanuel's considerable fund-raising ability will be used to market Duckworth and diminish her residency as an issue.

Emanuel shopped around for another Democrat to run because he was not convinced Cegelis could muster a campaign to beat the likely GOP nominee, state Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton).

Ferraro -- who as party chairwoman said she will be neutral in the primary -- said Emanuel's undermining Cegelis has made some DuPage Democrats "very angry about the whole situation. They are looking at it as the DCCC coming in and telling them what to do."

"But I don't necessarily view it that way. It is anyone's right to run for the office," Ferraro said.

If Cegelis beats Duckworth and Wheaton College Professor Lindy Scott -- a long shot -- she will emerge stronger than she is now.

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Editor & Publisher: Media Fell Short in Covering 9/11 'Report Card'

Media Fell Short in Covering 9/11 'Report Card'

Has September 11 fatigue set in? A high-level report declares that the U.S., while fighting terrorists abroad, has not done nearly enough to keep us safe here at home. Surely it has dominated front pages all week? Not exactly.

By Greg Mitchell, Editor and Publisher

(December 06, 2005) -- The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001 -- you remember them. Cost nearly 3,000 American lives and haunted the families of the victims. Traumatized the nation. Damaged our economy, led to a new cabinet department and the controversial Patriot Act. Gave the new U.S. president, who was foundering in the polls, almost unprecedented power and popularity. Led directly to a war against Afghanistan and overthrow of the government there. Led almost as directly to the invasion of Iraq, then a continuing war and occupation that has cost another 2,000-plus American lives and countless billions of dollars in expenditures.

September 11 is unquestionably the major American event in recent decades and the terrorist threat to our homeland is the issue of our time. So you would think that when the official and much-respected commissioners charged with studying the tragedy and offering advice on preventing another such attack released a report card on whether the government, four years later, is fully doing its job to keep us safe, it would deserve banner headlines and massive and continuing television coverage -- especially if the grades were poor, with five “Fs” and a dozen “Ds” out of 41 categories.

Well, such a report card was released on Monday -- this may be news to some of you -- and the media response was ... underwhelming.

Yes it made the front pages in some papers, got some favored spots on network news and provoked the usual cable news chitchat for a few hours or so. But Saddam Hussein's courtroom tantrums, the latest twist in the Tom DeLay case, and the first human face transplant, of all things, got just as much, or more, attention.

Does anyone know, for example, that the bi-partisan commission, led by Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean, gave the Bush administration -- which launched a war on Iraq largely in the name of reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction -- a "D" on its efforts to secure WMD worldwide, calling this "the greatest threat" to America's security?

"If my children were to receive this report card they would have to repeat a year. We cannot afford to repeat this mistake," said Timothy J. Roemer, one of the commission members. His colleague on the panel, James Thompson, the former Illinois governor, asked: "Are we crazy? Why aren't our tax dollars being spent to protect our lives?"

Yet an E&P survey of 40 major U.S. newspapers found that on Tuesday only six in this cross-section featured the story on their front pages. The San Francisco Chronicle had the most lavish treatment, with a huge replica of a school report card included. The others were: San Jose's Mercury-News, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Houston Chronicle, on the other hand, carried the headline: “Concerns Over Face Transplant Grow.”

It's true that the unhappiness of the commissioners started to leak out Sunday, and some papers, such as the Boston Globe, carried front-page dispatches on Monday. But most didn't put it on the front page either day, including The New York Times.

The new CBS News blog, Public Eye, reports, "All three networks featured packages on the news, but NBC’s 'Nightly News' was the only broadcast to lead with the story. ABC's 'World News Tonight' and the CBS 'Evening News' led with stories about Saddam Hussein's trial."

But maybe I'm just over-sensitive about this. Like many in New York, I did lose a good friend in the attack on the World Trade Center.

In an online chat Tuesday at The Washington Post, a visitor asked the paper's longtime political reporter Tom Edsall, “The 9/11 report card obviously is big news here in D.C., but do you think that the average American is going to pay attention to this? And what effect will this have?"

Edsall replied: “I was surprised to see this morning that our competitor, The New York Times, played the story inside. Insofar as the press drives a story, that will diminish public reaction. I only saw the beginning of CBS News last night and don't recall an early mention of the 911 commission findings, which would also weaken the lasting power. The NYT has a wider national distribution than the Post. We gave the story top of the front page story, which I think is the correct play. All this is to say -- I don't know if the issue has legs or not. It should.”

Has legs? What 9/11 wrought certainly does have legs -- from severe budget deficits to a stretched-thin military to a continuing war in Iraq. It's the height of hypocrisy for the administration to downplay the fresh concerns about readiness while declaring that we are in a worldwide and open-ended war on terror to allegedly make the homeland safe. Newspapers share in treating this as just another issue of-the-day.

The commissioners asked if maybe we need another wake-up call. Apparently, the answer is: yes.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The New Republic: Why Barack Obama Should Run For President in 2008.

Run On

by Ryan Lizza
Only at TNR Online
Post date: 12.06.05

By my count, twelve United States senators are considering a run for president in 2008: six Democrats (Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, Russ Feingold, and John Kerry) and six Republicans (George Allen, Sam Brownback, Bill Frist, Chuck Hagel, John McCain, and Rick Santorum). For Biden, Kerry, and McCain it would be their second presidential campaign.

Elsewhere in that august body, another eight senators have already run for president, failing to reach the White House but contributing mightily to the craft of colorful campaign coverage. Four Republicans who have run left behind campaign innovations such as iconic outerwear (Lamar Alexander), daring speech choreography (Elizabeth Dole), the chiropractor vote (Orrin Hatch), and the idea that voters should care about foreign policy (Richard Lugar), but they never won a primary. On the Democratic side, Robert Byrd, Tom Harkin, Ted Kennedy, and Joe Lieberman have left us with two versions of the "favorite son" strategy, as well as Bob Shrum and Joementum, but they didn't become president.

Several other current senators have at some point been mentioned seriously as potential presidential candidates, and just about every senator at least considers running. In short, the Senate operates as both America's incubator of presidential ambitions and the retirement home of its failed candidates. The well-known curse of the Senate is that it both elevates politicians to within striking distance of the White House and burdens them with the baggage of a complicated voting record and the stench of the Beltway.

This is why Barack Obama must run for president in 2008.

Obama, you may remember, is the lanky 44-year-old from Illinois elected to the Senate last year. He is the most promising politician in America, and eventually he is going to run for president. The case for running now is not that it is the perfect moment for him to run. It's not. It is just that it may be the best chance he will ever get.

The main objection to an Obama run is his obvious lack of experience. He needs at least a full Senate term before he is taken seriously, the argument goes. On the one hand, each day spent in the Senate gives Obama more experience and stature for his inevitable presidential campaign. But each day also brings with it an accumulation of tough votes, the temptations of bad compromises, potentially perilous interactions with lobbyists, and all the other behaviors necessary to operate as a successful senator. At some unknowable date in the future, remaining in the Senate will reach a point of diminishing returns for Obama. The experience gained by being a good senator will start to be outweighed by the staleness acquired by staying in Washington.

There's no way for Obama to know when he will reach this point. That uncertainty makes 2008 look like his best opportunity. He can be certain that 2008 will be a year with a wide open primary on both the Republican and Democratic sides in which neither a sitting president nor vice president will be running, a rare event in presidential politics that lowers the bar of entry for all candidates. He can have a high degree of confidence that if he waits until 2012, he will face the historically impossible task of unseating the incumbent president of his own party, or the historically difficult task of unseating the incumbent president of the opposition party. The 2016 race would probably be his final chance. But by waiting until then he would have to bet that the Senate has not destroyed his career, or, if he has moved to the safer confines of the Illinois governor's mansion--his next chance would be in 2010--that he has not already passed his political peak.

The kind of political star power Obama has doesn't last. My favorite law of American politics is that candidates have only 14 years to become president. That is their expiration date. The idea was conceived by a very smart political junkie who happens to be a senior aide to Vice President Cheney (don't hold that against him), and the law was popularized in a column by Jonathan Rauch of National Journal. As Rauch put it, "With only one exception [Lyndon Johnson] since the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, no one has been elected president who took more than 14 years to climb from his first major elective office to election as either president or vice president." As Rauch showed, the majority of presidents since 1900 have fallen on the low end of this zero-to-fourteen-year spectrum: zero (Dwight Eisenhower, Herbert Hoover, William Howard Taft), two years (Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt), four years (Franklin Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge), and six years (George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Warren Harding). The lesson is that Obama must strike while he is hot or risk fading into obscurity.

The biggest objection to Obama running for president just four years after being elected to national office is his lack of experience on national security. But experience is an overrated asset in presidential politics. It is conventional wisdom now that only during the interregnum between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the onset of the war on terror could candidates lacking foreign-policy credentials win the presidency (i.e., Bill Clinton and George W. Bush). But John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan all won during the cold war without significant experience in world affairs.

And besides, Obama is already making a name for himself as one of the Democratic Party's national-security leaders. He recently visited Ukraine to inspect aging stockpiles of unsecured conventional weapons and is co-sponsoring legislation with Lugar to safeguard the munitions. The program is modeled on the famous Nunn-Lugar initiative to secure loose nukes. On Iraq, Obama, who opposed the war, has also staked out one of the more mature positions within his party. "Having waged a war that has unleashed daily carnage and uncertainty in Iraq," he said in a recent speech, "we have to manage our exit in a responsible way--with the hope of leaving a stable foundation for the future, but at the very least taking care not to plunge the country into an even deeper and, perhaps, irreparable crisis." At home, he has become the Senate leader on preparing for an outbreak of avian flu.

In fact, with these recent policy moves, Obama, who will be 47 in 2008--one year older than Bill Clinton was in 1992--sounds increasingly like someone who is considering a run. And if he isn't, he should.

Copyright 2005, The New Republic

The Hill: Cegelis, Duckworth in pre-primary maneuvers

Cegelis, Duckworth in pre-primary maneuvers
By Peter Savodnik

Christine Cegelis (D), seeking the seat being vacated by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), said yesterday that she would play up her 6th District roots in the race — drawing a sharp contrast with Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, who is mulling a bid but lives outside the district.

“It’ll be about me, about how basically I’ve been a resident of this district for the last 20 years,” Cegelis said of her campaign for the suburban-Chicago seat.

“I think I’m going to take advantage of the fact that I know the people of my district,” she added. “I’ve got the organization that I have been building over the last two years.”

Cegelis ran unsuccessfully against Hyde in 2004. Her supporters have noted that she gave the Republican congressman his tightest race in decades, winning 44 percent to Hyde’s 56 percent in the GOP-leaning district.

Duckworth did not return an e-mail message.

Lori Goldberg of Jasulca/Terman and Associates, a public relations firm in Chicago that is helping Duckworth, would say only that her candidate is waiting for the Army to release her from active duty.

Duckworth, who lost both her legs while piloting a Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq, has applied to a medical review board at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to be released from duty.

She has received encouragement from leading Democrats to enter the race: She has spoken with Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; one of Sen. Dick Durbin’s aides, David McDermott, is helping her. Emanuel and Durbin are Illinois Democrats.

A spokesman for Durbin said that the senator is not getting involved in the primary and that McDermott is taking vacation time to work for Duckworth. Democrats outside Durbin’s office, including Cegelis, say the senator and other Democrats in Washington support Duckworth.

Cegelis said she was “very disappointed” with Emanuel and Durbin but added that she has not spoken with either lawmaker about the matter.

“I still feel, regardless, this is going to be decided by the Democratic voters in my district,” she said. “I still believe that’s the democratic process.”

Duckworth has until Dec. 19 to file for a House bid. A source close to Duckworth said Duckworth should hear from the military about her release — a prerequisite for a political bid — within a week.

A Republican source in Illinois with extensive knowledge of the race questioned Duckworth’s strategy, noting that the “non-candidate candidate,” as some in the GOP call her, has Democratic consultant David Axelrod in her corner and has begun circulating petitions for her campaign with local officials.

