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Bending to George W. Bush's Will

By Brent Budowsky
February 9, 2007

Editor's Note: When Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put forward two Republican-sponsored resolutions -- one opposed to the Iraq War "surge" and the other for it -- he was met with the bizarre spectacle of GOP sponsors of the resolutions joining a filibuster against a debate on their own measures, unless a third Republican resolution from Sen. Judd Gregg was added to the mix.

Two of those senators -- John Warner of Virginia and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska -- effectively put loyalty to President George W. Bush ahead of their stated desire to spare American troops unnecessary death and injury from a war escalation that neither Warner nor Hagel believes is justified.

In this open letter, Democratic political analyst Brent Budowsky -- who urged Reid and other Senate Democrats to shelve their partisan doubts and work with Warner and Hagel -- expresses his dismay over having trusted these two Republican senators:

Dear Senator Hagel and Senator Warner:

For four years of failure and bloodshed in the Iraq War, you have issued warnings, concerns, sage advice and major suggestions for change.

For four years, the man who calls himself the Decider has given you nothing but contempt for your views, confident that in the end, you would vote with your party.

For four years, you have proven him brilliantly right in his judgment of you, as he was deadly wrong in his conduct of war.

For four years, you advised no and voted yes.

Three years ago, you issued more warnings, counsel and sage advice and were treated with the same disrespect that was shown to our commanders when their advice, too, was ignored.

Three years ago, you advised no, and voted yes, again.  Two years ago, again.  One year ago, again.  And now with this latest tragedy and spectacle in the Senate, again.

You issued warnings, advice, and sage counsel again. You said no and voted yes, again. You were disrespected, again, by the President who ignored your advice, again, and you voted to enable yet another escalation that you know
is wrong, again.

You were reduced to voting against your own resolution.

Let's not hide behind procedural excuses or genteel evasions. You know the Senate rules. I worked for congressional leaders and senior senators and know them too. 

The Majority Leader in a show of good faith and bipartisanship supported including the key provision in the Gregg proposal into the Warner proposal.  He made a mistake. I made a mistake in advising senior Democrats to work with you in good faith.

And you know very well that the only reason the Republican leadership, in league with Karl Rove's shop, demanded a vote on the Gregg proposal was that it would help promote the escalation that you oppose, but enabled, again.

My mistake was one of character judgment. Senator Reid's mistake was an attempt at statesmenship. Your mistake was putting a party-line vote designed to promote the escalatiion over the high principle of trying to prevent the escalation you oppose.

Four years ago,  Three years ago,  Two years ago. One year ago.  And now this week.  Again.

So you voted against your own resolution, in the name of demanding a second resolution designed to promote the escalation that you oppose.

And this from the party that criticized John Kerry for flip flopping?

The senator from Arizona accused you, and me, and Senator Reid of favoring a vote of no confidence in the troops.  Once upon a time, when Senator John McCain was younger and truer and his idealism trumped his ambition, he
would have known such a statement to be untrue.

The advocates of this escalation have learned nothing from mistakes, except to believe that their short-pants McCarthyism can bully and intimidate good men into doing bad things.

If there are two men who should never be accused of voting no confidence in the troops, it is you, Senator Hagel and Senator Warner. But then again, if there are two men who should have made public votes consistent with their private views, after four years, it is you, as well.  Again.

How more powerful and right it would have been for you to charge like lions to the Senate floor and answer the defamation that you would vote no confidence in the troops, in terms as strong as the false accusation. Instead you retreated to the Republican cloakroom, and cast a party-line vote. Again.

For four years, you have been wiser, smarter, more knowledgable and experienced than those who disrespected your advice, as much as they disrespected the advice of military leaders.  

For four years, you said no and voted yes.

For four years, you enabled policies in war you knew were wrong.

For four years, the failure became more deadly, the carnage became more ugly, the casualties became more painful, the damage to our troops and our country and our crediblity around the world, and our military force structures, and our deterrent, and our national unity became more grave and extreme.

Yet for four years, the senators from Virginia and Nebraska issued their words of warning and their counsels for change, but in the end, for four years, based on the real votes on the floor of the Senate, Virginia and Nebraska might as well have been represented by Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman.

What a shame. What a waste. What a tragedy for our country.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen on intelligence issues, and served as Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander when he was Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Leadership. Budowsky can be reached at [email protected].

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