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MINNEAPOLIS -- "We pay tribute to a leader -- a true DFL liberal..." shouted US Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, invoking the initials and the ideological tradition of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to honor his fallen colleague, Senator Paul Wellstone.
The Iowan's battle yell drew the loudest cheers of a night filled with tears, laughter and passionate reflection on the legacy of the Minnesota senator Harkin described as "the soul of the Senate." The crowd of more than 20,000 that packed a University of Minnesota arena and an adjoining sports center rose in a foot-stomping, fist-pumping frenzy as Harkin continued: "That's right! A DFL liberal who constantly reminded those of us who are Democrats of the real center of gravity in our party -- the progressive grounding of our being: that everyone should be able to reach their whole potential in our society," Harkin bellowed as the crowd stood and cheered."
The official memorial service for Wellstone, his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia and campaign aides Will McLaughlin, Tom Lapic and Mary McEvoy -- who perished Friday in a plane crash on Minnesota's Iron Range -- was more a rally than a funeral. Busloads of Wellstone partisans from across the state poured into Minneapolis to share the memory of the man many of them had marched with, rallied with and campaigned with across two decades of struggle against conservatives in both the Republican and Democratic parties.
But the bus everyone recalled was the green school bus that Wellstone road across Minnesota in his successful 1990 campaign for the Senate, and that was rolled out once more for an intense 2002 campaign in which Wellstone was targeted for defeat by the Bush White House.
Harkin, the only national political speaker invited to address what was essentially a local event, recalled Wellstone's green bus again and again in a speech that owed a good deal more to William Jennings Bryan's turn-of-the-century populism than to the stilted speaking styles of comptemporary politicians.
"Paul Wellstone was a hopeful man. Green was his color -- the color of springtime, the color of hope, the color of that bus he climbed on 12 years ago as set out on his journey for a better Americ," Harkin recalled. "Paul didn't want it to be a solo voage. He wanted us all onboard. And, now, we must all continue Paul Wellstone's journey for a better America."
Harkin was the last of a succession of speakers who left little doubt that the first leg of that journey leads to next Tuesday's voting when, if all goes as appears to be planned, the DFL will elect former Vice President Walter "Fritz" Mondale to fill the late Senator's seat.
Mondale did not speak Tuesday night. But he was greeted with applause more thunderous than that given former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, Senator Edward Kennedy and a who's who of Dmocratic Party leaders -- along with a smattering of Republicans, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi. (Lott got the most boos, something Republicans were immediately spinning as evidence that the event has been "too partisan.")
Mondale had said that he would not address the question of whether he would pick up Wellstone's mantle and carry it into the election until after a decent interval had passed. That interval come to a close Wednesday morning as Republican Norm Coleman, the White House-selected candidate for the Minnesota Senate seat, began campaigning again. Wednesday night, the DFL did indeed pick Mondale as their candidate.
While none of Tuesday night's speakers made explicit "Mondale for Senate" pitches, few left any doubt as to their fervent hope that Wellstone's supporters would, by electing Mondale, "win one more election for Wellstone." The theme of the night, repeated in songs, signs and new green campaign buttons was "Stand Up, Keep Fighting" and fighting words were in abundance.
"We will carry on the fight. We will carry on the struggle," was the booming promise of Mark Wellstone, the senator's son, who recalled a note his mother had given his father shortly before they died that concluded with the line: "We will win!" "Mom, you're right," shouted Mark Wellstone, as raucous cheers filled the cavernous auditorium. "We will win! We will win! We will win!"
One of Senator Wellstone's closest friends, Rick Kahn, bluntly characterized the November election as one in which Minnesotans would face a stark choice that will decided whether Wellstone's legacy is "kept alive" or brought "forever to an end." Kahn suprised many in the crowd by naming Republican senators who had been friends of the Minnesota Democrat and were present Tuesday night -- including New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, and Ohio Senator Mike DeWine -- to: "Help us win this election for Paul Wellstone."
Kahn argued that, instead of helping Coleman, these Republicans ought to back off and let Minnesota choose a successor to Wellstone. That successor, Kahn and other speakers clearly intimated, ought to be a DFLer in the Wellstone tradition so that, in Kahn's words, the party faithful might "shout out Paul Wellstone's name in joyful celebration on one last election night."
Tuesday's night gathering was not all politics, at least not in the purest sense. Painful reflections on lost friends and family made certain that was the case.
Yet, it was also the evening when just about everyone who is anyone in progressives politics -- and some who are not so progressive -- mingled in the halls of an 14,000-seat arena that filled to capacity early and required the use of the satellite facility's 6,000 seats. (Hundreds of thousands more watched television broadcasts of the memorial program, which were aired statewide.) Former Senator Bob Kerrey, D-Nebraska, was waiting in line for a hotdog when Cornel West, the Princeton professor who is one of the nation's most widely-known and respected public intellectuals, spotted him. The two hugged and recalled campaigning together for former Senator Bill Bradley's 2000 Democratic presidential campaign. A few moments later, they had found Bradley and were reminiscing about Wellstone's role in the 2000 campaign.
Across the arena, the Rev. Jesse Jackson embraced Bill Clinton. Next to Clinton sat former First Lady and now Senator from New York Hillary Clinton. Behind the Clintons sat Mondale and Senate Majority Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota. Behind them sat Secretary of Human Services Thompson, a former governor of Wisconsin, and Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. In the next row was Ted Kennedy.
But just as important to the organizers were the miners from the Iron Range, the family farmers from southwest Minnesota and the hundreds of recent immigrants -- inluding many Hmong and Somalis -- for whom Wellstone was both a senator and a friend. Recalling Wellstone's generous, self-deprecating style and his refusal to adopt the trappings of a Senator, Harkin said, "No one, no one, ever wore the mantle of senator better or used it less."
Of his late colleague, Harkin said, "He had a powerful authenticity that made a miner up in the Iron Range know that he was as important to Paul Wellstone as the president of the United States."
A pack of retired miners cheered that line, while former President Clinton was laughing and applauding. Then Harkin asked if the troops were ready to fight one more battle for Paul Wellstone on November 5 -- presumably by electing Mondale and the rest of the DFL slate. Referring once more to Wellstone's campaign bus, which became something of a shrine outside the arena Tuesday night, Harkin said, "Let's all get on that campaign bus together, that green campaign bus, that bus of hope. Let's keep it moving to a better Anerica. Keep standing up and keep fighting! And keep saying yes! To justice! To hope! For Paul! For Paul!"
Most Americans had no idea where Eveleth, Minnesota, was until they saw the maps showing where Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife and daughter, three staffers and two pilots perished in a plane crash Friday.
Not so Bob Dylan.
A native of Hibbing, a city just 30 miles from Eveleth, the songwriter grew up as Robert Zimmerman on the northern Minnesota Iron Range where Wellstone was a populist hero to the Steelworkers and other trade unionists who continue to dominate the region's politics.
On Saturday night, at a concert in Denver, Dylan made a rare reference to a contemporary political figure. The singer, who is not known for talking much at his concerts, dedicated a song to Wellstone.
"That song was for my man, the great Senator from Minnesota," Dylan said, as he finished playing an acoustic version of one of his most overtly political songs, 1964's "The Times They Are A'Changin'."
That song includes the lines:
Come senators, congressmen Please heed the call Don't stand in the doorway Don't block up the hall For he that gets hurt Will be he who has stalled There's a battle outside And it is ragin'. It'll soon shake your windows And rattle your walls For the times they are a-changin'"
Dylan's dedication and song choice fueled speculation that the Minnesota native's Wednesday-night concert in St. Paul, which comes in the midst of a remarkable week of mourning for Wellstone and the other plane-crash victims, could become one of the most distinctive forums for honoring the senator's memory in a state where just about every gathering in recent days has featured some form of tribute.
The largest official tribute was set for Tuesday night at a Minneapolis arena. As many as 20,000 people were expected to participate, including former President Bill Clinton; former Vice President Al Gore; Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson; Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota; Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, and more than half of the members of the Senate. Of special note will be the presence of Senate President pro tempore Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, who joined Wellstone is loudly opposing the resolution that authorized the Bush administration to launch a unilateral attack on Iraq.
For all the big names, however, the event is being planned by veteran Wellstone aides to highlight his populist message and grassroots support. The theme of the event will be "Stand Up and Keep Fighting." Wellstone's green campaign bus will be parked in front of the Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus. Most of the speakers and performers will be Minnesotans. They will be joined at the podium by Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, who shared Wellstone's penchant for fiery economic populist rhetoric.
Neither President Bush nor Vice President Dick Cheney will be present. White House spokeman Scott Stanzel told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Cheney had planned to attend the event. After consulation with the Wellstone family, however, Stanzel said, "We deferred to the family."
Stanzel acknowledged that Wellstone's family members had indicated that they did not want Cheney, who played a critical role in organizing the Republican campaign to unseat Wellstone this year, to be a part of the memorial service.
When initial reports of Senator Paul Wellstone's death reached Minnesota's Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party leaders and activists immediately asked: "What about Sheila?"
The question was grounded in a mixture of human concern and political calculation. The human concern could be traced back to the fact that Sheila Ison Wellstone, the senator's wife of 39 years, seemed to maintain a personal friendship with everyone who had ever stuffed an envelope or walked a precinct for the DFL. The political calculation was an extension of that fact: People who knew Sheila and Paul Wellstone were well aware that Sheila was the Minnesota Democrat best suited to win the November 5 election and fill the senate seat left empty by her husband's death.
"You could talk to one and know you were talking to both," explained Sarah Stoesz, a former member of Wellstone's Senate staff who now serves as chief executive officer for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota. "They were fully coupled and united in a way that is very unusual in Washington."
Minnesotans who knew the Wellstones well joked that they were really "co-senators."
So much a team were the Wellstones that, several years ago when there was talk that Paul might not seek a third term, speculation immediately focused on his wife. "There was a lot of talk, frankly, that if Paul decided not to run, would Sheila run? She was that competent and that smart and could generate just as much passion as her husband," recalled Minnesota State Auditor Judy Dutcher.
As it happened, Sheila and Paul Wellstone perished together in a northern Minnesota plane crash Friday, along with their daughter, Marcia, three campaign aides and two pilots. For those who knew the Wellstones, the news was doubly tragic: Not only had Minnesota lost a senator, Minnesota also lost the woman who – because she so clearly shared his values, his vision and his political skills – was best positioned to carry on for him.
There is a long, if not always inspired, tradition of the spouses of members of the House and Senate taking the places of deceased representatives. But Sheila Wellstone would not have merely inherited Paul's Senate seat. Her own political abilities, her extremely high profile in Minnesota, and her record of activism – particularly on domestic violence issues – put her high on lists of prospective statewide candidates long before Friday's tragedy.
In 2000, when Paul Wellstone briefly flirted with the idea of leaving the Senate to run for governor of Minnesota, he acknowledged that many members of the state's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party were speculating about a Wellstone-Wellstone ticket in 2002: Paul for Governor, Sheila for Senate. "The trouble with that," he joked, "is that I'm pretty sure Sheila would get more votes."
He wouldn't really have minded. Paul Wellstone and Sheila Ison fell deeply in love at the age of 16. "I met this cute guy out on the beach with muscles," Sheila explained, decades later. They were about as different as two teenagers could be. He was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants who had settled in the Washington, D.C., area. She was a Southern Baptist whose family traced its roots back to the Kentucky coal country town of Kingdom Come, although her parents moved to Washington when she was young. When Sheila decided to drop out of the University of Kentucky three years later to marry Paul, who was studying at the University of North Carolina, Paul's father was just about the only supporter of the move. The worry was that Sheila was giving up the chance to make her own career and, in the early years of their marriage, it did look as if that might be the case.
While Paul earned a doctorate in political science, got a teaching job at Carlton College in Minnesota and began to emerge as one of that state's leading activists, Sheila took on most of the responsibility for raising their three children: David, Mark and Marcia -- the daughter who died with her parents in Friday's crash. Paul was running off to march with striking meatpackers and farm protesters, while Sheila was telling him, "Don't get arrested." (When he did get arrested at a demonstration against farm foreclosures in the 1980s, Paul recalled that his first reaction was, "Oh, man, how am I going to explain this to Sheila?")
Behind the conventional façade, however, was a far more sophisticated relationship. Sheila Wellstone played a critical role in helping Paul put together the historic 1990 campaign for the U.S. Senate that made him a national figure. Soon after Senator Wellstone went to Washington, Sheila found a desk in his Senate office and went to work. She became so much a presence around the Capitol that Democratic senators who were close to Wellstone did not ask how he was going to vote on a particular issue; instead they would inquire: "What did Sheila tell you?"
What Sheila told him was to get a lot more involved with the fight against domestic violence. Paul Wellstone came to the Senate as a economic populist with a penchant for peace and social justice causes. Sheila Wellstone helped him to recognize that passing legislation to protect abused women was central to achieving justice.
"Her work saved the lives of countless numbers of women from danger and even death," Shelley Johnson-Cline, executive director of the St. Paul Intervention Project, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press after Friday's crash. "She made it her mission to change that system. She would find out what the needs were and then go out and see them for herself."
Sheila Wellstone said she was attracted to domestic violence issues for the simplest of reasons: "I find it absolutely intolerable to think that a woman's home can be the most violent, most dangerous and oftentimes the most deadly place she can be," Sheila explained. But her activism was anything but simplistic. Mentored by Peacelinks campaigner Betty Bumpers, the wife of former Arkansas Senator Dale Bumpers, she learned to use her stature as the wife of a senator to meet academics, law enforcement officials, lawyers, judges, activists and thousands of women and children for whom debates about domestic violence were not merely intellectual or legislative concerns. By 1993, she was writing pieces of legislation that her husband would introduce, including a provision to the Centers for Disease Control budget that provided funding for a project that trains health care providers to recognize and assist victims of abuse and a bill that provided money to set up facilities where parents who were separated would be able to exchange children for visitation without having to face the threat of violence.
In 1994, the Wellstones were key players in the push for passage of the landmark Violence Against Women Act.
Sheila did not have to talk Paul into voting against welfare reform in 1996. But her research provided him with information that he would use to make the case for his vote, a case that ultimately derailed Republican efforts to unseat him that year. In the late 1990s, Sheila Wellstone was an activist on behalf of moves to modify welfare-to-work requirements in order to ease the burden on abuse victims – testifying before state legislators on behalf of using waivers made possible under the Family Violence Amendment that Paul had been instrumental in passing.
On the morning Paul and Sheila Wellstone died, the media was reporting that one of the suspects in the Washington, D.C., sniper case was being held under a federal law designed to prohibit people who have been placed under a restraining order for domestic violence from possessing firearms. That rule, part of the Domestic Violence Firearms Prevention Act, was pushed toward enactment in the Senate by Paul Wellstone -- after Sheila Wellstone developed it.
US Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minnesota, is the Democrat the Bush administration loves to hate. White House political director Karl Rove personally selected Wellstone's Republican challenger in the November 5 election, former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, and Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush have visited Minnesota again and again on Coleman's behalf.
But Minnesotans have not taken to the high-level pressure. Bush made a swing through the state last week on Coleman's behalf, but it was Wellstone whose poll numbers went up. Actually, Wellstone's numbers have been rising ever since he voted against the president's request for blank-check authorization to launch a war with Iraq. After months of too-close-to-call poll numbers, the headline of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Sunday announced, "Wellstone edges into lead in U.S. Senate race." The Star-Tribune's latest poll found the two-term liberal Democratic senator to be ahead by a 47-41 margin among likely voters.
But that doesn't mean Wellstone is sure to beat Bush, er, Coleman.After the poll results were released, a shadowy Virginia group that campaign finance analysts have linked to the Bush family and George W. Bush's 2000 campaign -- as well as to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and the Republican Party -- made a record-breaking $1 million purchase of television and radio advertising time to attack Wellstone.
The deceptively named group Americans For Job Security is behind the big buy -- which will likely exceed the amount of money the Wellstone campaign or the Democratic Party will spend in the final weeks before the election. Headquarted in Alexandria, Virginia, Americans for Security first came on the scene five years ago, when it got started with a $1 million contribution from the American Insurance Association. The American Forest and Paper Association chipped in another $1 million.
Described by the The Annenberg Public Policy Center as a "a tax-exempt conservative, business-backed pro-Republican organization formed in October 1997 to lobby for: reduced taxes, less government regulation, free trade, and downsizing government," it has been linked with a previous initiative by the US Chamber of Commerce and business lobbies that spent $5 million in the 1996 election cycle.
In May, 2000, a Washington Post report raised the prospect that Trent Lott was pressuring high-tech lobbyists for contributions to the organization, which that year launched television advertising campaigns attacking the Democratic challengers to several vulnerable Republican senators. (Among the corporations reported to have contributed to Americans for Job Security following that meeting was Microsoft. More recently, pharmaceutical firms have been reported to be prime funders of the group.)
American for Job Security president Michael Dubke has refused to reveal the sources of the funding for this fall's attack ads against Wellstone -- nor for similar campaigns by the group against Democratic Senators Jean Carnahan and Tim Johnson, who are in tight races in Missouri and South Dakota, respectively. According to Dubke, his organization has "a very strong policy that we don't discuss our members." And elections laws do not appear to require him to do so.
Earlier this year, when Americans for Job Security launched a series of attacks on Wellstone, the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor party challenged the Virginia group's tax status, In a complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the party asked the IRS to determine whether Americans for Job Security was using its tax-exempt status to hide the sources of its funding.The group is registered as a trade association, a status that permits it to cloak the identities of its contributors. "This is a secret organization using its tax status to conceal its donors," said DFL chair Mike Erlandson. "I believe Minnesotans have a right to know who's contributing to this group."
While the contributors are not identified, there is a good deal of information available to suggest that this group has ties to the Bush administration, the president and his family. Toward the close of the 2000 campaign, Americans for Job Security bought commercials in at least ten major media markets to attack the prescription drug plan of Bush's opponent in the presidential race, Democrat Al Gore. According to The Brennan Center for Justice, Americans for Job Security spent $1.8 million on that attack advertising campaign, making it, according to the Campaign Finance Institute, "the most active (outside group) supporting Bush" in the 2000 campaign.
The Campaign Finance Institute has identified David Carney, a veteran political operative with long ties to the Bush family who served as the political director in George H. W. Bush's White House, as the executive director of Americans for Job Security. Dubke is another alumnus of the Bush-Quayle campaign. Benjamin Ginsberg, who was counsel to George W. Bush's presidential campaign, serves as the group's counsel.
Ginsberg earned a measure of prominence as a key player on the Bush legal team during the Florida recount fight following the 2000 election. He was the one who had to explain why the Bush campaign was so slow to file required forms detailing contributions ($13.8 million) and expenditures by the recount effort. The campaign did not submit the forms until July 15, the last day of an IRS amnesty program for groups that failed to comply with disclosure rules.
The pollster for Americans for Job Security is the Tarrance Group, which also conducts polls for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. That committee's slogan for the campaign to regain Republican control of the Senate -- by defeating Wellstone and other Democratic incumbents -- is "Working to Elect a Bush Majority."
A majority of House Democrats on Thursday rejected President Bush's request for blank-check authority to wage war with Iraq, despite the fact that House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, helped draft the resolution and lobbied for its passage.
As expected, the resolution authorizing Bush to order the invasion of Iraq – without a Congressional declaration of war -- passed the House and Senate easily in votes late Thursday and early Friday. The Senate approved the resolution by a lopsided 77-23 vote; the House by a somewhat narrower 296-133 margin.
The surprise came in the size of the vote against the resolution. Just weeks ago, when foes of the administration canvassed the House to determine the size of the opposition bloc, they counted just a few dozen firm votes against the administration's proposal.
Even as Thursday's vote approached, an "alternative to war" resolution proposed by US Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, attracted just 39 co-sponsors. The relatively small number of caucus members who had expressed explicit opposition to the resolution before the vote led Gephardt aides to suggest that the minority leader's outspoken support for the Bush administration's hard-line position – a stance that made opposing the president's request more difficult – would be vindicated as a clear majority of House Democrats would join the Republican majority to back the resolution.
But Gephardt, a man whose presidential ambitions are no secret, was not vindicated.
Of 207 House Democrats voting on the resolution, 126 opposed it, while only 81 voted for the measure. "I hope the story today won't be (that) this is a huge, overwhelming victory for the president of the United States and for war, beacuse it is not," said Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, who was one of the first to break with Gephardt on the issue. "I think what we did will surprise some people. This (the larger-than-expected vote against the resolution) is against conventional wisdom that 'oh, everybody's going to be with the president.'"
The 126 Democrats who opposed the resolution were joined by one independent member, Vermont's Bernie Sanders, and six Republicans -- John Duncan of Tennessee; John Hostettler of Indiana; Amo Houghton of New York; Jim Leach of Iowa; Connie Morella of Maryland; and Ron Paul of Texas.
The House Democrats who opposed the White House and their own caucus leader included Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi, D-California, who is also the ranking Democratic member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, D-Michigan; the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, David Obey, D-Wisconsin; the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, Charles Rangel, D-New York; and International Relations Committee members Donald Payne, D-New Jersey; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Cynthia McKinney, D-Georgia; Earl Hilliard, D-Alabama; Bill Delahunt, D-Massachusetts; Gregory Meeks, D-New York; Barbara Lee, D-California; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Grace Napolitano, D-California; and Diane Watson, D-California. They were joined by senior Democratic members such as George Miller, D-California, and James Oberstar, D-Minnesota, who told the House: "Our Constitution entrusts to Congress alone the power to declare war, a power we should invoke with great care on evidence of a clear and present danger to our country. President Bush has asked Congress to cede that power to him, to be wielded against Iraq; at a time of his choosing; with or without United Nations support; in a unilateral, pre-emptive strike, on his own determination of the level of threat Iraq poses to our national security. I will not surrender our constitutional authority."
Pelosi, the number two Democrat in the House, was equally outspoken in her opposition to the resolution. Rejecting the argument that the president needed maximum flexibility to act quickly against an immediate threat, Pelosi noted that Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet had told Congress that the likelihood of Iraq's Saddam Hussein launching an attack on the U.S. using weapons of mass destruction is low. "This is not about time," she said. "This is about the Constitution. It is about this Congress asserting its right to declare war when we are fully aware what the challenges are to us. It is about respecting the United Nations and a multilateral approach, which is safer for our troops."
Pelosi joined 70 Democrats, Vermont Independent Sanders and Maryland Republican Morella in backing Barbara Lee's amendment, which spelled out explicit support for the principle that: "the United States should work through the United Nations to seek to resolve the matter of ensuring that Iraq is not developing weapons of mass destruction, through mechanisms such as the resumption of weapons inspections, negotiation, enquiry, mediation, regional arrangements, and other peaceful means." Lee's bill was co-sponsored by 18 Congressional Black Caucus members, former House Minority Whip David Bonior, D-Michigan, and Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Dennis Kucinich.
"It is fear which leads us to war," Kucinich told the House. "It is fear which leads us to believe that we must kill or be killed. Fear which leads us to attack those who have not attacked us. Fear which leads us to ring our nation in the very heavens with weapons of mass destruction."
Another fear – that of the Bush political team's determination to make Iraq an election issue for members who oppose the administration – was described by several members as a factor in the timing of the vote and the willingness of House leaders to concede so much of their authority to the president. Rangel went so far as to describe the whole debate as "a diversion that we have been forced to place on the front burner."
Intriguingly, for all the fears of some Democrats that a "no" vote might be politically risky, at least two of the Republicans who voted with the majority of Democrats in opposition to the resolution face difficult reelection fights this fall. Iowa's Leach and Maryland's Morella are among the most endangered Republican incumbents in the country – the former from a midwestern district with vast stretches of farmland, the latter from a Washington suburb. Yet, both broke with the administration to oppose what Leach described as a "resolution (that) misfits the times and the circumstances."
"As powerful a case for concern as the preparatory clauses of this resolution outline," explained Leach, "they do not justify authorization for war, particularly absent further Security Council and multinational support."
In the Senate, one Republican -- Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee -- voted against the resolution. He joined 21 Democrats and Vermont Independent Jim Jeffords in voting "no." The Senate foes were led by West Virginia's Robert Byrd and Massachusetts' Edward Kennedy, the chamber's senior Democratic members. They were joined by Armed Services Committee chair Carl Levin, D-Michigan; Intelligence Committee chair Bob Graham, D-Florida; and Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.
Among those voting for the resolution were prospective 2004 Democratic presidential candidates Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut; John Edwards, D-North Carolina; and John Kerry, D-Massachusetts.
Among senators seeking reelection this year, the only vulnerable incumbent to oppose the resolution was Minnesota's Paul Wellstone.
"A pre-emptive go-it-alone strategy towards Iraq is wrong. I oppose it," said Wellstone. "We should act forcefully, resolutely, sensibly with our allies, and not alone, to disarm Saddam. Authorizing the pre-emptive, go-it-alone use of force now, right in the midst of continuing efforts to enlist the world community to back a tough new disarmament resolution on Iraq, could be a costly mistake for our country."
Even though he is unlikely to succeed in preventing a Congressional grant of blank-check warmaking powers to the Bush administration, Senator Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, has done America the service of clarifying the issue at hand. Thanks to Byrd's fierce denunciations of an unnecessary resolution to promote an unnecessary war, members of Congress who side with the administration will not be able to plead ignorance to the charge that they abandoned their Constitutionally-mandated responsibilities in order to position themselves for the fall election.
Rarely in the history of the Senate has a member so bluntly identified the hypocrisy of the White House on a question of warmaking. But there was no partisan malice in Byrd's remarks. In a remarkable speech delivered as the Senate opened its debate on Bush's request for broad authority to use military force against Iraq, Byrd chastised his fellow Democrats for engaging in equally contemptible acts.
"The newly bellicose mood that permeates this White House is unfortunate, all the moreso because it is clearly motivated by campaign politics. Republicans are already running attack ads against Democrats on Iraq. Democrats favor fast approval of a resolution so they can change the subject to domestic economic problems," declared the senior Democratic senator. "Before risking the lives of American troops, all members of Congress -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- must overcome the siren song of political polls and focus strictly on the merits, not the politics, of this most serious issue."
With fury entirely appropriate to the moment, Byrd roared: "We are rushing into war without fully discussing why, without thoroughly considering the consequences, or without making any attempt to explore what steps we might take to avert conflict. The resolution before us today is not only a product of haste; it is also a product of presidential hubris. This resolution is breathtaking in its scope. It redefines the nature of defense, and reinterprets the Constitution to suit the will of the Executive Branch. It would give the President blanket authority to launch a unilateral preemptive attack on a sovereign nation that is perceived to be a threat to the United States. This is an unprecedented and unfounded interpretation of the President's authority under the Constitution, not to mention the fact that it stands the charter of the United Nations on its head."
Typically, Byrd was strongest when he asked today's politicians to square their actions against the historical imperatives and insights that he, above all other members of Congress, recognizes and understands. In a speech that began with reference to the Roman historian Titus Livius and closed with a detailed recreation of the Senate debate that preceded the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Byrd summoned the words of an Illinois congressman who in the 1840s chastised a proponent of expanded presidential warmaking powers:
"Representative Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to William H. Herndon, stated: ‘Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose - - and you allow him to make war at pleasure... The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.'"
The West Virginian asked the Senate: "If he could speak to us today, what would Lincoln say of the Bush doctrine concerning preemptive strikes?" No doubt, Lincoln would join millions of Americans in telling senators to listen to the wisdom of Robert Byrd.
When British Prime Minister Tony Blair presented his "dossier" on the threats that are supposedly posed to the world by Iraq, President Bush was delighted with what he heard from the man Europeans refer to as "Bush's poodle." "Prime Minister Blair, first of all, is a very strong leader, and I admire his willingness to tell the truth. Secondly he continues to make the case, like we make the case, that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace," the president said last week, after Blair went before the British Parliament to make the case for attacking Iraq.
Much of the American media echoed the president's child-like glee at the release of the long-awaited dossier. "Britain's Case: Iraqi Program to Amass Arms is ‘Up and Running," warned The New York Times. "UK Details Saddam's Thirst for Arms," boomed MSNBC. "Britain: Iraq ready to strike," announced the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "Blair spells out Iraq Threat," came the word from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
As far as the Bush administration and much of the American media was concerned, Blair's 55-page report completed the case for war with Iraq – ideally in concert with the United Nations, but unilaterally if necessary.
In Britain, where political leaders, reporters and citizens actually listened to Blair's speech to parliament – and then seriously analyzed its lack of content – the reaction was decidedly less enthusiastic.
"Saddam may be a risk to peace, but Mr. Blair has failed to make the case for war against Iraq," read the banner headline above an editorial in the Independent newspaper, where the editors concluded, "The real threat to Western security, as 11 September demonstrated, comes from individual acts of terror. A war on Iraq would create hundreds of thousands more volunteers for al-Qa'ida and similar groups. If we really want to make the world a safer place, we have to make the Middle East a safer place. That means a lasting peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. War on Iraq would only render that prospect still more distant."
"We said we wanted killer facts," read the editorial on Blair's speech in the mass-circulation Mirror newspaper. "Instead, these are marshmallow ones." The staid Financial Times added that Blair presentation contained no "compelling evidence" for action against Iraq. " This dossier is not serious," explained former Times of London editor Simon Jenkins, one of Britain's keener observers of politics and foreign affairs.
The British people seem to agree that Blair bumbled when it came to making the case for action. After Blair delivered his speech, a scientific survey of 1,000 Brits, conducted by the prestigious NOP Research Group, found that nearly 80 percent were still opposed to a U.S.-British attack on Iraq that lacked an explicit endorsement from the United Nations.
Asked to name the greatest threat to world peace at the moment, 43 percent of Brits surveyed said Saddam Hussein, but 37 percent said George W. Bush.
Twenty-two percent of those surveyed said they thought Bush was calling for action against Iraq because the U.S. president perceives Saddam as a serious threat to world peace; but 21 percent said Bush was promoting war against Iraq because he was interested in gaining control over that country's oil reserves.
A survey by the BBC of 202 local leaders within Blair's Labour party found that 167 of them were opposed to at attack by the U.S. and Britain on Iraq.
The dramatic size of Saturday's protest against Blair's allegiance to Bush provided physical evidence of the prime minister's failure to convince his constituents that Iraq poses a clear and present danger. A London march that The Independent described as the "biggest protest in a generation," drew 150,000 people, according to police. Noting that authorities routinely underestimate crowds at demonstrations, organizers with Britain's Stop the War Coalition, put the crowd size at closer to 350,000.
Whatever the precise number of demonstrators, the message was clear. "There has been no case made – based on anything other than speculation – that Iraq poses a threat," explained Scott Ritter, a former United Nations weapons inspection chief in Iraq, who flew to London to address the protest. "It's not about defense of British people or British interests; it's so that corrupt American politicians can get their hands on Iraqi oil," said London Mayor Ken Livingstone. Tam Dalyell, the senior member of Blair's Labour Party in parliament, argued that: "We are sleep walking to disaster."
Tony Benn, a former Labour Party Cabinet minister who Blair once hailed as a political hero, spoke for the crowd when he said: "We believe it would be wholly immoral and wrong and criminal to attack Iraq and inflict casualties upon innocent people."
The first 2002 election campaign in which George W. Bush's desire to attack Iraq became a major issue did not involve Republicans and Democrats. It was not even held in the United States. But it can still be said that Bush – and his proposed war--came out on the losing end of the contest.
German voters on Sunday gave a narrow, yet clear, mandate to the red-green coalition of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. The dramatic come-from-behind win for Schröder's Social Democratic Party (SPD) and its coalition partner, the Green Party, followed a campaign in which the chancellor promised to withhold German support for a US-led war against Iraq.
"Under my leadership, Germany will not participate in military action," declared Schröder, in a blunt statement that distinguished the chancellor from Edmund Stoiber, the standard bearer of the conservative Christian Democratic Union-Christian Social Union (CDU-CSU) alliance that sought to oust the four-year-old SPD-Green government.
"There's still a big danger of war, and that is a point where we really have a differing opinion," Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Schröder's Green Party ally, said of the governing coalition's differences with the Stoiber camp. "In no case should we escalate," Fischer said of Germany.
German election analysts said Schröder's outspoken and consistent stance regarding Iraq helped his party eliminate a nine-point deficit in the polls and pull ahead of the opposition in the closing days of the campaign. In Sunday's voting The SPD-Green coalition won more than 47 percent of the vote and a majority of seats in the German Bundestag, the lower house of parliament. (The SPD was winning 37.6 percent of the vote in late returns, while the Greens earned 8.6 percent--the strongest national election finish in the party's 22-year history. The Greens are generally viewed as pulling the coalition toward a more anti-war stance.)
Another four percent of the vote went to the left-wing Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), which took an even more militantly anti-war stance than Schröder's coalition. It appears that the PDS won several Bundestag seats in its east German strongholds, but is not expected to be a part of the coalition.
The likely coalition of Stoiber's CDU-CSU alliance and the smaller Free Democratic Party was taking 46 percent of the vote.
Stoiber saw his poll lead erode after he promised to leave open the option of using military force to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "We Europeans must co-ordinate our interests and bring them to bear with the United States," Stoiber said, while accusing Schröder of "poisoning" German's relations with the United States.
Stoiber's rhetoric was echoed--sometimes word-for-word--by Bush administration aides and allies, especially after German Justice Minister Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin allegedly suggested Bush was blowing threats from Iraq out of proportion in order to divert attention from domestic economic problems in the United States. "That's a popular method. Even Hitler did that," Daeubler-Gmelin supposedly told German trade unionists. She said the Hitler reference was a misquote, but the incident rocked the Schröder campaign in its final days.
The Bush administration and its Congressional allies, fearing a Schröder win, sent increasingly strong pro-Stoiber signals as the election approached. Two days before the election, US Sen. Jesse Helms, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said, "The German chancellor has damaged German relations with the United States in ways that cannot be easily repaired." National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, spoke of the suddenly "poisoned atmosphere" of US-German relations and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called off a planned meeting with the German defense minister.
Yet, Schröder stuck to his anti-war theme.
The chancellor closed his campaign in the city of Rostock, telling a cheering crowd of 5,000: "The Middle East and Iraq need a lot of new peace, but they don't need a new war." Refusing to bow to the pressure from Washington, Schröder said, "Fundamental issues of German policy will be decided in Berlin and nowhere else."
The chancellor's decision to make his differences with the Bush administration the focal point of his final pre-election message reinforced the view that he was running as much against the US president's military schemes as he was against Stoiber. Polls indicated that a wide majority of Germans opposed their German military involvement in a US-led war on Iraq.
Ironically, the Bush administration may have handed Schröder the issue that enabled the Chancellor to retain office. Like the US, Germany is experiencing a serious economic slowdown. Joachim Raschke, a politics professor at Hamburg University, said the debate over Iraq--along with Schröder's solid response to summer flooding of German cities--helped to eclipse a dialogue about economic issues that might have benefited Stoiber and the CDU-CSU.
This was not the turn-of-events the Bush administration anticipated last summer, when it began cranking up the war rhetoric. White House political advisor Karl Rove had signaled that he wanted to make national security a front-burner issue prior to this fall's US elections--since polls showed that a focus on domestic economic issues would harm Republican chances in the fight for control of the US House and Senate. But Rove and his Bush team apparently failed to calculate the prospect that a domestic political gambit could deal the Bush camp a serious foreign policy blow.
Among traditional US allies in Europe, Schröder has been the most outspoken critic of the military action against Iraq. But, on the same day that the German chancellor was winning a new term at least in part on the strength of his anti-war stance, a member of the British Cabinet was breaking ranks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair--Bush's staunchest European ally.
"We cannot have another Gulf war," declared British Secretary of State for International Development Clair Short, in a statement that illustrating the rise of anti-war sentiment within Blair's Labour Party. "We cannot have the people of Iraq suffering again. They have suffered too much. That would be wrong."
US Rep. Nick Rahall's policy pronouncements tend toward announcements about extending water and sewer service in southern West Virginia, or the erection of safety barriers on dangerous stretches of Interstate 64. So much of official Washington was caught by surprise when the West Virginia Democrat appeared before the Iraqi Assembly Sunday "as a member of Congress concerned with peace" and declared, "Basically, I want America and Iraq to give peace a chance."
"Instead of assuming that war must come, let us find ways to discover how to prove that war is unnecessary," Rahall told the Iraqis. "It is time and, in my opinion, far past time that American andIraqi officials talk to each other without threats."
Rahall's trip to Baghdad, which followed President Bush's saber-rattling address to the United Nations General Assembly, drew international attention to a congressman who has spent most of his quarter century on Capitol Hill securing funding for road projects and mine safety initiatives. Unlike Bush, however, Rahall is no newcomer to Middle East affairs.
The grandson and namesake of a Lebanese immigrant who in 1903 settled in Beckley, West Virginia, Rahall approaches debates over Middle East policy from a unique perspective in a Congress with only a handful of Arab-American members. Proud of his ethnicity, Rahall frequently quotes a line from Lebanese-American entertainer Danny Thomas: "He who denies his heritage has no heritage."
Rahall has been a frequent visitor to Lebanon, Israel and other Middle Eastern nations -- traveling as a member of Congressional delegations and on his own to his grandfather's hometown of Kfier, Lebanon. A graduate of Duke University who earned his political spurs as an aide to legendary West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, Rahall has quietly developed a level of expertise on Middle East issues that few members of Congress can rival.
Rahall has frequently parted company with the overwhelming majority of his colleagues on those issues. In 1993, for instance, the House considered a resolution declaring that "the Arab boycott of Israel is detrimental to the peace process in the Middle East and should be discontinued forthwith." It passed, by a margin of 425-1.
More recently, the West Virginia Democrat was one of 11 House members to oppose a December 2001, resolution expressing solidarity with Israel. In May, when the House voted on a resolution that praised Israel's fight against terrorism while placing blame for violence in the region on Palestinian leaders, Rahall cast one of just 21 "no" votes.
While Rahall's votes may look controversial to national observers, they have caused him little grief in West Virginia, where he is regularly reelected with little or no opposition. The congressman is known for maintaining good relations – and an open dialogue -- with both Arab-American and Jewish constituents. Additionally, Rahall's voting record on Middle East issues tends to parallel that of his old boss, Senator Byrd. And, like Byrd, he devotes so much time and energy to bringing infrastructure projects to southern West Virginia that foreign policy issues are rarely part of the homestate debate.
Rahall has won high marks even from those who disagree with him for his expertise and for his attention to humanitarian issues that are often lost in Middle East policy debates. A thoughtful critic of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's actions, Rahall voted in favor of the 1991 Congressional resolution supporting the Persian Gulf War. In the years since, however, he has been in the forefront of questioning the wisdom of US policies toward Iraq.
Rahall signed the letter, initiated by Representatives Tom Campbell (R-CA) and John Conyers (D-MI), that, for humanitarian reasons, called for the lifting of economic sanctions against Iraq. Last week, Rahall cited similar concerns, saying he has decided to travel to Baghdad to "help illuminate the plight of the Iraqi people."
"I'm not going as Secretary of State. I'm not going as a weapons inspector. I'm going as an individual who'd like to cool this rhetoric and act in a calm matter, and show the Iraqi people that the American people are not warmongers," he said on the eve of the trip to Iraq, which he took in the company of former South Dakota Senator James Abourezk. (Rahall and Abourezk made the trip as part of a delegation organized by the Institute for Public Accuracy.)
Rahall said he also was making the trip because of his doubts about whether the Bush administration has made a case for waging war against Iraq at this time.
"Why now, two months before an election? Why was the threat so serious now that it wasn't a year ago. I've seen certainly no link of Iraq to 9/11," Rahall said. "I just don't see a linkage there."
There was a huge outcry in France this summer over a move by allies of French President Jacques Chirac to narrow the character and quality of that country's political competition. Stung by recent shows of electoral strength by the nationalist right and the Green and Trotskyist left, France's political establishment is preparing to rewrite election rules in order to essentially assure that only traditional major parties of the center-right and center-left can prevail in elections for the domestic and European parliaments. Objections from across the political spectrum echo a similar theme: The changes proposed by the insiders in Paris would "Americanize" that country's politics.
Casual observers in the United States might object to the notion that there is something wrong with Americanizing the politics of France or any other country. But they should understand that the complaint is grounded in our own experience in the US. For all the frenzy and hype of the cable television commentators and the vast political industry that now operates inside the Washington beltway, our country's political processes have become so leaden and disengaged that they no longer are deemed worthy of attention by the majority of voters. Almost two-thirds of America's eligible voters (64 percent in 1994, 66 percent in 1998) no longer participate in Congressional elections, and the most hotly contested presidential election in a generation (the unsettling and unsettled 2000 contest between Democratic Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush) could barely draw half the electorate to the polls.
The range of opinion expressed at the upper levels of American political discourse have been narrowing for more than a decade, as marketing men and women have taken over the levels of power in both the Democratic and Republican parties. Even a misguided war and the threat of its expansion to dramatic new levels of folly, corporate scandals of epic economic consequence and the clear corruption of executive branch decision making musters little in the way of straight talk in a Congress where the calculation of campaign contributions takes precedence at every turn over Constitutional responsibilities and the public interest.
As bad as things may be in American politics, however, there are always those who would make things worse. And, in Georgia's recent Congressional primaries, they succeeded in doing just that. The defeats of US Representative Cynthia McKinney, perhaps the most radical member of the Democratic caucus, and of US Representative Bob Barr, perhaps the most radical member of the Republican caucus, in their respective party primaries will remove two of the few independent voices from a Congress that already suffers from a deficit of dissenters. As such, an already narrow national debate will, at least at the Congressional level, grow narrower still.