“She basically has a campaign going, but she says she’s prohibited from talking about it,” the Republican said, adding that the Democrat’s actions may breach Federal Election Commission regulations.

Duckworth also has not shied away from public comment about the Iraq war; she testified this year to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “She can’t comment on the war now that the Democrats are behind her,” the Republican said.

Ryan McLaughlin, the campaign manager for state Sen. Peter Roskam, the likely Republican contender in the House race, would not comment on Duckworth. McLaughlin said Roskam is focused on the primary and will worry about his Democratic foe when he has one. Roskam faces no opposition in the GOP primary.

Gayl Ferraro, chairwoman of the DuPage County Democratic Party, said the issue of Duckworth’s residency coupled with her outside backing could hurt her prospects.

Ferraro noted that Democrats in DuPage, many of whom back Cegelis, have been working for years to build the party despite long odds.

In last year’s presidential election, Ferraro said, approximately 180,000 Democrats cast votes in DuPage, compared to 230,000 for Republicans. In earlier races, fewer than 100,000 Democrats usually turned up at the polls.

The 6th District race, once thought to be an easy GOP hold, has garnered more attention lately.

First, Democrat Paul Hackett, an Iraq war veteran, nearly won a House race in Ohio’s strongly Republican 2nd District over the summer. Then Duckworth signaled she might run. Then, with opposition to the war mounting, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), an early supporter of the war, called last month for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. Several Democrats who have served in uniform are now running or contemplating bids across the country.

Should Duckworth run, the general election would be one of the few contests in the country that would be truly competitive next year, Democrats contend.

Democrats in Washington have praised Cegelis as smart and likable but voiced skepticism about her chances of beating Roskam, despite routinely adding that Roskam is “too conservative” for the district.

Roskam has been endorsed by Hyde. The candidate once worked for Hyde and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

© 2005 The Hill

Monday, December 05, 2005

illinoisreview: Could Roskam's GOP primary threat be a ploy of the Dems?

Could Roskam's GOP primary threat be a ploy of the Dems?
By IR Editor on Campaign Review

Could it be that Rahm Emanuel, former Clinton confidante and current U.S. Congressman for Chicago-area's 5th District, is clawing his way behind the scenes to fill retiring Cong. Henry Hyde's seat with a Democrat?

You decide for yourself . . .

Here's one scenario, the GOP/Conservative vision:

Long time U.S. Congressman Henry Hyde announces his retirement. The area's popular State Senator Peter Roskam jumps out of the starting gate pursuing local Republican party and conservative leaders' backing. Potential primary opponents give up when they realize the committed base Roskam has solidified.

Roskam runs alone through the 2006 GOP primary unscathed and unchallenged, meaning he has spent little money and hasn't been softened, making him tougher for a Democrat to knock off in the 2006 General.

The seat remains Republican and Roskam goes to Washington, becoming President of the U.S. in 2026.

Or the Dems' dream:

Rahm Emanuel, who heads the Democratic Congressional PAC decides the 6th is a district that can be picked up in 2006. He's done the polling and figures that show DuPage County isn't as solidly Republican as it has been in the past. So many Democrats and young professionals have moved from Chicago to the affluent western suburbs that the district is now in play.

Emanuel does all he can to discourage Christine Cegelis, who got 44% of the vote against Hyde in 2004, from running again. The district can go Democratic, Emanuel figures, and we can choke Speaker Hastert's power right in his own backyard. But Cegelis isn't the one to do it. She's just too liberal and too Democratic.

Plan B, Emanuel thinks. "We go for a sympathetic image, one that is more mainstream and will touch the hearts of soccer moms and mushy professionals.

"Yeah, we draft an Iraqi war veteran to run in the district," he strategizes, "but let's notch it up -- let's make the vet a female, and take it up one more, one who's lost both her legs while fighting what Americans are beginning to believe is an unjust war!"

Two problems remain -- Cegelis isn't ready to give up her aspirations and Peter Roskam is just a little too hungry and just a bit too popular in the district to pull off Emanuel's dream.

So, Cegelis begins to feel the squeeze. Democrats begin not returning her calls, her money stream freezes. She's left out in the cold. Finished. Kaput.

Now to soften Roskam. Emanuel sends an intermediary to a local GOP women's group leader who is passionate about the right to abort babies. That leader agrees that "ultra-conservative" Roskam can't be allowed to be unchallenged in the primary, and meets with a guy who is willing to run as a pro-abortion Republican.

Abortion becomes the issue, Roskam is veered off message and he's not as invincible as he once was.

Emanuel dumps millions of dollars into the 6th District (after all, he raised a record $70 million for Clinton's 1992 presidential bid) and the fight for Hyde's seat becomes brutal.

We speculate, you decide . . .


illinoisreview: Roskam race stirs increasing national attention

Roskam race stirs increasing national attention

By IR Editor on Campaign Review

Looks like 6th Congressional district GOP candidate Peter Roskam may not have the easy dash to DC he was hoping for have after all . . .

Not only has another GOP candidate decided to entertain us with an attempt to drain funds and energy by entering the GOP primary (see "Could Roskam's GOP primary threat be a ploy of the Dems?") but Dem kingmaker Rahm Emanuel appears to be moving toward getting his candidate out of military active duty and pushed toward a whole new political war in the western suburbs.
The candidate has no legislative experience and hasn't officially moved back into the district yet . . . but that doesn't matter. She's a sympathetic image and a reminder of the devastation of war.

Just like the images so branded on our minds from 9-11, when the attack was on our home front.

Look for the battle to be over whether or not we should be in Iraq, not over who will represent the views of the 6th district best in D.C.

Link: Hotline On Call.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Rahm Injures Knee in Celebrity Touch-Football Game

From The Reliable Source, The Washington Post, Friday, December 2, 2005; Page C03:
L.A. is a very dangerous place. If you go there, you run the risk of getting lured into a touch-football game with Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Garry Shandling , and maybe tearing a ligament. Okay, maybe that wouldn't happen to most of us -- but it did happen to Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) when he took his family to visit his brother, agent Ari Emanuel, for Thanksgiving. The game, organized by Ari's pal, actor-director Peter Berg, also included former superagent Mike Ovitz . The congressman says he slid on one knee to catch a long pass from country crooner McGraw; on the next play, his knee just collapsed. So: football with Faith? "She's a darn good player," he said. "And McGraw's got a good arm -- I felt lucky catching the pass."

