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Do You Want A Safer America? Elect Democrats In November

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The front page of Friday's Wall Street Journal had an exhaustive and thoughtful piece on the erosion of the Republican Party's traditional electoral advantage when it comes to issues of national security. Polling shows people think Democrats would deal more competently with Iraq and would, overall, handle foreign affairs significantly better than Bush and his rubber stamp Congress. "Most simply put, time has worn the public's patience on Iraq-- and with it the Republicans' edge on security issues. With Democrats noting that the war soon will exceed the length of U.S. involvement in World War II, and with Iraq on the verge of sectarian civil war, the unpopularity of the war has become the year's central issue. Not since March 2004 has a Journal/NBC poll shown that a majority believed the Iraq invasion was worth the cost and casualties. Now polls consistently show a majority thinking the war was a mistake. Majorities favor troop reductions, though not immediate withdrawal. Two-thirds of Americans disapprove of Mr. Bush's handling of foreign policy, and of Iraq specifically."

Tomorrow, Democrats in Florida go to the polls to pick their candidates to fight Republican incumbents in November. In all the districts viewed as "in play," with the exception of FL-13, Rahm Emanuel has managed to clear the field of progressives and anti-war candidates in favor of his own favored corporate-oriented shills and party hacks. But Emanuel missed one obscure, under the radar district, FL-05, currently held by batty rubber stamp clown, Ginny Brown-Waite. FL-05 offers an opportunity to voters interested in pragmatic solutions from a progressive perspective. If you haven't run across Rick Penberthy yet, I want to introduce you to him.

All last week I have been posting a series at about why America would be safer and more secure with a Democratic-led Congress. An outstanding panel of progressive candidates-- Eric Massa, Congressman Sherrod Brown, Dr. Victoria Wulsin, Jay Fawcett, Coleen Rowley, Chris Carney, and John Laesch have explained where the Bush Regime has fallen short-- and how Democrats will do better-- on various aspects of national security, from bioterrorism, to intelligence issues, to port security and the Iraq quagmire. Today I posted the final chapter in the series, a piece on the National Guard and Reserve by the military veteran and school teacher, Rick Penberthy, who is running to turn Florida's 5th congressional district back to blue. Endorsed by all the major newspapers in the district as well as by organized labor, DfA and the Band of Brothers, a big win tomorrow will help focus national attention on this unglamorous, salt-of-the-earth "political backwater."

Rick explains how the unexpected reliance on the Guard and Reserve in Iraq not only raises serious concerns about the Guard's long-term ability to recruit and maintain troops but also causes concerns for states that rely on the Guard in case of natural disasters. And for the members themselves, Guard service has often been truly disastrous. For many it's meant economic ruin. "Their civilian jobs and salaries are disrupted but their mortgage payments, car payments, and credit card debt continue to pile up," Rick explained. "This puts their families at home in a terrible financial situation where bankruptcy is often the only way out... Increasing numbers of Guard and Reserve troops who have returned from war in Iraq and Afghanistan are encountering new battles with their employers at home. Jobs were eliminated, benefits reduced, and promotions forgotten."

Meanwhile Bush's rubber stamp Republicans disingenuously chant mantras about "supporting our troops," accusing the Democrats of abandoning them, while the GOP votes against legislation to ease their burdens. Almost 1 in 5 activated Reservists have no medical insurance but when Democrats introduced a bill expanding military health care to provide access for most members of the Reserves, Guard and their families for a low fee, the GOP leadership beat it back, 211 to 218. Similarly, last year HR 2528 was meant to provide an additional $30 million for veterans' health care that would have added funding for combat-related trauma care to support wounded troops once they return to their homes, medical and prosthetic research, and 100 additional staff to help process claims and pensions benefits. Bush's rubber stamp fake-patriots managed to kill that one 214 to 213.

Any one of the National Security Democrats on my panel would have provided that one vote to help. All of them have a point of view on how, specifically, the Bush Regime has fallen flat... and how a Democratic-led Congress will start righting those wrongs. Jay Fawcett, a graduate of the Air Force Academy who served for twenty years and is now running for Congress in James Dobson's home district and against James Dobson's handpicked extremist candidate, is an analytic, rigorous, outside-the-box thinker. His evaluation of the military situation in Iraq and Afghanistan goes far beyond the Republican talking points of "stay the course" and "cut and run." Jay has a detailed set of solutions that goes as far as initiating bi-partisan investigations into war profiteering and accountability of all funds being spent on the war as well as to and his most crucial point: "Without clear goals and objectives and a defined end state, there can be no timetable for withdrawal. This is the crucial point that the current debate misses. Under the existing guidelines we could remove our troops now or in forty years.

Similarly, Chris Carney, who worked in Intelligence in the Pentagon during the run-up to the attack on Iraq-- and even briefed key players like Rumsfeld, Feith and Wolfowitz-- understands the dangers inherent in putting weak, insecure, conflicted men in charge of national security. Sending in the troops shouldn't be a first resort. Cooperation with moderate and positive elements in the Middle East should be. And maintaining healthy intelligence resources, and using them properly, is crucial. "We need to redouble our efforts in developing robust human intelligence capabilities. We need to know what the terrorists are planning, thinking, and talking about. Just like fixing Washington, fixing our intelligence community is about finding the right people with the right skills and the right priorities. We need people who have lived in the Middle East, on the Korean Peninsula, and in Pakistan and Afghanistan-- people who speak the languages and who understand the cultures and religions where terror is being bred."

