"I am steadfastly opposed to this war, and I have been since the beginning. We need to start putting our own people first once again and bring our troops home - the sooner the better."
What member of Congress said that last week during the debate on the Hill? Hillary Clinton? Howard Berman? Joe Lieberman?
Guess again. It was one of the most Conservative Republicans in Congress, a Tennesseean named John Duncan, of whom no one on either coast has likely ever heard. His father was a member of Congress for much of my life as I grew up in East Tennessee. The son came into office and skewed even more to the "right," careful to take care of his constituents and to focus on issues about which he cares, regardless of their popularity.
The headline in last Friday's Knoxville News Sentinel shocked me: "Duncan: War is a Partisan Decision." I read on and thought surely he would say that the Democrats were grandstanding by calling for an end to the fighting. I thought he'd say that we had to defend America by losing lives and friends in a far-off land all for the sake of oil and ideology. But he did not. Mr. Duncan reminds us that when President Clinton called for bombing of Milosevic's Yugoslavia, "80% of the Republicans would have opposed the war." Duncan was among those in opposition.
But Mr. Duncan believes that foreign adventures of the sort we have seen in Iraq do not serve our nation. He was one of three Republicans to vote against his own party and his own President in the latter's absurd attempt to force Democrats to appear to be less than patriotic.
If John Duncan, whose district includes the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Valley Authority and parts of the Oak Ridge research and weapons production complex, all of which rely on federal government grants and contracts, can stand up to President Bush, why can't our own 'leaders' do so? Howard Berman, a member of Congress from Los Angeles voted with the President, against the truth. And while Mr. Duncan was standing up for his conscience, Senator Clinton was announcing that she was not for setting a date certain to leave but also not for staying indefinitely. Color me lost. How can someone who aspires to the Presidency, who was virtually co-President, who touts her knowledge of American security and foreign policy, find herself unable to speak as clearly and as forcefully as a member of Congress from Knoxville of whom no one in the drawing rooms has ever heard?
If we dig a bit, I'm sure we'd find some philosophical underpinnings of Mr. Duncan's opposition to the war a bit unsettling. But then again, I'll bet we'd find he has a philosophy.
We at the Courage Campaignare conducting a poll to find out exactly why Francine Busby lost. I like Francine, but she never came out forcefully against the war. Her advisors said it would not play in a conservative district like north San Diego, where her predecessor is in jail for bribery by profiteering defense contractors
Well, I spent a few days back home in East Tennessee last week and I'm willing to bet that it ranks at least as conservative as the Busby district. And there stands a Republican who says, "Bring the troops home." And he keeps on winning. Can we learn the lesson of courage of convictions in time for November? I hope so, but if not, maybe we should listen to Mr. Duncan. At least he's saying something that we can all understand.