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Arianna Huffington: Cindy Sheehan to Congress: It's Time to Do Your Job


Arianna Huffington
Wed Aug 31, 4:35 PM ET

By any measure, Cindy Sheehan's Crawford vigil has been a triumph, capturing the attention of the nation and finally making Iraq the focus of a much-needed national debate. Not bad for a plain-spoken mom in a floppy hat.

Now she is taking her protest to the next level, helping to organize a bus tour of key congressional districts and sending letters to every member of Congress, asking them to meet with her and her fellow grieving parents -- and to hold the president accountable for his disastrous policies in Iraq. As she puts it in her letter: "The President has not been willing to meet with me, but he must meet and listen to you."

It seems like an obvious reminder -- "Hey, guys... you've got the power!" -- but it's a message our elected representatives apparently need to be hit over the head with. They've abdicated their constitutional power -- and responsibility -- for far too long, and it's time for them to flex those underused oversight muscles again.

Sheehan's timing couldn't be better. Lawmakers have gotten an earful from their constituents over the August recess -- increasing numbers of whom are deeply frustrated with the lack of progress in Iraq and fed up with the president's "stay the course" mantra. With a majority of Americans now against the war -- and 56 percent saying they favor the withdrawal of some or all U.S. troops from Iraq -- things could be nearing a tipping point.

Now, I'm not saying that members of Congress are going to return to D.C. next week and suddenly vote to end the war. But they might be ready to at least start doing their job.

Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record) has announced plans to grill Don Rumsfeld about the lack of progress in Iraq. Rep. Walter Jones (news, bio, voting record) and his 45 co-sponsors are still trying to get their "Homeward Bound" withdrawal from Iraq resolution out of committee. And Sen. Byron Dorgan (news, bio, voting record) is still pushing for a new Truman-style Commission to investigate wasteful spending in Iraq. He plans to attach a Truman Commission amendment to the defense authorization bill that Congress will take up upon its return, along with a defense appropriations bill that includes an additional $45.3 billion in funds for Iraq and Afghanistan.

This, of course, is the critical power that Congress possesses -- the power of the purse strings. That was ultimately what precipitated the end of the war in Vietnam -- a 1973 vote cutting off the funds for the bombing of Cambodia over the objections of Henry Kissinger, who warned that lack of congressional support would make it impossible to negotiate a lasting settlement. Sound familiar? The words of then Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield should be required reading for all current members of Congress: "The only way to face up to our responsibilities, the only way to do it effectively, is to cut the purse strings."

Republican leaders, increasingly concerned that Iraq could become the losing issue in 2006 (you know they're getting nervous when even Rick Santorum admits to "concerns" over the administration's handling of the war), would also be well advised to study the words and deeds of another Vietnam era figure, Sen. William Fulbright. As the powerful Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Fulbright took on LBJ, holding nationally televised hearings to debate war. The hearings, in the words of historian Barton Bernstein, "legitimized dissent" and galvanized public opposition to the Vietnam war.

Here's Fulbright on the purpose of the hearings: "Under our system Congress, and especially the Senate, shares responsibility with the President for making our nation's foreign policy. This war, however, started and continues as a Presidential war in which the Congress, since the fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin episode, has not played a significant roleā€¦ The purpose of these hearings is to develop the best advice and greater public understanding of the policy alternatives available and positive congressional action to end American participation in the war." Substitute "WMD claims" for the Gulf of Tonkin episode and some courageous GOP senator has a ready-made opening for the modern equivalent of the Fulbright hearings.

So who will be the Fulbright of Iraq? Warner? Not likely, given that he's still dismissing parallels between Vietnam and Iraq. John McCain? Sadly not, since he wants to send 15,000 to 20,000 more troops to Iraq.

The Boston Globe's Derrick Jackson makes a strong case that it could be Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record), whom Jackson calls "the principled face of revulsion from within." It's a comparison that Hagel himself seems to be embracing, quoting Fulbright about the hearings in a speech earlier this year. And unlike Warner, Hagel, a Purple Heart Vietnam vet, sees the parallels between the two wars. ''I watched 58,000 Americans get chewed up," he said on Meet the Press last month, "during a time when in fact we had a policy that was losing. And the members of Congress were interestingly silent and absent in asking tough questions. As long as I'm a United States senator, I will do everything I can to ensure that we have a policy worthy of these brave young men and women who are sacrificing their lives and doing the things that they do for this country. I don't think that policy is there today."

Sounds like a man ready for his close-up -- and fed up with an administration that has treated Congress "like a nuisance." He's already said that President Bush should have met with Cindy Sheehan. Maybe he, like Cindy, will now take it to the next level.

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The founding fathers were pretty smart cookies but they were not psychics. They formed a three part government of the legislative, executive and judicial, each part jealousy guarding it's own power and keeping the other two in check. What the founding fathers never anticipated was the rise of powerful political partys that could gain control of all three levels of government completely neutralizing the seperation of power principle and for all practical purposes eleminating the checks and balances. This problem is compounded by a two party system where both partys are owned and controled by the same corporate interests, making it in effect a single party made of two interdependent branches. The result is a defacto totalatarian dictatorship disguised by phony democratic trappings.