Hill: Emanuel kingmaker in primary

Emanuel kingmaker in primary
By Jonathan E. Kaplan

ROSEMONT, Ill. — The absence of a Democratic Party organization in Illinois’s 6th Congressional District has made Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) the kingmaker in what could become a bruising Democratic primary.

“The fact that there is any race at all is the real story,” said Paul Green, a political scientist at Roosevelt University in Chicago. “This is new. In the old days, you were lucky to get anyone who wanted to run” because the district is so heavily Republican.

The district, which includes DuPage County and a sliver of Cook County, has been a long-running GOP bastion and a counterweight to the Democrats’ rule in Chicago. In the 1988 presidential election, Vice President George Bush garnered 68 percent of the vote here.

Since then, the Republicans’ grip has weakened, even though no Democrats have been elected locally. President George W. Bush won just 54 percent of the vote in 2004, and Democratic congressional candidate Christine Cegelis won 44 percent of the vote — holding Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) to his lowest vote total in 30 years. DuPage County delivers more votes to Democrats running statewide than every county but Cook County because of its high population.

Emanuel wants Ladda “Tammy” Duckworth, an Army National Guard pilot who lost her legs and suffered a broken arm when Iraqi insurgents hit her helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, to jump into the race. According to Bill Burton, the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee’s (DCCC) spokesman, Emanuel believes her military credentials and wounds give her an edge in a district that no Democrat has ever won.

While Duckworth could tap into Emanuel’s political operation to raise money, some political operatives doubt a strategy of “nationalizing,” i.e. having national party officials involved in the midterm elections, would work.

“Congressional races are far more sheriff’s races than they are D.C. races, if they are going to be competitive,” said Mike McKeon, an independent, Chicago-based pollster. “It’s a mistake trying to run national in a congressional campaign.”

Cegelis spent last week in Washington trying to win support from several labor unions. She walked away without any firm commitments, and without a local party infrastructure she has been forced to build an all-volunteer, grassroots campaign.

“I was not cognizant of how little-organized the Democratic Party was here. I ended up doing a Google search of how to get on the ballot,” Cegelis said. “The DuPage Democratic Party has been great in helping me out, but prior to that I would not have had any clue.”

If Duckworth jumps into the race, she will have to build her own political network.

Skepticism from incumbent Democrats and the absence of a local Democratic political organization have made it hard to raise money. Cegelis had collected $153,000 as of Sept. 30, according to politicalmoneyline.com. In contrast, the likely Republican nominee, state Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), had raked in more than $550,000 and has attracted support from several GOP congressional leaders as well as Hyde.

Cegelis said that Chicago Democrats, including Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Dick Durbin (Ill.), as well as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), want to stay above the fray of primary politics. Without their support, Cegelis has had a difficult time tapping Chicago’s wealthy political donors.

“Political giving is not something people in DuPage County think about doing,” Cegelis said, adding that 600 donors won’t show up on publicly available disclosure reports because they gave such small amounts of money.

Cegelis’s campaign has three full-time staffers and has hired Greenberg Quinlan to conduct polls and MSHC Partners, a direct-mail firm.

Complicating Cegelis’s political calculus is the fact that DuPage County voters, even those likely to vote for a Democrat for Congress, are skeptical of Chicago Democrats. Cegelis said she understand that problem and has said it would not be a good idea for Emanuel to campaign in the district.

Cegelis and Duckworth also face geographical challenges. Duckworth does not live in the district and would have to establish residency there to run. So far in the race, Cegelis, a software engineer who moved to Illinois in 1986, has focused on local issues, such as expanding O’Hare International Airport and aiding the DuPage County schools.

Cegelis lives in Rolling Meadows, Ill., which is in Cook County. Cegelis said a voter once told her: “‘You already live too far north for us to like you.’”

© 2005 The Hill


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Time for Emanuel to support Cegelis in 6th

Time for Emanuel to support Cegelis in 6th
Chicago Sun-Times, November 29, 2005


Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) should quit playing games and support Christine Cegelis for Congress. Cegelis is running for the second time for Henry Hyde's seat in the suburban 6th District that includes northeast DuPage County and northwest Cook County.

As Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet reported, Emanuel courted Army Major "Tammy" Duckworth to run as the Democratic candidate. He cynically believes that people will vote for her just because she is a wounded veteran of the Iraq War. She has no political platform and no indigenous campaign organization. She is still undergoing physical therapy for her war injuries and she had to get permission from the military to run. She will leave active duty on Dec. 1 to do so.

Apparently the campaign staff and cash would be helicoptered in from Washington because there has been no base built in the district even though nominating petitions are to be filed beginning Dec. 12. David Alexrod has been picked by Emanuel to run her public relations campaign locally.

As a candidate produced a couple of weeks before petitions are to be filed in an election for which she has yet to campaign, running is neither in Duckworth's best interest nor the party's. Emanuel just wants her to run because he can control her and use her in photo opportunities for the party.

Professor Lindy Scott of Wheaton College, who is also running, has a grassroots base in the district and a political platform. He has taught Spanish and Latin American Studies at Wheaton for 10 years. His platform includes: "We should inform the Iraqi government that we will withdraw our troops over the next two years and we will submit to their precise timetable within those parameters." He has raised only $21,000 but is serious about running.

In comparison to Duckworth and Scott, who have never run for office before, Cegelis received 44.2 percent of the vote in 2004 against long-term Republican incumbent Hyde. Her election would revolutionize suburban politics by making elections between Democrats and Republicans competitive.

In talks before audiences in the 6th District over the last couple of weeks, Cegelis asserts that she is fighting to reclaim the American Dream and better opportunities for Americans. She believes the country is going in the wrong direction. Because she is a mother, she is concerned about the next generation and the country we are leaving to our grandchildren. She argues the cost of a college education is too high. She points out the No Child Left Behind federal legislation is causing primary and secondary education costs in her district to soar at the same time some suburban schools are losing funding by being placed on the state's failing school lists.

