Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Maria Cantwell's backwards position on Iraq is undermining her reelection bid

It's high time that Maria Cantwell took a look around and realized that her support of George W. Bush's costly war is having costly repercussions that are hurting her reelection campaign.

Over the last few months (and yes, even years) we've supported Maria, often making the argument that many of the attacks being leveled against her are unfair - and that a grueling primary fight won't help our party and the progressive movement in the long run. And we believe the arguments we've made still have merit.

We've been called "Democratic cheerleaders" because the members of this organization been unwilling to level much public criticism at high profile figures like Maria Cantwell.

That's not because we don't have any criticism, but mostly because others were (and still are) doing a fine job of that.

This organization is, and always has been, against the preemptive invasion and occupation of Iraq. That's not a secret. For years, we've had a "Cost of the Iraq War" counter on our network's home page - and sadly, we've watched that figure climb higher - and higher - and higher - and higher still.

After what's happened in the last couple of days, we feel it's time to comment.

Yesterday, Maria Cantwell had a guest editorial published in the Seattle Times about Iraq, which her campaign no doubt hoped would clarify her position and reduce the amount of criticism being leveled at the Senator.

We had high hopes that she would demonstrate her position on the Iraq conflict has evolved, and that she recognizes the administration has failed (miserably) to accomplish anything.

But we were disappointed. Instead of holding the Bush administration accountable, Cantwell laid the responsibility elsewhere, with puzzling sentences like, "The president must make sure that the international community follows through on its promises."

The entire guest editorial was written under the odd pretense that somehow George W. Bush is going to listen to the advice that's being offered and take action. But it should be obvious to any realistically-minded observer that there's no chance of that happening. Bush is out of touch with reality and unwilling to do anything that would end the costly quagmire we're stuck in.

The Seattle Times itself followed up this morning, printing a story on its front page by political reporter David Postman (Cantwell's stance on Iraq keeps volunteers away, party chief says) which makes it clear that Maria's backwards position on Iraq is indeed costing her:
Sen. Maria Cantwell's continued support for the occupation of Iraq and her lack of regret for voting for the invasion in 2002 is making it hard to recruit volunteers for her re-election campaign, the chairman of the state Democratic Party says.

The liberal activists who dominate the party's grass roots oppose the war and have been looking for Cantwell to distance herself from President Bush's position.

"Definitely right now there are a lot of activists who are not signing up to work on her campaign, and that's very clear," state party Chairman Dwight Pelz said Thursday.
So there you have it: the Chairman of the State Democratic Party is quoted on the front page of the state's largest daily as saying that Maria Cantwell's position on Iraq is costing her grassroots support.

Hopefully Maria sees this article, because it's time that she realizes how much her stubbornness is weighing down her reelection bid and disappointing even her most ardent supporters.

Postman goes on in his article to reference criticism from Arthur Ruger, who writes at Washblog (among other places) and has been a great supporter of Pacific Northwest Portal:
Pelz said anti-war Democrats will vote for Cantwell in November in her race against Republican Mike McGavick, but the campaign can't depend on them to knock on doors, make telephone calls or help with other chores usually done by volunteers.

That point was made recently on the popular local liberal blog Arthur Ruger, a state employees union leader, wrote about what he called Cantwell's "blind and proud unwillingness to recognize a foolish and cowardly political act" in voting for the war.

But he said tough questions about the war should not be seen as opposition to her re-election. "I'm going to vote for Maria but she gets no free pass from me," Ruger wrote.

Cantwell's position reflects what Pelz sees as a broader problem among Democrats in D.C.

"Their inability to have a sharper message on Iraq is hurting our recruitment of volunteers," he said. "Those people tend to be highly passionate Democrats and they feel strongly about the war."

Pelz said he recently delivered that message to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.
We understand it can be tough for someone like Maria Cantwell to change her thinking. But she needs to. She is only one of 100 Senators in the United States Senate and only one of forty four Democratic Senators.

We need Maria Cantwell to be a leader. We all make mistakes. Even people like Reps. Norm Dicks and Adam Smith - who supported the war authorization - have now said they votes were in error. As Postman noted in his article, that leaves Maria alone as the only Democrat in the congressional delegation having expressed no regrets.

Joel Connelly even noted in his column in this morning's Seattle P-I that the Senator is "bedeviled by Iraq".

If Maria Cantwell doesn't want to come out and admit her vote was a mistake, that's understandable. Making public mea culpas is difficult. The least we expect, though, is that she'll untether herself from the administration and criticize the disaster they've made of Iraq.

We will continue to support Maria Cantwell, but unless she changes her views on the administration's handling of the Iraq conflict, that support will be given reluctantly.

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