I wish I had a solution for this problem, I don't. A good start though would be eleminating the barriers to participation in the political process of third partys. The obvious solution would be a return to constitutional limited government, most of what the federal government does, it has no constitutional authority for doing. Elemination of the federal income tax, which empowers and corupts the federal government would really help. A second American revolution may be necessary to restore control of the government back to the people!

The rise of the two party system beholden to corporations started over
30 years ago. I worked at a commodity exchange in Chicago. This is how they buy the politicians. As an employee, we are asked to contribute to a political fund. (This is not volutary by the way...if you want to get in good graces with the boss.) They tell you that they have to contribute to both parties because you don't know who will be in power and you need to have friendly voices in DC. Now, these donations are bundled, the original giver has no idea who the recipient is. But the bundler has the power of who he will give the funds to...the money never really benefits the small guy but the bundler has immense power over our political system. I have since learned it isn't only for the commodity industry that the donations were used for ...but political agendas in other areas not related to commodities at all. In order, to break the hold of the few over our political system, we have to disallow bundling of political donations.
Corporations and businesses should not be able to hit their employees for political donations for their job. It is time people become aware of this power over our system of government. This bundling explains why a segment of the Republican Party and Democratic Party are in total unison. It has destroyed opposition parties.

The other side of the political corruption from campaign contributions is the corruption inherent in the billion dollar federal budget and the governments ability to raise unlimited funds through the federal income tax and deficit spending. These huge sums of money are just waiting for someone to pick them off, whether it is corporations seeking government contracts or other liberal organizations seeking funding for there favorite socialist program. Which came first the chicken or the egg; corporations buy politicians the politicians then reward the corporations with lucrative government contracts. The politicians also use the vast sums of money at there disposal to buy votes by funding your favorite social program. The coruption is inherent in the system and will probably not be changed until the government goes broke or some other massive financial crisis.

I don't think our Founding Fathers anticipated a 'shadow government', such as the PNAC, to spring up from a tax exempt Non-Profit Organization (NPO) either.

Every American citizen has the right to free speech and the right to assemble, but illegal invasion clubs have got to be outlawed! Developing war strategies and military budgets is sanctioned to the government ONLY by the Constitution of the United States ( not a bunch of thugs out at poker night at the local PNAC.)

The House Minority Leader will be confronted by the people she is supposed to represent in Congress. Nancy Pelosi represents probably the most anti-war city in the nation, San Francisco.

On September 26th, we will rally in front of her office at the San Francisco Federal building. We will go to her office on the 14th floor and demand accountability.

She has thus far done nothing to stop the flow of money and young men and women to fight in a war based on lies. As recently as this May, she voted another $82 billion for what she has called a "grotesque mistake".

We will ask her what "noble cause" she is funding in Iraq.

All politicians, of any political party, must be held accountable.

http://www.tomjoad.org/Pelosi.htm

Wonderful news on confronting that lying hag. Now, fire her keester for not representing the true voice of her constituents, ie NOT DOING HER JOB. Let her worthless ass know that people are hep to her brownosing up at Dubya's house.

not told in our history books,
good posts
thanks.

I admire Sen Hegal a lot
My take is that he is honest and
just sick of all the crime done
by bushco. a man who still loves
America like most of us regular citizens
doesnt view political office as a chance to rob
America blind like cheney and bush
who are despicable cowardly criminals
tell the truth they are just low life criminals.

We need one person willing to stand up
and tell the truth. Maybe Cindy could run with him
One pol standing up to bush and telling the truth
would probably win in a landslide
we want courage not wussies.
dems lost spine. repiglickns are criminals
new orleans is wake up call
this chaos could happen again.

we are in bad shape as a country
thanks to all the apathetics who didnt vote
who dont "do politics"
who find it too much trouble
think they'll get off their asses next time???
only a paramecium or a war profiteer would vote
repiglickn again. and of course the elite scum
and dumb ass appalachin jihad

I admire Sen Hegal a lot
My take is that he is honest and
just sick of all the crime done
by bushco. a man who still loves
America like most of us regular citizens
doesnt view political office as a chance to rob
America blind like cheney and bush
who are despicable cowardly criminals
tell the truth they are just low life criminals.

We need one person willing to stand up
and tell the truth. Maybe Cindy could run with him
One pol standing up to bush and telling the truth
would probably win in a landslide
we want courage not wussies.
dems lost spine. repiglickns are criminals
new orleans is wake up call
this chaos could happen again.

we are in bad shape as a country
thanks to all the apathetics who didnt vote
who dont "do politics"
who find it too much trouble
think they'll get off their asses next time???
only a paramecium or a war profiteer would vote
repiglickn again. and of course the elite scum
and dumb ass appalachin jihad

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