About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Told ya the Dems were spineless...

I said it not long ago, and on Friday we had another demonstration of the lack of spine on the part of the Democrats. Democrat, Vietnam veteran and former marine John P. Murtha finally had the guts (for a Dem) to speak out clearly against the war, despite the fact that he originally supported it (contrary to Bush's demagoguery, it is the sign of a sane person to change one's mind when new information comes along).

One would think that such a highly respected voice would be heard, but the Dems should have known from the Kerry experience that if one is a Democrat -- even a Vietnam vet, decorated in the field, marine, or what not – one simply doesn't have a chance against the attack dogs unleashed by the Republicans. Indeed, Murtha himself noted a few days ago that it was rather ironic to be preached about courage and war by someone (Dick Cheney) who has never served in combat and has successfully avoided the draft several times.

On Friday the Republicans, slimy as usual, forced a vote on a resolution introduced by Murtha. Of course, Murtha had asked for a pull out of American troops within six months, arguing that they are now simply a catalyst for the continuing violence in Iraq. Murtha's plan called also for a quick-reaction force in the region and for renewed diplomatic efforts in Iraq. Sounds reasonable, no? But Republicans instead introduced their own resolution, which simply called for an immediate and unconditioned withdrawal, which is of course a caricature of what Democrats were asking for.

As a result, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi asked her party colleagues to vote against the mock resolution, thereby handing a nice media (though not of principles) victory to the Republicans. It will now be hard for the Dems to explain to the notoriously short-attention spanned American public what the difference between the two resolutions was, and why the Democrats acted the way they did. It will be easy for Republicans, on the other hand, to come up with sound bites that will essentially say that the Dems had raised hell and then chickened out when it came to an actual vote. Politics as usual, as they say.

What Pelosi & co. should have done instead was to vote in favor of the silly Republican resolution, just to make a point, and then to go to the general public with the beginning of a voting record that says "well, we tried, if you don't like the war, blame it on those nuts controlling the House, and remember to vote in '06." Yet another opportunity to show a bit of spine lost in the squabble.


  1. So voting against a bad resolution is a sign of a lack of spine? I realize that the mock resolution was a political ploy to embarass the Democrats, but I would think it was spineless to vote for a bad idea because it played well with the populace.

  2. Couldn't (shouldn't) the Democrats simply have introduced their own (parallel) resolution? Let it state their own ideas about medium-term goals, and force the Republicans to respond to that?


  3. j.j., I'm not convinced that even a quick withdrawal would be such a bad idea. But, more importantly, I think a strong vote would have sent the message that it is time to do something, the details of that something would have had to be worked out later anyway.

    GB, it is my understanding that the majority party controls the agenda, so the Dems can introduce a resolution, but cannot force a vote on it. Which is why the Republicans introduced their mock version instead.

  4. Massimo is correct. The Democrats can write up any piece of legislation they want, but it is the Committee chairpersons, under the thumb of the majority leadership, who decide what is to be debated on the floor. The Republicans chose to introduce their own "immediate pullout" resolution, rather than debate the merits of Murtha's "as soon as possible" idea, because they wanted to put the Democrats on record as the "cut and run" party. While I agree with Massimo, and many of my fellow leftists, in that an immediate withdrawal is probably not a bad thing, I think that the Republicans could very well have spun it badly for the Dems had they voted FOR their faux resolution.

    Still, the Dems need to follow up on the blow Murtha has struck to the credibility of the Bush regime, and use the growing momentum provided by the anti-war and increasingly anti-Bush sentiment in this country, to take back at least ONE of the houses of Congress in 2006. If the Dems fail to do so, it will likely be because of that spinelessness that Massimo has rightly called them on.

    (I'd prefer the House, myself, since that's where impeachment begins...)

    ~ Bob

  5. Perhaps the democrats could go out of their way to use this event as an example of how the political games are played. They are just as bad when it comes to 'politics as usual' but they might be able to get a few points out of the idea that the other party is playing politics with the lives of American soldiers. But doing so would require them to not play games either. If they could come up with a unified stance and make a demand, such as, pull out now, by June 2006, etc., they might be able to get somewhere. I feel that instead of trying to figure out a proper foreign policy on the issue, they are just saying 'pull out' so that they can be in opposition to the other party. I understand that we have an adversarial political system, but when the use of our military is concerned, I wish we would take the time to find some truth.

  6. So here's the thing, according to friends I have on the Hill, the primary reason for the Dems not voting for the Repub's mock resolution is that it would have been considered a personal slight to Rep. Murtha.
    Stephen Maples


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