The following piece is part of the Huffington Post's OffTheBus project.
Senator Claire McCaskill, elected in the Congressional landslide takeover by Dems in 2006, campaigned on ending the Iraq War. Like most Dems, ending the Iraq quagmire was central to her election. While major campaign giants such as Bono of U2 fame and Madonna were encouraging voters en masse election day all over the country; Claire received help from none other than Bill Clinton himself. During a single day fund raising marathon, Bill raised a million dollars for Claire. After becoming the beneficiary of Bill Clinton's leviathan electioneering ability; she became Missouri's first female US Senator.
Fast forward one year later; Senator McCaskill has crawled into bed with DLC types on a number of issues, including the continued assault on our civil liberties, the quagmire of Iraq, and subsequent profiteering by private contractors.
SInce taking office in 2006, she has voted for every appropriations funding bill for the Iraq conflict. When asked about an immediate withdrawal from this quagmire she feeds the public the 'company line.' Just a few months after her election, (and coinciding with the annual anniversary of the occupation; she was questioned on her voting record regarding continued funding. Constituents wanted to know why she voted against defunding the war. Claire told the group that..."she is not willing to make that commitment, in part because she believes the administration will simply use money from elsewhere in the budget to fund the war if the supplemental is not approved." (Source: The Occupation Project in St. Louis, online newsletter).
Consequently, many constituents from a variety of political backgrounds are angry. Local peace groups such as St. Louis Instead of War Coalition have sponsored several protest events against the Iraq war, including the 'Occupation Project,' where the peace group members occupied the Senator's offices until directed to leave. The Senator's record on this type of interaction has wavered between indifferent boredom to open hostility, depending on the politics (and the residential zip code) of the constituent group.
Near the anniversary of the war's beginning protesters from the peace group Atonement Affinity Group attempted to speak with local staffers in Claire's downtown federal building offices. They arrived at the federal building only to be told that the office was locked up for the day and no one was available. Unbeknownst to the senator's aides, two members of the same citizens group had made their way to Claire's diggs minutes earlier, only to find an office open for business with staffers ready to go. When questioned further, security claimed they were merely following orders despite any inconsistencies. (The normal procedure for this federal building is to pass through the metal detector and proceed to your business without any further inquiry into their destination). After the DC office confirmed that the St. Louis federal office was indeed open and fully staffed, the group attempted to re-enter the building. Once again, security denied them access claiming they were not to be allowed entry to the building. Security officers refused to call the DC office to confirm that staffers were present in the Senator's office and demanded the group leave. Ultimately, two members of the group, Suzanne Renard and Jean Durel, were forcibly detained for 45 minutes and issued $125 citations for "failure to comply with the directions of a federal police officer." (Source: The Occupation Project in Saint Louis online newsletter, 02/22/07).
Keep in mind that just one year earlier Claire was openly 'courting' these same peace groups and was subsequently quoted during a Meet The Press televised debate making the following case for immediate cessation and pullout of troops in Iraq. "Iraq is a mess. We can either stay the course or we can change course. Obviously, even the leader of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Warner, probably the most respected Republican on the Iraq War in Washington, has now come back from Iraq and said, "You know what? This is a mess and we need to re-examine what we're doing here." She continues her statement almost acccusing this administration of war profiteering. "This is Truman's seat. When he was in the Senate during the war, he asked questions about war profiteering and he was called brave...We're creating more terrorists around the world with this failed policy in Iraq." (Source: 2006 MO Senate Debate on NBC Meet The Press Oct. 8, 2006).