She believes we have to be smarter in fighting terrorism by better gathering and using intelligence and data which the Bush administration is failing to do. On Iraq she has consistently said: "We need to develop a timeline and an exit strategy to get out of Iraq." She is pro-choice on the issue of abortion.

This is a tough but winnable district for the Democrats. In 2004, Cegelis carried 44.2 percent of the vote; John Kerry, 47 percent, and Barack Obama, 60.

Cegelis' sin in the eyes of Emanuel is that she has raised only $160,000 this year and has only $50,000 in the bank. Washington insiders believe that only campaigns that raise $1 million win. Emanuel previously tried and failed to get some personally wealthy Democrat to jump in the race. Failing that, he is putting up a war veteran in the hope of winning the sympathy and patriotic vote despite the fact that the majority of Americans now want to get out of Iraq.

The national Democratic Party would do better to send money and support to Cegelis. She, her more than 100 campaign volunteers, and the Democrats and Republicans in the 6th District who voted for her last time, have earned the right to run this race.

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Rock River Times: Iraq Dialogue With Obama

From the Oct. 12-18, 2005, issue of The Rock River Times:
Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois).

I am deeply concerned about your position on the war in Iraq. You are failing to distinguish your position from that of the Bush administration, which, in my opinion, makes you a phony and useless in Washington as my elected representative. For example, why were you not visible during the recent antiwar demonstrations with your colleague Rep. Cynthia McKinney? Why are your statements miles shy of those of Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold? What good can come of another minute on the ground in Iraq?

Our Illinois schools crumble and New Orleans suffers while billions are channeled into President George W. Bush’s crony accounts. That smug man today appoints another personal confidant to run our highest judiciary. ... You must stop this. While you glad hand and bumble around like a new kid, your opinions matter to us here in Illinois. We did not elect “naive”!

It appears you are being seduced as a junior senator into wishing for that power that comes from the inner circles. Your failure is all the more disappointing because of the popularity you achieved during your election campaign. Rather than raise the promise of empowerment and leadership in the Democratic Party, you are adding momentum to its assumption into Republican Party policy. You are becoming lost as a populist representative.

I supported you because of my dear friend, GeorgeAnne Duckett. At the present rate, I would not do so again. Wake up, Obama. Get on track. Build a new America from the heartland of the Midwest that elected you.

David Stocker




From the Nov. 23-29, 2005, issue of The Rock River Times:
Editor’s note: The following letter from U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is in response to a letter from Rockford resident David Stocker. Stocker’s letter appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Oct. 12-18, 2005, issue of The Rock River Times.

Dear David:

Thank you for contacting me with your strong opposition to our policy in Iraq.

When I ran for the Senate, I opposed the resolution that authorized the use of force in Iraq. The threat was not imminent. There was no connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

The Administration had no clear strategy to piece Iraq back together.

At the time, voicing opposition to the war in Iraq was not a politically popular thing to do. I spoke out because I believed it was the right thing to do. The same principle—doing the right thing—is guiding my decision-making on Iraq today.

The Administration’s handling of the war and reconstruction efforts in Iraq have been badly mismanaged. This is not a partisan assessment as several leading Republicans in Congress have also been critical of the Administration’s efforts in Iraq. The best course of action for the U.S. is to bring our troops home as soon as possible, while giving the Iraqi people a reasonable chance to govern their own affairs, and preventing Iraq from collapsing into complete civil war and chaos.

During a recent hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I pressed Secretary [of State Condoleezza] Rice on a number of issues, including:

The length of time the Bush Administration is committed to holding that country together, if Iraq’s political parties do not form the type of government that the Administration envisions;

The issue of the shift in rationale for war from weapons of mass destruction to a much broader mission of bringing democracy to the broader Middle East, and its implications on our mission in Iraq;

The Administration’s definition of success in Iraq; and

The contingency plans (or lack thereof) that the Administration possesses in the event that the political process collapses under its own weight.

Other members of the Foreign Relations Committee questioned Secretary Rice on the Administration’s plans on Syria, a flexible timetable for withdraw from Iraq, and the ability (or inability) of the Iraqi constitution to reconcile fundamental differences between the various ethnic groups.

Secretary Rice’s response to the Committee was entirely unsatisfactory due to the lack of information about an exit strategy. The Administration continues to provide only open-ended, vague commitments without clear guideposts to whether we are succeeding or failing. Secretary Rice spoke about “conditions-based withdrawal,” but has not put forward any meaningful benchmarks or measures that outline what these conditions might be. The Administration simply cannot be given a pass on this point.

As tempting as it is to call for an immediate and complete withdrawal, I think it is important that we stage any eventual withdrawal so as to minimize the potential risk of a destabilizing civil war and widespread ethnic conflict. Not only could this result in the deaths of thousands of Iraqis, but it could lead to a situation where the U.S. could be forced to expand its military presence in Iraq.

I do believe, though, that after the Dec. 15th elections, the question should be when, and not if, our troops come home. If the Iraqis are serious about keeping the country together, they must arrive at the political compromises necessary to do so, and facilitate the objective of drawing down U.S. troops next year.

My main goal now is forcing the Administration to put forward specific benchmarks to do that. With ratification of the Iraqi constitution and the pending election of a new government, two major Administration benchmarks will have been met. And it will be time to tell the American people how this engagement is going to end.

Thank you again for writing. Please feel free to keep in touch with me on this and any other issue of concern to you.


Barack Obama

United States Senator


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sen. Barack Obama's remarks prepared for the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations

Good afternoon.

It is a privilege to give this speech at the Council on Foreign Relations here in Chicago.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit Walter Reed Army Medical Center. While I was there, I met a young man whose legs had been blown off from mortar fire and who had sustained severe nerve damage in his arms and hands. He was sewing as a means of regaining his small motor skills, and as his wife looked on, they talked about their efforts to piece their lives back together. They talked about the wonderful way their young daughter had embraced her father and told him she loved him despite his disfigurement.

I also met a young man who had lost a leg and an arm and who now had a breathing tube in his throat. He was working with two of the therapists in a mock-up kitchen to cook hamburgers on his own.

We went down to the physical therapy area where I talked to a 19-year-old former track star who had lost both his legs and was working out on one of the weight machines. And I spoke to a sergeant from Iowa who had lost one of his legs but was working vigorously to get accustomed to his prosthetic leg so he could return to Iraq as soon as he could. I then went up to the wards to visit with other injured veterans – to take pictures, talk about basketball, and to say thank you.

Listening to the stories of these young men and women, most of them in their early twenties, I had to ask myself how I would be feeling if it were my son, my nephew, or my sister lying there. I asked myself how I would be feeling if it were me struggling to learn how to walk again? Would I feel bitter? Would I feel hopeless?

I don't know. None of us can answer that question fully until we find ourselves in that situation. What I do know is that the extraordinary men and women that I met seemed uninterested in rage or self-pity. They were proud of their service. They were hopeful for their future. They displayed the kind of grit and optimism and resourcefulness that represents the very best of America.

They remind us, in case we need reminding, that there is no more profound decision that we can make than the decision to send this nation's youth to war, and that we have a moral obligation not only to send them for good reasons, but to constantly examine, based on the best information and judgment available, in what manner, and for what purpose, and for how long we keep them in harm's way.

Today, nearly 160,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are risking their lives in the Middle East. They are operating in some of the most dangerous and difficult circumstances imaginable. Well over 2,000 men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice – given their full measure of devotion. Thousands more have returned with wounds like those that I saw at Walter Reed.

These men and women are willing to lay down their lives to protect us. When they were told there was danger that needed to be confronted they said, "I will go. I will leave my family and my friends and the life I knew and I will fight." And they went. And they're fighting still.

And so as the war rages on and the insurgency festers – as another father weeps over a flag-draped casket and another wife feeds her husband the dinner he can't fix for himself – it is our duty to ask ourselves hard questions. What do we want to accomplish now that we are in Iraq, and what is possible to accomplish? What kind of actions can we take to ensure not only a safe and stable Iraq, but that will also preserve our capacity to rebuild Afghanistan, isolate and apprehend terrorist cells, preserve our long-term military readiness, and devote the resources needed to shore up our homeland security? What are the costs and benefits of our actions moving forward? What urgency are we willing to show to bring our troops home safely? What kind of answers are we willing to demand from those in charge of the war?

In other words -- What kind of debate are we willing to have?

Last week, the White House showed exactly what kind of debate it wants on future of Iraq – none.

We watched the shameful attempt to paint John Murtha – a Marine Corp recipient of two-purple hearts and a Bronze Star – into a coward of questionable patriotism. We saw the Administration tell people of both parties – people who asked legitimate questions about the intelligence that led us to war and the administration's plan for Iraq – that they should keep quiet, end the complaining, and stop rewriting history.

This political war – a war of talking points and Sunday news shows and spin – is not one I'm interested in joining. It's a divisive approach that only pushes us further from what the American people actually want – a pragmatic solution to the real war we're facing in Iraq.

I do want to make the following observations, though. First, I am part of that post Baby Boom generation that was too young to fight in Vietnam, not called to fight in Desert Storm, too old for the current conflict. For those like me who – for whatever reason – have never seen battle, whether they be in the Administration or in Congress, let me suggest that they put the words "coward" and "unpatriotic" out of their vocabulary – at least when it comes to veterans like John Murtha who have put their lives on the line for this country. I noticed that the President recognized this bit of wisdom yesterday. I hope others do to.

Second – the Administration is correct to say that we have real enemies, that our battle against radical Islamist terrorism will not be altered overnight, that stability in the Middle East must be part of our strategy to defeat terrorism, that military power is a key part of our national security, that our strategy cannot be poll driven. The Administration is also correct when it says that many overestimated Saddam's biological and chemical capacity, and that some of its decisions in going to war were prompted by real errors in the intelligence community's estimates.

However, I think what is also true is that the Administration launched the Iraq war without giving either Congress or the American people the full story. This is not a partisan claim – you don't have to take my word for it. All you need to do is to match up the Administration's statements during the run-up to the war with the now declassified intelligence estimates that they had in their possession at the time. Match them up and you will conclude that at the very least, the Administration shaded, exaggerated and selectively used the intelligence available in order to make the case for invasion.

The President told the American people about Iraqi attempts to acquire yellow cake during the State of the Union. The Vice-President made statements on national television expressing certainty about Iraq's nuclear weapons programs. Secretary Rice used the words "mushroom cloud" over and over again.

We know now that even at the time these unequivocal statements were made, intelligence assessments existed that contradicted these claims. Analysis from the CIA and State Department was summarily dismissed when it did not help the Administration make the case for war.

I say all this not to score cheap political points. I say this because war is a serious business. It requires enormous sacrifice, in blood and treasure, from the American people. The American people have already lost confidence in the credibility of our leadership, not just on the question of Iraq, but across the board. According to a recent Pew survey, 42% of Americans agree with the statement that the U.S. should "mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own" – a significant increase since the immediate aftermath of 9/11. We risk a further increase in isolationist sentiment unless both the Administration and Congress can restore the American people's confidence that our foreign policy is driven by facts and reason, rather than hopes and ideology. And we cannot afford isolationism – not only because our work with respect to stabilizing Iraq is not complete, but because our missteps in Iraq have distracted us from the larger threat of terrorism that we face, a threat that we can only meet by working internationally, in cooperation with other countries.

Now, given the enormous stakes in Iraq, I believe that those of us who are involved in shaping our national security policies should do what we believe is right, not merely what is politically expedient. I strongly opposed this war before it began, though many disagreed with me at that time. Today, as Americans grow increasingly impatient with our presence in Iraq, voices I respect are calling for a rapid withdrawal of our troops, regardless of events on the ground.

But I believe that, having waged a war that has unleashed daily carnage and uncertainty in Iraq, we have to manage our exit in a responsible way – with the hope of leaving a stable foundation for the future, but at the very least taking care not to plunge the country into an even deeper and, perhaps, irreparable crisis. I say this not only because we owe it to the Iraqi people, but because the Administration's actions in Iraq have created a self-fulfilling prophecy – a volatile hotbed of terrorism that has already begun to spill over into countries like Jordan, and that could embroil the region, and this country, in even greater international conflict.

