Monday, September 24, 2007

Brian Baird Finds a New Friend

I don't know if Congressman Brian Baird is a fan of the Grateful Dead however he must feel that the lyric "what a long strange trip its been" must sum up the last month and a half of his life quite nicely. For years he was a fairly obscure, fairly safe, fairly down the line liberal Congressman for the Seattle suburbs. He voted against the Iraq war initially in 2002 and continued to maintain his opposition throughout. Then, in August, he took a visit to Iraq, and what he saw there must have made in impression.
He came back and wrote this article...

The invasion of Iraq may be one of the worst foreign-policy mistakes in the
history of our nation. As tragic and costly as that mistake has been, a
precipitous or premature withdrawal of our forces now has the potential to turn
the initial errors into an even greater problem just as success looks

As a Democrat who voted against the war from the outset and who has been
frankly critical of the administration and the post-invasion strategy, I am
convinced by the evidence that the situation has at long last begun to change
substantially for the better. I believe Iraq could have a positive future. Our
diplomatic and military leaders in Iraq, their current strategy, and most
importantly, our troops and the Iraqi people themselves, deserve our continued
support and more time to succeed.

I understand the desire of many of our citizens and my colleagues in
Congress to bring the troops home as soon as possible. The costs have been
horrific for our soldiers, their families, the Iraqi people and the economy. If
we keep our troops on the ground we will lose more lives, continue to spend
billions each week, and, given the history and complex interests of the region,
there is no certainty that our efforts will succeed in the long run. We must be
absolutely honest about these costs and risks and I am both profoundly saddened
and angry that we are where we are."...

Instantly, he went from being obscure liberal Congressman to hero of the pro war effort and scourge of the far left. In the immediate aftermath of this article immediately he was excoriated by his constituency
Baird took this unpopular message to a packed Vancouver high-school
auditorium on Monday night, August 27, during one of his regular town meetings.
(He's done 220 so far.)
Baird said that the war was authorized through our
democratic system, and that we now have

"a moral responsibility... not to leave [the Iraqi people] at the mercy of
people who cut off people's heads and bomb schools because girls go there.... Al
Qaeda was not a problem in Iraq before the invasion. Iran was not a problem in
Iraq before the invasion. I agree with that. I absolutely agree with that. But
they are a problem now. They're a problem for Iraqis. The choice has become: Do
we stay a little bit longer"—to which audience members shouted out a sharp round
of "No!"—"because there is some chance that in so doing we will help Iraq have a
more safe society and become more stable? If we withdraw now, I am confident it
will be catastrophic."

The crowd inside Fort Vancouver High School—easily 500 people, with others
turned away for lack of space—was hostile and loud: booing; shouting "Troops out
now!"; and holding up signs saying things like, "Be a Man for the People" and
"Only a Corrupt Congress Is for War-Making." Activists stood outside telling
people to call Baird's office in the morning and ask for his

One constituent said it best, "We don’t care what your convictions are,” said Jan Lustig of Vancouver. “You are here to represent us.”

After hearing it from the crowd, a whole host of the usual suspects began attacking him in the media and on the internet...

A week and a half ago, the term 'Bush Dog Democrat' did not exist. Today,
there are just under nine hundred results when you search for "Bush
Dog Democrats"
. Left in
, Calitics, Booman, Howie
, MN
Campaign Report
, Archpundit, and
the Side
have all profiled or helped to profile members. We've had positive
profiles of Tim Walz, aggressive criticisms of Collin Peterson, and an analysis
of the geographical distribution of the Bush Dogs from noted political scientist Tom

The campaign was covered in USA Today, on Fox News, the Politico, and
in the
New York Observer
. Anonymous Democratic strategists are attacking me with
the straw man argument that criticism will jeopardize Democratic seats, wingnuts
are flipping out, and some local Democrats are very very
I've heard of possible primary challenges in several districts where
Bush Dog Democrats are in power.
It's really amazing what a little criticism
from a few of us can do."...

Do I mean that Baird has gone irretrievably
over to the dark side when I say that? No. I mean that Baird has discovered
what, for Lieberman, proved to be the "gateway drug" -- media stardom for being
the Democrat who will go on record to provide the coveted Dems DividedTM

Best reaction to this so far?

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., told Congressional Quarterly: "I'll give Brian a
gun and let him go to Iraq and shoot whoever he wants."