She went on to state the need for a definite plan regarding Iraq with a clear exit strategy on her campaign website. "I am deeply concerned that this administration doesn't seem to have a plan for success in Iraq. President Bush said it might be up to other 'Presidents' to deal with Iraq, which makes me believe he thinks we could be there another ten years." ANOTHER TEN YEARS. Claire appears to worry about this and makes a tentative promise. "I will push the administration to be more honest with the American people and demand a clear exit strategy." After declaring the need for a clear exit strategy; she prefaces the action with the following additional mandate in the same statement. "The sooner we train Iraqi troops to defend their nation's security, the sooner we can bring home our young men and women." (Source: Campaign website, www.ClaireOnline.com, "Issues" May 2, 2006). Now we see an evolution to this senator's clever use of dialogue. Mastering the conditional promise, (the promise of climax without ever doing the deed), Claire manages to link any exit strategy in Iraq to the training of Iraqi troops capable of conducting their own nation's defense AS A CONDITION for that exit strategy.
This semantic game resembles the old 'triangulation' strategy so beloved by the Clintons. This is not the only time the senator 'triangulates' her 180 degree policy shifts, as she morphs into the spitting image of a DLC neocon. Her increasing 'hawkishness' extends beyond the Iraq conflict and into some constitutional rights issues. An example of her voting record provides background evidence for this claim.
Senator McCaskill cast a YES vote to pass the ironically named 'Protect America Act.' In a recent e-mail response to this writer dater 09/26/07, the senator explained her rationale for signing the bill into law. "On August 1, 2007, I was faced with a stark reality: the Director of National Intelligence sent a letter warning the Senate of the heightened threat of international terrorism, and urging us to modernize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) before the August recess to insure that we do not have critical gaps in our ability to provide warnings of threats to the country. The call to quickly revise FISA in order to reflect developments in telecommunications technology was echoed by four Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. I chose to heed these urgent warnings." Were these the warnings we saw on television as Secretary Chertoff explained that he had a 'bad feeling' about sudden terrorism surges? Is the senator advocating the continual abandonment of constitutional protections based on the sudden 'bad feelings' or 'superstitious thoughts' of an appointed official?
The senator further stated that..."this legislation is a temporary fix to provide our intelligence community with the most immediate tools needed to protect our country," adding that it will be in effect for only six months, and ..."it cannot be renewed before it is thoroughly reviewed and authorized by Congress." The same Congress that relinquished our rights to a presidential dictator with a brain the size of a pea, wants our trust that they will fix the problem. A vision of Congress comes to mind, wherein most members are used car dealers grinning like Chesire Cats saying...trust me.
In conclusion, the senator claims that Congress will have..."six months to create a more acceptable permanent intelligence collection process that allows us to effectively monitor terrorist communications overseas while also protecting the privacy of law-abiding American citizens." Again, notice the semantic use of the 'conditional promise..."protecting law-abiding American citizens." Here we see the infamous triangulation. Law abiding citizens will be protected, yet in this political climate of the Imperial Presidency--previously constitutionally protected political dissent, is now illegal. Since the rape of the Bill of Rights by the passage of everything from Patriot to this temporary fix--hysterically given the misnomer, The Protect America Act; anyone who disagrees with the Congress and/or the presidential dictator 'de jour', is now potentially a criminal. None of us would warrant the very protection the Senator heralds.
She makes the final claim to..."be one of the Senators working hard to re-establish the constitutional protections that have been eroded by the President and this temporary FISA legislation." Which constitutional protections wil they work hard to restore? Can we believe this dominatrix of the double entendre, the overly broad vague statement? Can this abandonment of the constitution be so easily reclaimed? Are there hidden hooks in this legislation? What exactly, has the Congress given away in this legislative Rube Goldberg device?
According to the group, 'Progressive Patriots,' this law..."replaces judicial warrants with executive prerogative and substitutes blank checks for reasons." (Source: www.progressivepatriots.com/senate/senMcCaskillMO.html). This action gives the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence the authority to monitor e-mails, web surfing, phone calls and other unnamed electronic communications without a warrant, in direct violation of the 4th amendment to the US Constitution. No supervision of these spy programs is provided in this action except by choice of the two main actors--the US Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence. No agency, legislature or court has the power to deny access to these two unelected officials, only the President. The law goes further with one particularly heinous provision. The AG or the DNI can order any citizen to spy on another citizen--even a close family member or spouse. If you refuse the order of the AG or the DNI, they can throw you into prison for an undetermined time. Stalin would be proud.
