Monday, March 31, 2008

N.J. Congressman Chris Smith is No Moderate

How do you characterize a Republican moderate? In my mind, such a politician would be moderate on social issues, perhaps even pro-choice, and present economic platforms that not only benefit the wealthiest persons but the average citizen; perhaps this moderate would even speak out against prominent Republican leaders when they err and question those leaders' strategies when they fail (Iraq and Bush, anyone?) Judging by these standards, NJ GOP congressman Chris Smith is anything but a moderate, though he is inevitably given this title because of his environmental record, which is good, and a few other issues.

On stem cell research and abortion rights, Smith is a staunch social conservative, Bush Republican; he refuses even the smallest amount of compromise and moderation when it comes to expanding embryonic stem cell lines and giving women the right to choose. Smith even wants to change the U.S. Constitution to prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying, and his legislative record reveals someone who favors hostile policies towards gays and lesbians. On the Iraq War, there simply is no bigger cheerleader for the Bush-Cheney doctrine of endless, resource-depleting war than Smith.

There is good reason why upstart Democratic challenger and History professor Josh Zeitz is making headway against Smith and his destructive policy positions. Smith is no moderate, and his record instead reveals that he is an out-of-touch incumbent beholden to the social conservative movement and Bush's failed domestic and international policies.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lautenberg is Right: Five Years is Too Long in Iraq

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who is possibly one of the most respected and thoughtful senators in the country, is sending out a petition to get U.S. troops out of Iraq in a strategic redeployment; I encourage anyone reading this post to sign it immediately and let Pres. Bush know that Americans are fed up with propping up a foreign government that won't take the necessary steps to take responsibility for their own country.

Lautenberg has been working on important legislation in Washington and has more committee power than in the past; his legislation includes a new farm bill that would help N.J. farmers with non-specialty subsidies, a new GI Bill with Sen. Webb, and several environmental initiatives, thus making Lautenberg receive a 100% rating from the League of Conservation Voters.

Lautenberg is right on the Iraq War, though, when he says "The best thing to do for our country is to start getting our troops home now." There will be no real, substantive change unless benchmarks and withdrawal plans are carried forth. Lautenberg understands this, but Bush and McCain simply don't.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Salon.com is Right: The Media Has Failed the American People on Iraq

A war without any dead bodies portrayed, a war without any caskets allowed to be photographed, a war with nary a question of its motivation by the media: These are the hallmarks of the continuing and illegitimate war in Iraq and how it has played out in American public discourse and media. Salon.com writer Greg Mitchell argues in today's edition that the media, to use another writer's term, was basically a "lapdog" for the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq War and, to make matters worse, still parrots the talking points of the administration when it comes to the war.

Mitchell is right, of course. In rightly decrying the media's lack of questioning of the war and framing of the war, what Mitchell calls "sleepwalking into the abyss," he makes the provocative claim that the media is merely confirming whatever paradigm the administration pushes for continued conflict. Mitchell says, in quoting a colleague, that the framing goes like this: " "1) If X does not happen, there is no justification for staying; 2) X has not happened; 3) we must stay." This is the current justification for the success of the surge strategy. Since the surge has helped abate violence, we must stay in Iraq to sustain that, so the pro-war argument goes; but the previous justification for staying in Iraq was to abate the violence and give the Iraqi government a window of opportunity. So much for that justification (the Bush administration will conjure up another one soon enough).

A military reporter for The Washington Post is quoted as saying about their paper's pro-war editorial stance: "There was an attitude among editors: Look, we're going to war, why do we even worry about all the contrary stuff?" Well, that "contrary stuff" is just what the media, the fourth estate, should be involved in, whether it contradicts an administration's call to war or not. The media simply did not do its job in the run-up to the Iraq War and continues to be light on the reporting and on the coverage. A war without any dead bodies, a war with daily changing justifications that are hardly questioned by the media, a war that has been sanitized for the American public: Welcome to the media coverage of the Iraq War, circa 2003-2008.


Monday, March 03, 2008

The Flawed GOP Congressional Candidates in NJ-03

The only candidates to step forth for the difficult challenge of facing smart, well-funded Democratic state senator John Adler in New Jersey congressional district 3 are all flawed in their own way. First, there is BurlCO GOP machine-backed candidate Chris Myers, who refused to say how he would have voted on the original Iraq War resolution in his first press conference, has had a lackluster showing in fundraising, and is a social conservative on the issue of a womans right to choose, a position that is fundamentally at odds with the majority of New Jerseyans and voters in district 3. Then there is Ocean County freeholder Jack Kelly, who, besides working closely with GOP powerbroker George Gilmore, is best known for refusing domestic partner benefits to be passed on for a same-sex couple; this was recently covered in the Oscar-winning film 'Freeheld.' A less well-known candidate is Tabernacle Committeeperson Justin Murphy, who, like Myers, also is pro-Iraq War; Murphy, charmingly enough, even wants prayer instituted in public schools.

The fringe-right views of these flawed Republican candidates should become even more apparent as the campaign progresses, and someone emerges to take on Adler. That person is in a difficult position financially and ideologically because Republicans are so far behind in fundraising and because they promote Bush-Cheney foreign and domestic policies as the answer to the country's problems.