In sum, we have to focus, methodically and without partisanship, on those steps that will: one, stabilize Iraq, avoid all out civil war, and give the factions within Iraq the space they need to forge a political settlement; two, contain and ultimately extinquish the insurgency in Iraq; and three, bring our troops safely home.

Last week's re-politicization of the war makes this kind of focus extremely difficult. In true Washington fashion, the Administration has narrowed an entire debate about war into two camps: "cut-and-run" or "stay the course." If you offer any criticism or even mention that we should take a second look at our strategy and change our approach, you're branded cut-and-run. If you're ready to blindly trust the Administration no matter what they do, you're willing to stay the course.

A variation on this is the notion that anything short of an open-ended commitment to maintain our current troop strength in Iraq is the equivalent of issuing a "timetable" that will, according to the Administration, undermine our troops and strengthen the insurgency.

This simplistic framework not only misstates the position of thoughtful critics on both sides of the aisle – from Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to Democrat Russ Feingold. It completely misses where the American people are right now.

Every American wants to see a peaceful and stable Iraq. No American wants to leave behind a security vacuum filled with terrorism, chaos, ethnic cleansing and genocide. But no American wants a war without end – a war where our goals and strategies drift aimlessly regardless of the cost in lives or dollars spent, and where we end up with arbitrary, poll-driven troop reductions by the Administration – the worst of all possible outcomes.

It has been two years and seven months since the fall of Baghdad and any honest assessment would conclude that the Administration's strategy has not worked. The civilian efforts to rebuild Iraq, establish a secure environment, and broker a stable political framework have, thus far, come up short.

The Administration owes the American people a reality-based assessment of the situation in Iraq today. For the past two years, they've measured progress in the number of insurgents killed, roads built, or voters registered. But these benchmarks are not true measures of fundamental security and stability in Iraq.

When the Administration now talks about "condition-based" withdrawal, we need to know precisely what those conditions are.

This is why the amendment offered by Senator Levin and the one that passed from Senator Warner are so important. What the Administration and some in the press labeled as a "timetable" for withdrawal was in fact a commonsense statement that: one, 2006 should be the year that the Iraqi government decreases its dependency on the United States; two, that the various Iraqi factions must arrive at a fair political accommodation to defeat the insurgency; and three, the Administration must make available to Congress critical information on reality-based benchmarks that will help us succeed in Iraq.

We need to know whether the Iraqis are making the compromises necessary to achieve the broad-based and sustainable political settlement essential for defeating the insurgency.

We need to know how many Iraqi security forces and police and the level of skill they will require to permit them to take the lead in counter-insurgency operations, the defense of Iraq's territory, and maintaining law and order throughout the country.

We need to get accurate information regarding how many Iraqi troops are currently prepared for the transition of security responsibilities, and a realistic assessment of the U.S. resources and time it will take to make them more prepared.

And, we need to know the Administration's strategy to restore basic services, strengthen the capacities of ministries throughout the country, and enlist local, regional, and international actors in finding solutions to political, economic, and security problems.

Straight answers to critical questions – for the most part, that is what both the Levin Amendment and the Warner Amendment call for. Members of both parties and the American people have now made clear that it is not enough to for the President to simply say "we know best" and "stay the course."

As I have said before, there are no magic bullets for a good outcome in Iraq. I am not the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of State, or the Director of National Intelligence. I have neither the expertise nor the inclination to micro-manage war from Washington.

Nevertheless, given the best information I have, and in an effort to offer constructive ideas, I would suggest several broad elements that should be included in any discussion of where we go from here. I should add that some of these ideas have been put forward in greater detail by other senators and foreign policy experts – I claim no pride of authorship, but rather offer my best assessment of the steps we need to take to maximize the prospects for success.

First and foremost, after the December 15 elections and during the course of next year, we need to focus our attention on how reduce the U.S. military footprint in Iraq. Notice that I say "reduce," and not "fully withdraw."

This course of action will help to focus our efforts on a more effective counter-insurgency strategy and take steam out of the insurgency.

On this point, I am in basic agreement with our top military commander in Iraq. In testimony before Congress earlier this year, General Casey stated that a key goal of the military was to "reduce our presence in Iraq, taking away one of the elements that fuels the insurgency: that of the coalition forces as an occupying force."

This is not and should not be a partisan issue. It is a view shared by Senator Chuck Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran, and someone with whom I am proud to serve on the Foreign Relations Committee.

I believe that U.S. forces are still a part of the solution in Iraq. The strategic goals should be to allow for a limited drawdown of U.S. troops, coupled with shift to a more effective counter-insurgency strategy that puts the Iraqi security forces in the lead and intensifies our efforts to train Iraqi forces.

At the same time, sufficient numbers of U.S. troops should be left in place to prevent Iraq from exploding into civil war, ethnic cleansing, and a haven for terrorism.

We must find the right balance – offering enough security to serve as a buffer and carry out a targeted, effective counter-insurgency strategy, but not so much of a presence that we serve as an aggravation. It is this balance that will be critical to finding our way forward.

Second, we need not a time-table, in the sense of a precise date for U.S. troop pull-outs, but a time-frame for such a phased withdrawal. More specifically, we need to be very clear about key issues, such as bases and the level of troops in Iraq. We need to say that there will be no bases in Iraq a decade from now and the United States armed forces cannot stand-up and support an Iraqi government in perpetuity – pushing the Iraqis to take ownership over the situation and placing pressure on various factions to reach the broad based political settlement that is so essential to defeating the insurgency.

I agree with Senator Warner that the message should be "we really mean business, Iraqis, get on with it." Without a time-frame, this message will not be sent.

With the Shiites increasingly in control of the government, the U.S. is viewed as the military force that is keeping the Shiites in power, picking sides in the conflict, driving a wedge between the factions, and keeping the Sunnis out of the government.

Wrong as these perceptions may be, they are one of the key elements unifying the insurgency and serving as its best recruiting slogan.

We need to immediately recognize and address this problem.

On October 25, Ambassador Khailizad stated that he believes that the United States is on the right track to start significant reductions of U.S. military forces in the coming year. Earlier in the year, when I pressed Ambassador Khalizad on this during his confirmation hearing to be more specific about a time-frame for withdrawal, he said that there would not be a U.S. presence in Iraq a decade from now. That's at a start – but I think we need to be clearer than somewhere between one and ten years.

Third, we need to start thinking about what an Iraqi government will look like in the near term.

The post-election period will be critically important in working with the Shia and Kurdish leaders to help address Sunni concerns and to take steps to bring them into the government.

In testimony before Congress, Secretary Rice stated that while she believed it was possible to create a multi-ethnic, democratic Iraq under a unified national government, it was also possible that, in the near term, Iraq may look more like a loose federation and less like a tightly-knit, multi-ethnic society. According to the deal struck in the writing of the Constitution, the structure of the national government may still be altered by discussion among the three major factions. If it is the Administration's most realistic assessment that the Iraqi government will take the form of a loose confederation, then we need to be thinking about how we should calibrate our policies to reflect this reality. We cannot, and should not, hoist our own vision of democracy on the Iraqis, and then expect our troops to hold together such a vision militarily.

Fourth, we have to do much better job on reconstruction in Iraq.

The Iraqi people wonder why the United States has been unable to restore basic services – sewage, power, infrastructure – to significant portions of Iraq. This has caused a loss of faith among the Iraqi people in our efforts to rebuild that nation and help it recover from decades of brutal tyranny.

The Administration tells us there can not be reconstruction without security, but many Iraqis make the opposite argument. They say Iraq will never be secure until there is reconstruction and citizens see that a better future awaits them.

The Administration also tells us that they are making progress, but can not publicize the specific successes out of security concerns.

If we are unable to point out the progress, how are Iraqis – especially ones we are trying to persuade to claim a bigger stake in the future of their country – ever to know that the Americans efforts are helping to make their lives better? How does this approach help to quell the insurgency?

We need to break this cycle. We have to get more Iraqis involved with the reconstruction efforts. After all, it is the Iraqis who best know their country and have the greatest stake in restoring basic services.

We need to work with the best and brightest Iraqis, inside and outside of government to come up with a plan to get the power back on in Baghdad and help to restore the faith of the Iraqi people in our important mission in Iraq.

Fifth, we have to launch a major diplomatic effort to get the international community, especially key neighboring states and Arab nations, more involved in Iraq. If one looks at the Balkans – our most recent attempt to rebuild war torn nations – the international community, from the European Union to NATO to the United Nations, were all deeply involved. These organizations, driven largely by European countries in the region, provided legitimacy, helped with burden-sharing, and were an essential part of our exit strategy. Ten years later, conditions are not perfect, but the blood-shed has been stopped, and the region is no longer destabilizing the European Continent. And so a part of any strategy in Iraq must more deeply integrate Iraq's neighbors, international organizations, and regional powers around the world.

Finally, it is critical for this Administration, and Congress, to recognize that despite the enormous stakes the United States now has in seeing Iraq succeed, we cannot let this mission distract us front the larger front of international terrorism that remains to be addressed. Already we are getting reports that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating. Our progress in improving our intelligence capabilities – particularly human intelligence – have lagged. Iraq has absorbed resources that could have gone into critical homeland security measures, or in improved coordination with our global allies and partners. At the outset of this war, I challenged the Administration's assertion that deposing Saddam Hussein was the central measure in our war on terrorism. And although I believe we must stabilize Iraq, I continue to believe that the Administration's tendency to equate the military defeat of the Iraqi insurgency with the defeat of international terrorism is dangerously short-sighted.

Long the before the war in Iraq, international terrorism posed a grave security threat to the United States. Well over two years after the start of the Iraq war, these threats to our way of life remain every bit as serious. Some have argued that these threats have grown. The Administration has to be capable of finding a solution in Iraq and strengthening our efforts to combat international terrorism.

In the end, Iraq is not about one person's legacy, a political campaign, or rigid adherence to an ideology.

What is happening in Iraq is about the security of the United States. It is about our men and women in uniform. It is about the future of the Middle East. It is about the world in which our children will live.

Responsible voices from all parts of the political spectrum are coming forth to say this in increasing numbers.

Colin Powell had the courage to call his presentation to the United Nations on Iraq a "blot" on his distinguished record. And recently John Edwards said he made a mistake in voting to go to war in Iraq, and accepted responsibility for this decision.

It is no coincidence that both Mr. Edwards and Mr. Powell no longer serve the government in Washington. Those of us in Washington are falling behind the debate that is taking place across America on Iraq. We are failing to provide leadership on this issue.

Iraq was a major issue in last year's election.

But that election is now over.

We need to stop the campaign.

The President could take the politics out of Iraq once and for all if he would simply go on television and say to the American people "Yes, we made mistakes. Yes, there are things I would have done differently. But now that we're here, I am willing to work with both Republicans and Democrats to find the most responsible way out."

Nearly four decades ago, John F. Kennedy took responsibility for the Bay of Pigs Invasion. He admitted that mistakes had been made. He didn't spend a good deal of time publicly blaming the previous administration, or the other party, or his critics. And through these decisive actions, he earned the respect of the American people and the world – respect that allowed his diplomacy to be trusted a few years later during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Americans everywhere are crying out for this kind of leadership today. They want to find pragmatic solutions to the difficult and complicated situation in Iraq. They want to move forward one of the greatest foreign policy challenges that faces this nation in a generation. And they want to get it right for every American son and daughter who's been willing to put their lives on the line to defend the country they love. It's time for us in Washington to offer the rest of the country this leadership.

Thank you.


About Me

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"Austin Mayor" is not a real name. "Austin Mayor" is not a title. "Austin Mayor" is a pseudonym. "Austin Mayor" is a simulacrum. "Austin Mayor" is performance art. "Austin Mayor" is a brand without a product. "Austin Mayor" is your imaginary friend.