Reality Vs Tv. / The Opposition Will Not Be Televised
Sam Farr says the debate over war in Iraq is being squelched.
Thursday, March 27, 2003
The war in Iraq has received high marks in the polls and won a recent vote of support from Congress, but it may not be as popular in Congress as it is on TV.
Rep. Sam Farr says that on Capitol Hill, there is intense opposition to the war-even if the opponents aren''t getting much face-time on CNN or MSNBC.
"Believe me, the passions in Congress are as strong as they''ve been at any point in history," Farr says. "People are just shaking their heads and saying, ''What kind of insanity is going on here?''"
Farr is frustrated. He believes that message isn''t getting out because anti-war Democrats are being muzzled by Republican leaders and ignored by the media: "There is, in effect, an organized effort to ''dis'' anybody who is critical of the administration.
"For the first time in my career, the Democrats don''t have access to a microphone. We don''t control any branch of power. We can''t get a vote called. We can''t even get a room scheduled. We''re not being taken seriously."
"The congressional agenda is set by the Republicans. They want to keep debate off the Senate floor, [and] off the floor of the House of Representatives."
Asked how Democrats expect to be taken seriously when they have mostly voted to go along with President Bush''s war plan, Farr lays the blame on Bush-administration intransigence.
"The president set us up by saying what he always says: ''My way or the highway.''" Farr points to last week''s House Resolution in support of the war.
The resolution declares the "unequivocal support and appreciation of the nation to the President as Commander-in-Chief for his leadership and decisive action in the conduct of the military operation in Iraq as part of the ongoing Global War on Terrorism."
Democrats fought the wording, hoping for a resolution that supported the troops but not necessarily the president. They were shot down.
Only 11 House members voted against the measure as it was worded. Farr voted "present," a de facto abstention.
He says his fellow Democrats, including many who oppose the Bush administration''s unilateral war, were intimidated by Republican rhetoric, and did not want to appear unpatriotic.
"There is lots of debate about whether the president is right or wrong, but no debate about the troops," Farr says. "We can criticize the Commander in Chief. But in no way is that a criticism of the men and women following his orders."
Nancy Pelolsi, the Democratic leader in the House, voted for the resolution, at the same time voicing opposition to the war. Her statement on the floor of the House was filled with praise for the dedication of the troops in Iraq, but took several digs at the policies that put them there.
"I disagree with the policy that took us to this war," Pelolsi said. "I dispute some of the arguments used in favor of this resolution, and I am disappointed in some of the provisions in this resolution. But even those objections cannot overcome the pride and appreciation that I have in our troops."
She went further, criticizing other Bush administration policies, as well as the absence of discussion about the war:
"As we protect and defend the American people, we must also protect and defend the Constitution and the civil liberties contained therein which we cherish. And we must treat honest debate for what it is-an expression of patriotism, not a violation of it. Open discussion of the great tasks before us does not give comfort to America''s adversaries."
Farr says that he and other anti-war members have been meeting at the end of the House session every evening to strategize. He says all of them are trying to get their opposition out through alternate channels-such as the Town Hall meeting he hosted in Monterey last weekend.
"People wonder, ''Does anybody care? Is anybody listening? Where is the loyal opposition? It''s important that they know they are being heard."