Unfortunately, it seems Baird's been aiming squarely at Democratic feet. And
loving it."

The far left has set their sights on Baird and are making it priority one to defeat him in the primaries. has already spent $20K in his district, peanuts, and they will spend much more if necessary. Not toeing their line is inexcusable and they will give him the Lieberman treatment. Baird and others like him have already been labeled with a new far left term, Bush Democrats.

The thing about political courage is that it is almost always not productive. The people you tick off, your constituency, almost never forgive you or appreciate your courage, and your new allies aren't really allies but merely allies of convenience and they will dump you the minute you take a stand counter to them. Despite what we all claim, what most of us really want is an exact replica of ourselves not a person of principle.

Still, I was heartened to find this article recognizing his principle and courage...

It was painful watching U.S. Rep. Brian Baird defend himself against
disgruntled supporters at an Aug. 27 town hall meeting. I caught the spectacle -
which came just short of a public flogging - on television. The crowd gathered
at Fort Vancouver High School didn't want so much to hear why the charismatic
Democrat is supporting continued troop strength in Iraq, but to tell him he is
wrong. Unelectable wrong. Dead-in-the-political-waters wrong.
Go-find-new-sign-wavers wrong. And Baird, though trying to be gracious, clearly
got a bit peeved.

I don't blame him. Most questions from the audience started as comments.
Several people mentioned their past support for the representative before
launching into tired statements about the situation in Iraq, which received
reliable applause from fellow sheep. Some people said they felt betrayed by the

When Baird tried to explain that a recent visit to Iraq, faith in current
commanders and private discussions with Iraqi, Iranian and Jordanian leaders
changed his position on withdrawal, it was as if he were holding an "I love
Bush" sign. People were booing, laughing and eye-rolling. Baird pleaded for
understanding or patience, only to be met with scowls and scoffs. With friends
like that, who needs Republicans?

As recently as May, Baird supported a troop withdrawal bill. But a funny
thing sometimes happens when you do first-hand research on an issue everyone
else is Monday-morning quarterbacking: Your perspective can change. Right or
wrong, good for Baird for being honest about his views and willing to take some
heavy hits and possible political payback.

Baird remains critical of the Iraq invasion. That hasn't changed. He still
believes the Bush administration erred in starting the war. But he believes it
would be dangerous to pull out of Iraq right now. He says his support of the
Bush administration's troop surge is driven by a moral responsibility to the
Iraqi people and his hope that soldiers will be able to stabilize the country if
allowed to stay longer under the command of Army Gen. David
Independent thought discouraged

But as Baird is finding out, any agreement with Bush is seen as blasphemy.
Any independent thought outside of the Democratic Party preference on Iraq is
unacceptable. More than peeved that night, Baird looked hurt. I hope he was able
to maintain the perspective he had before the meeting in Southwest Washington
began. He told reporters before the town hall, "Somebody said to me, 'Oh man,
you're going to get killed tonight.' I said, 'No, they get killed in Iraq. I'm
going to get criticized.' "

Perhaps more disturbing than the audience members' rude behavior and
mistreatment of Baird was their belief that they owned the congressman and his
views because they once waved a Baird sign, hosted a fundraiser, donated to the
congressman's campaign or wore a button. People in attendance seemed to suggest
Baird was their representative, and as such, he had to do what they said and
thought he should do.

That's amusing. When George W. Bush became president of a divided nation
(twice), Democrats demanded that he reach out. They said he had to become a
uniter, not a divider. After all, they argued, Bush was representing all
Americans now, not just the ones who voted for him. His ideas and attitudes
should reflect that, they said.

Baird represents all Southwest Washingtonians, those who voted for him,
those who voted against him and those who didn't vote at all. When you consider
that wide swath of people, Baird might be on track with what this community
believes about Iraq. Then again, maybe not. Either way, Baird is not a robot. No
politician should be. We can't expect to put up a yard sign and vote and then,
if our candidate wins, expect him or her to vote the way we would every time on
every issue. We need to elect people we believe have the best chance of being
honest, hard-working, informed and inquisitive, and who will vote our way more
often than the other guy (or gal). That's what it's about, isn't it? By this
measure, Baird supporters should feel confident they voted for the right

When it comes to his record on Iraq, Baird hasn't betrayed anyone - not
even his conscience. That's not something to get angry about, that's something
to admire."

By the way, anyone that recognizes his courage and principle please visit his office here

No comments: