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Contrasting Iraq Politics In the Rocky Mountain West (updated)

07/19/2007 10:11 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

With Senate Republicans yesterday successfully filibustering Democrats plans -- and the vast majority of the American public's desire -- to end the war, it's instructive to take a glance around the West's political landscape to see how different political leaders are taking on the issue, considering this data that shows this region has been particularly skeptical of the war and is bearing a huge burden from it.

New West's Joan McCarter notes that according to a study just released by the Carsey Institute, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana are among the top 10 states with the highest death rates from the war. That follows a groundbreaking poll from the Center for Rural Strategies that debunks Washington consultants' claim that being pro-Iraq War is a good way to attract conservative rural voters. The antithesis to this war goes back all the way to the beginning of it, even in places like Colorado that have strong military presences. Just this weekend, the Denver Post reminded us that polls in 2003 showed that "Coloradans were more skeptical of the Iraq war than most Americans from the outset."

So how are some key Democratic lawmakers doing about the war? It's a complicated question because they are all over the map.

Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar (D) has been the most visible in the news, as he has come down with a severe case of autoshadowphobia -- the fear of one's own shadow. He proposed a sham bill to supposedly implement the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group - but he wrote the bill to be deliberately toothless. Not surprisingly, Republicans have flocked to it as a way to provide themselves political cover for not supporting stronger legislation to actually end the war. Even the Grand Junction Sentinel's editorial board, which claims those who want to end the war as being for "defeat," smacked Salazar for trying to "hide behind empty policy recommendations." Similarly, the Denver Post noted that Iraq War vet John Soltz, head of VoteVets.org, said Salazar's move put his political career above "the lives of American soldiers" and said the legislation was "a fake amendment" aimed at "political cover," nothing more. Oh, and just in case you believed Salazar's rhetoric that he really does want to end the war, take a gander at Fox 31's report today where Salazar refuses to say "whether he would have supported the troop-withdrawal amendment sponsored by Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island."

Contrast Salazar's autoshadowphobia with the behavior of the Rocky Mountain region's freshman Democratic lawmakers. There's my buddy Jon Tester, the senator from Montana -- a state far more Republican than Colorado, and with its own significant military presence. This month, he has been leading the drumbeat to end the war, first delivering a scathing speech at the state capitol in Helena and is now leading an effort to stop war profiteering. Unlike Salazar hiding in a corner, Tester told reporters that Reid-Levin is "a step in the right direction."

Then there's freshman Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO). He's not only voted to end the war, but has joined Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) in authoring a bill to "withdraw National Guard troops and their equipment from Iraq within 90 days of its being enacted," according to the Denver Post. The bill was a legislative response to the Colorado National Guard's admission that it is facing a "long-standing equipment shortage" - shortages that are region-wide out here, and potentially threaten the region's ability to respond to natural disasters like forest fires.

Salazar seems to be operating under the Washington Beltway's old, outdated and out-of-touch model that equates support for the Iraq War with being "strong" -- and prioritizes accolades for ignoring the public from people like David Broder over the demands of the vast majority of Americans that Members of Congress are supposed to represent. He looks particularly silly and particularly afflicted with autoshadowphobia (and Potomac Fever) not only because his local media is exposing his moves as cheap ploys, but because folks like Tester and Perlmutter show what real political courage and leadership looks like. And as this debate continues and more votes come up, that contrast will only be more vivid.

Cross-posted at Working Assets

UPDATE: Here's a shocker - Time Magazine power-worshiper-in-chief Joe Klein says he cannot understand why Democrats aren't supporting Ken Salazar's toothless nothingness designed only to provide cover to career politicians who don't want to deal with the Iraq issue in a serious way. Along with Klein's typically self-indulgent name dropping ("I received a call from Mario Cuomo the other day"), the Time columnist distorts the basic facts, claiming Salazar's resolution includes "the provision that U.S. combat forces be pulled from Iraq by March 2008." It may include language saying that's a nice goal, but, as the Washington Post and every other news organization has reported, the bill "does not include specific terms for a withdrawal of U.S. forces." Then again, this is the same Joe Klein who took to national TV to advocate for the U.S. invasion back in 2002, and then when the war became wildly unpopular pretended as if he never actually did that, and worse, tried to retroactively bill himself as one of America's greatest and most courageous leaders voicing outrage at the invasion when it was originally initiated happened. He's also the guy who deliberately changed around chronologies to fabricate a story that never happened. So I guess we shouldn't be surprised that he's once again butchering the facts in order to smooch the rear end of power and Beltway conventional wisdom - a rear end he's made a career out of kissing.