Another instance where the senator favored the 'security state of a growing Presidential dictatorship over a return to Constitutional rule was witnessed when S.576 was introduced into Congress. S.576 is a bill which originated in the senate, intended to repeal many of the most onerous features of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
Upon passage this bill would restore habeas corpus, narrow the definition of the MCA term 'unlawful combatant' to individuals who directly participate in actual attacks against the US, prohibit the use of torture, and reinvoke the ethical codes of the Geneva Conventions. In essence, S.576 would restore constitutional rule and ethical conduct to the government of the United States.
Unfortunately, the senator did not see the urgency of this bill. If she cannot see value in habeas corpus, how can we trust her on the restoration of previous FISA protections? Failing to recognize the need to restore constitutional standards and humanity to our country, she needs to review her oath of office, in addition to her conscience.
In 2007, two bills were offered in Congress which provided for a withdrawal of troops and funds from the Iraq occupation. One bill S448, The Iraq Redeployment Act of 2007, would end the war within six months of passage. S.448 forbids any spending on military personnel or equipment in Iraq, with few exceptions. The remaining allowable items include training of Iraqi police and soldiers, providing security for the American Embassy, and engaging in targeted counter-terrorism raids. Six months after passage of the Iraq Redeployment Act, almost all American military forces would have to leave Iraq. The occupation would end.
Alternately, S.433, The Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007 had set May 1,2007 as the beginning date for American redeployment from Iraq and March 31, 2008 as the ending date, marking the "complete redeployment of all United States combat brigades from Iraq," unless 13 conditions have been met by the Iraqi government.
Though the two bills approach the withdrawal process from different routes; they both offer reasonable options. Where is Senator McCaskill in all this? On the sidelines, failing to support either bill. Perhaps she mistakes politics for a spectator sport. (Coincidentally, Hillary in an appearance on Face the Nation, said that she will continue to push to deny funding to Iraq WITH THE EXCEPTION of maintenance funding to protect civilian workers, diplomats, etc.) Aren't the employees of Halliburton, civilians? That being the case; Hillary's plan looks like a continuation of present policy, with our loved ones serving in the military being used as private security for corporate interests. (Senator Clinton also voted YES on the Protect America Act). The two senators' positions are almost identical--you would think they're twins.
In all fairness, the senator did vote to close down Guantanamo. She is a strong proponent of the SCHIPS insurance program for children of lower income families. Frankly, it's her blatant willingness to side with whichever group appears to be 'winning,' that gripes my soul.
The senator's record of growing hawkishness reflects the political greed and arrogance of our age. For the short tenure of her office, she has managed to undergo a metamorphosis which even shocks this cynic. In the span of 22 months, Claire has gone from enthusiastic cheerleader for constitutional rule to that is insidious insider willfully believing every delusional fairy tale this administration concocts. From 'show-me state' demands of accountability (after practically channeling the spirit of Harry Truman), to blind belief in Secretary Chertoff's 'bad feelings' ; McCaskill appears to trade in beltway commonsense for the trimmings of loyalist aristocratic assurances--that the thieves will return the goods when they are finished playing.
In any case the hawkishness of Senator McCaskill paired with the newfound triangulation skills, (second only to the Clintons); presents the maintenance of the status quo. The country deserves better. Our loved ones serving with honor in the military deserve better. If Congress acts as a barometer of presidential politics, then Claire's voting record moving in lockstep with the DLC and her friends the Clintons---speaks volumes. These politicians use the doublespeak quick-step to defraud the public and hide the truth. They speak to ending the quagmire, while making sure we don't 'cut and run.' They speak to restoring the Bill of Rights and constitutional rule, while maintaining a semantic smokescreen, so we blindly accept largesse instead of demanding our rights. We are in a deep hole, only leading to further slavery and darkness. In ending I will borrow a quote from the good Senator; "As a daughter of rural Missouri, we have a saying, "If you're in a hole, you need to quit digging." Senator, I couldn't agree more.
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