To be sure, both McKinney and Barr have been controversial figures. McKinney has been a fierce critic of the foreign and domestic policies of Democratic and Republican administrations since her election in 1992. Often echoing the Green Party's critique of the two major parties, she has not hesitated to accuse Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney of racial and ethnic insensitivity, and she has been one of the House's loudest critics of the "Israel First" approach of Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to Middle East affairs.
Like McKinney, Barr has since his election to Congress in the "Republican Revolution" election of 1994, been a thorn in the side of both parties. Though he is a more consistent partisan than McKinney, the intensity of his passions has frightened his own party's leadership in the House -- especially when he has refused to trim his sails to match the dictates of GOP pollsters.
McKinney and Barr have both stretched the limits of the political discourse -- the Democrat with her suggestions that the Bush administration might have failed to counter terrorist threats in order to pump up profits for corporations to which members of the administration and their families were closely tied; the Republican with a sex, lies and videotape assault on Bill Clinton's morals that continued long after even Ken Starr had recognized that the nation's Puritan ethic was on the wane.
Yet, the willingness of McKinney and Barr to stretch political limits often put them in exactly the right place. That was certainly the case last fall when, barely a month after the September 11terrorist attacks, they were part of the Congressional minority that refused to support the draconian USA PATRIOT ACT. Remember that it was Barr, a man whose civil rights credentials could hardly be called impressive, who sided with members of the Congressional Black Caucus such as McKinney and California's Maxine Waters to sound the alarm about the threat John Ashcroft's legislative agenda posed to civil liberties.
When McKinney and Barr pushed at the barriers of our politics -- even when they pushed too far -- they gave voice in Congress to the conversations that really go on in America. Freed of the stifling constraints of poll-driven centrism, they made a representative democracy more genuinely representative of all the opinions seriously in play in the land. As such, they both developed national constituencies -- in July, for instance, McKinney was the only Democratic politician invited to address the Green Party's national convention, and she continues to be boomed by some in that party as a potential 2004 presidential candidate. But, even as they "went national," McKinney and Barr won reelection easily and consistently in Georgia.
So what changed this year? In the case of both McKinney and Barr, they fell victim to the structural pressures exerted mainly from Washington by political strategists in both parties who struggle mightily to neuter our political process and the rich and rigorous national debates that should arise from it.
In McKinney's case, much has been made of the funding of his primary challenger, former Georgia State Court Judge Denise Majette, by pro-Israel campaign contributors. After McKinney's defeat, the candidate's father, a veteran civil rights activist and Georgia legislator, bluntly declared that his daughter's reelection had been thwarted by "J-E-W-S." But, as in the June Alabama Democratic primary that saw the defeat of U.S. representative Earl Hilliard, another critic of U.S. policies regarding Israel, the story of McKinney's defeat in a more complex and concerning one.
Majette took advantage of a corrupt campaign finance system that allows a candidate who is unable to garner support at the grassroots in her home district to collect money nationally. And a good deal of Majette's national money did indeed come from supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's hardline policies -- just as a portion of McKinney's money came from supporters of Palestinian rights. But Majette's fund raising success -- she dramatically out-raised McKinney as the election approached -- also benefited from the determination of Democratic Leadership Council types, good-old-boy southern conservatives such as U.S. Senator Zell Miller, D-Ga., and the business interests they represent to cleanse the Democratic party of outspoken critics of corporate abuses and free trade policies such as McKinney and Hilliard.
Majette, who like McKinney is an African-American woman, also took advantage of political processes designed by southern segregationist politicians to insure that all white voters could coalesce to defeat progressive candidates in Democratic primaries. Georgia law allows Republicans to vote in Democratic primaries, and they did so in droves in the McKinney-Majette race. While African-American Democrats turned out in tepid numbers, the Atlanta Journal Constitution noted that "a swarm of Republicans" took Democratic primary ballots. "The Republicans made a difference (in defeating McKinney)," explained the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the longtime Southern Christian Leadership Council leader who now heads the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, a civil rights group. "They provided the margin (for Majette), which is unethical." Lowery is right; had Georgia primary voting been limited to party members -- as is the case in most American states -- McKinney might well have won. That one of the House's most outspoken supporters of civil rights may have gone down to defeat because of a political system rigged decades ago to undermine African-American political advancement is less ironic than it is a measure of the poor job progressives in Georgia and nationally have done when it comes to eliminating the structural vestiges of segregationist politics. As in the disputed Florida presidential vote of 2000, the old segregationist laws are consistently turned to the advantage of corporate and conservative interests that have mastered their use and abuse. To their credit, Lowery and other civil rights activists in Georgia are advancing legislation to limit so-called crossover voting. But their uphill battle will only succeed if they renew the grassroots political energy that put McKinney in Congress a decade ago but failed her reelection effort this year.
Interestingly, Barr claims that he was defeated in his Republican primary because Democrats crossed over to defeat him. In Barr's case, however, his defeat was predictable from the start. He was a victim of the most corrupt of all political games in America: Congressional redistricting. Every ten years, after the new Census figures are released, state politicians redraw Congressional district lines to gain partisan advantage. It is a process into which political players at the federal and state levels pour tens of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours of strategic plotting. And it is where political parties in both parties eliminate dissenting voices. That was the case with Barr, whose district was drawn out of existence. When he sought to follow a portion of his voters into a new district, Barr found himself out positioned on turf designed to favor a more mainstream conservative Republican, Representative John Linder. Even if Barr was the more dynamic contender, Linder ran with the implicit blessing of a party establishment that was frustrated by its inability to control an often renegade Republican. "Linder is an inside politician. Barr is an outside politician," explained Merle Black, the Emory University political scientist who is one of the wisest commentators on southern politics. And nothing does more to assure the victories of insiders over outsiders than redistricting schemes hatched behind closed doors by party insiders.
Combine redistricting with free-flowing campaigning money and political structures designed to be abused and you have a recipe for the triumph of the connected over the controversial.
In the Georgia primaries that defeated Barr and McKinney, Republican and Democratic insiders took full advantage of political structures and processes designed to favor their interests, and their ousted two of the House' few dissenters. In so doing, they made the Congress a little less representative of the real debates that are going on in the land, and continued the ugly "Americanization" of American politics.