Another national security Democrat with plenty of first hand understanding of the intelligence process is former much-celebrated FBI agent Coleen Rowley. She has written at great length of the misuse and abuse of intelligence to further partisan and ideological agendas that actually threaten our national security. "Republican officials, as well as unofficial Republicans like Joe Lieberman, are cravenly exploiting the recent terrorist takedown and the all-powerful fear factor to manipulate public opinion for political advantage. But their 'reminders,' as they refer to them, are not necessary. There is no question about the magnitude of the threat but that threat is most effectively minimized by smart, solid investigative work, not fear-mongering, 'security theater,' or projection of toughness."

As Special Assistant to General Wes Clark when he was Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, Eric Massa has had a lot more first-hand experience in national security than boobs like Bush or Cheney will ever approach. Like Coleen, he is very concerned how "the misguided and misrepresented war in Iraq is sapping our military strength at an unprecedented rate. Both manpower and materiel are suffering across every branch of the service. The cost to replace critical equipment has already reached $50 billion-- for the Army alone-- and the tab is growing larger every day. The US Air Force is literally burning out its aircraft flying extended logistics and combat missions that were never anticipated in the pre-war planning. New aircraft are too expensive, and the latest generation fighters will not be available in time to bridge the widening gap. The Navy... is now reduced to its smallest size since well before the time when my father enlisted, back in the World War II era. Available ships are enduring double and triple deployments in hotspots around the world, with some on continuous duty in the Persian Gulf. Even regular crew rotations cannot change the simple truth: the equipment is wearing out and the people are wearing thin."

John Laesch is another Fighting Dem with hands-on Intelligence experience. He is currently running for Congress-- taking on one of the GOP mob bosses pulling all the congressional Culture of Corruption strings inside the Beltway, Speaker of the House Denny Hastert. Laesch examined a broad swath of Bush regime failures in national security policy, including how disastrously his regime has fallen down on protecting America's borders. "Democratic military members of Congress will insist on secure borders. The increased number of undocumented workers crossing our southern border is proof that we have left our back door open. During the Clinton presidency, the number of apprehensions at our southern border steadily increased to almost 2 million apprehensions per year by the year 2000. After Bush took over, we saw a drastic decrease in the number of apprehensions per year; by 2001 when terrorists struck the twin towers the Republicans had managed to let an additional 800,000 people slip through our borders. The effort to sell ports off to private, foreign corporations is further proof that Republicans just don't give a damn about America's economy or security."

The only actual member of Congress I asked to participate in the series was Sherrod Brown, currently running for the U.S. Senate against worthless rubber stamp nest-featherer Mike DeWine, a man with the distinction of having voted against his constituents' interests at every single opportunity since being elected. Sherrod was able to talk about not just what a Democratic-led Senate will do to make sure national security goes beyond Republican sloganeering, but filled us in on what he has already been doing, specifically in the area of making sure trade agreements do not gut national security demands to satisfy crony-capitalism's bottom line profiteering.

After BushCheney tried to sneak through the sale of U.S. port operations to a shady Arab company with financial ties to Bush's family and cronies, public attention was focused, if only briefly, on how Bush has always been willing to sell out U.S. security interests for some quick bucks for the people who were able to bring him to power. Sherrod's focus, on the other hand, has been anything but brief. He is widely considered to be the most knowledgeable person in the entire U.S. Congress when it comes to trade agreements and he has demonstrated time and again that they "are an integral part of national security and efforts to combat terrorism. We must revamp U.S. trade policy to meet our homeland security demands to better secure our borders and protect our communities. Trade agreements lower tariffs and open markets. But they also open our ports, our infrastructure, and our transportation lines. When we open our borders, the American people must know that we have done everything possible to protect them. For example, less than 5 percent of foreign ship cargo is inspected before entering the U.S. A trade agreement with the UAE or any other nation would dramatically increase these shipments. We must take the responsible course on national security and ensure that while opening markets our first priority remains the safety and security of the American people."

It's not such a bad idea to replace a few grubby, nefarious politicians with real experts in some of the most crucial issues with which Congress is going to have to grapple. And few members of Congress are either as grubby or nefarious as Mean Jean Schmidt in southwestern Ohio's second congressional district. Nor are many challengers as expert as Doctor Victoria Wulsin, an internationally recognized public health administration expert. Yes, she can help Congress fix outrageous national healthcare policies dictated by Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big HMO and Bill Frist's billionaire profiteering family. But that isn't what I asked her to discuss for our national security series. Dr. Wulsin explained how the Bush Regime has failed to take bioterrorism seriously and what needs to be done about it, step by step. She is a remarkable woman and if she can get her message out to voters properly, OH-02 could be represented by a brilliant, highly experienced professional instead of by a nutcase who thinks national security means getting her close friend Ann Coulter to cast evil eyes on people the two of them dislike. With Dr. Wulsin, like with all of our panel members, a lot comes down to the ability of being able to have their messages penetrate through the mass media barrage dominated by nearly insurmountable Republican campaign contributions-- legalized bribes-- from the Big Business interests which have prospered under Bush's reactionary regime and predatory policies. If you want to see the antidote, please look here. It's an antidote you can partake in. Today, the day Campaign 2006 officially gets started is as good a day as any.