The following letter was sent yesterday to the Democratic National Committee. As I noted yesterday, a key effect of Woodhouse's attack on Steele is the chilling of Republican dissent on the Afghanistan war - Republican dissent that war critics need in order to end it; and the letter attempts to counteract that effect and to pressure the DNC to not engage in this sort of attack on war critics in the future.
Brad Woodhouse, Communications Director, Democratic National Committee
Tim Kaine, National Chair, Democratic National Committee
Mike Honda, Vice Chair, Democratic National Committee
Linda Chavez-Thompson, Vice Chair, Democratic National Committee
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Vice Chair, Democratic National Committee
Donna Brazile, Vice Chair, Democratic National Committee
Raymond Buckley, Vice Chair, Democratic National Committee
430 South Capitol Street SE
Washington, D.C., 20003
Dear Mr. Woodhouse and Governor Kaine,
As Americans working to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan, we write to express our deep disappointment and concern at the recent attack by Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse on Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele in response to Mr. Steele's criticism of the war in Afghanistan.
We have three concerns.
First, in supporting the war in Afghanistan, and portraying this as a Democratic position, Mr. Woodhouse was not representing the majority of Democrats in the United States, who oppose the war. Two-thirds of Democrats think the war is not worth the cost, the Washington Post reported in June. Shortly before Mr. Woodhouse made his statement attacking Mr. Steele, three-fifths of the Democrats in the House, including Speaker Pelosi, Representative Honda, and Representative Wasserman Schultz, voted for an amendment introduced by Representative Jim McGovern, Representative David Obey, and Representative Walter Jones that would have required President Obama to establish a timetable for U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Second, in his attack on Mr. Steele, Mr. Woodhouse seemed to be encouraging Republicans to enforce "party discipline" on Mr. Steele to support the war in Afghanistan: "The likes of John McCain and Lindsey Graham will be interested to hear that the Republican Party position is that we should walk away from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban without finishing the job." Regardless of Mr. Woodhouse's intent, his attack has had this effect. Enforcing Republican party discipline on Republicans to support the war in Afghanistan is not in the interest of the majority of Democrats who want to end the war; quite the contrary. If a third, instead of 5%, of the Republicans in the House had supported the McGovern-Obey-Jones amendment, reflecting the third of Republicans in the country at large who do not support the war, the McGovern-Obey-Jones amendment would have passed. As a private citizen, Mr. Woodhouse is entitled to his views, as the rest of us are. But as a spokesman of the Democratic National Committee, he is not entitled to take actions that run counter to the interests of the overwhelming majority of Democrats, if the DNC wishes to be perceived as institution that represents Democrats and is entitled to their support.
Third, in attacking Mr. Steele as "not supporting our troops" because of his criticism of the war - Mr. Woodhouse said that Mr. Steele was "betting against our troops and rooting for failure in Afghanistan" - Mr. Woodhouse engaged in a tactic that Democrats have justly and bitterly complained about when Republicans used it against them. Indeed, when he was president of Americans United for Change, which pushed for "a safe and responsible end to the war in Iraq," Mr. Woodhouse was ostensibly on our side of this dispute. By engaging in this sort of attack, Mr. Woodhouse helps to foster a climate in which critics of this war or any other can be marginalized with attacks on their patriotism. This is unacceptable whether done by Republicans or Democrats. As E.J. Dionne wrote in the Washington Post, Mr. Steele "had a right to offer his opinion without being accused of undermining our troops or 'rooting for failure.'"
To address our concerns, we urge Mr. Woodhouse and the Democratic
National Committee to issue a public statement that would do the following:
1. Acknowledge that accusing Mr. Steele of "betting against our troops and rooting for failure" was unjust, not only towards Mr. Steele, but towards all American critics of the war;
2. Commit that the Democratic National Committee, and anyone speaking on its behalf, will not represent support for the war in Afghanistan as the position of Democrats; and
3. Commit that the Democratic National Committee, and anyone speaking on its behalf, will not attack the patriotism of critics of the war, nor accuse critics of the war of "rooting for failure," nor of "wanting to cut and run," nor of "not supporting our troops," nor engage in any other attack which impugns the motives of critics of the war.
We would appreciate a response from the Democratic National Committee to our concerns and to our proposals for redress.
Robert Naiman, Policy Director, Just Foreign Policy
Paul Kawika Martin, Political Director, Peace Action
Raymond McGovern, Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Gael Murphy, Cofounder, CODEPINK
Robert Greenwald, Director, Brave New Foundation
Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator, U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)