Saturday, November 25, 2006

Bad Ideas: Then And Now

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Oh, Lord, not this again.

If there's anything that sinks the new, fresh class of Democrats in the new Congress, it's going to be the old Democrats who are left over.

Somebody needs to tell some of these dinosaurs that they're part of the reason the Democrats lost the majority in the first place, and that the new majority is not a license to trot out your old, cockeyed ideas.

The inspiration for this particular rant is ancient Congressman Charles Rangel of New York City, who's been a member of the House since 1970. Because of seniority rules, Rangel is first in line to chair the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. And what does Rangel want to do first?

He wants to bring back the draft.

If this sounds familiar, it's because he has pulled this stunt before. He first proposed a draft back in 2003, presumably as a way to shock the public out of its support for Dubbya's wacky Iraqi adventure.

"If those calling for war knew that their children were likely to be required to serve -- and to be placed in harm's way," he said at the time, "there would be more caution and greater willingness to work with the international community in dealing with Iraq."

Now with the war dragging on, Rangel is singing the same tune.

"There's no question in my mind," Rangel said recently, "that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way."

Oh, really? Does Rangel really think that conscription might prevent wars? Does the name "Vietnam" strike a familiar note?

And does he really think that the children of the rich and powerful won't find some way to avoid being placed in harm's way? Has he forgotten the history of the man who's currently sitting in the White House? (Which reminds me of my favorite joke of the week: President Bush supposedly called up Sen. John Kerry to ask if Kerry, as a bipartisan gesture, wanted to accompany him on his recent diplomatic visit to Vietnam. "Nah," Kerry said, "You go. I already went.")

I admit that there's a certain appeal to the idea of drafting all these fresh-scrubbed young Republican types who earnestly tell you that the war in Iraq is part of a clash of civilizations and that it's our generation's Great Struggle, right before they explain why they won't be signing up because, you know, they want to go to college and serve their country by becoming investment bankers.

When I read pampered rich-boy commentators like the National Review's Jonah Goldberg describing why he doesn't join up after being a rabid war supporter -- "I'm 35 years old, my family can't stand the lost income, and I have a baby daughter" -- it certainly is nice to fantasize about yanking them out from behind their keyboards and shipping them to Baghdad to guard convoys next to a National Guardsman who hasn't seen his own family (or his former income) for a while.

But let's face it, how fair would that be to the National Guardsman? We've done a pretty good job in the last few years of showing that a motivated, professional volunteer army can whip a conscript army any day of the week. Now that our enemies are motivated volunteers, why would we want to field an army of conscripts?

Here's the thing that really chaps my butt: Rangel knows he's not actually going to get a draft put in place. His first attempt lost 402-2, and there's no reason to believe it'll do any better this time around. Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi has gone on record as saying she doesn't support the measure, and as far as I know, not a single other Democrat has signed on.

No, what Rangel really wants to do is hold hearings. He wants to ask about current and future troop levels and Dubbya's future plans. "Mr. President," he's said he'd ask, "share with me what is victory, and if you have any clue what you're talking about, who is the enemy? ... Who do we negotiate the victory with? ... Who sets the agenda in the Middle East?"

In other words, Rangel doesn't really want a draft. He's grandstanding. He's like that Republican idiot from Louisiana who held lengthy hearings on why the networks got confused in calling the results of the 2000 election so wrong on election night (without any real idea of anything to do about it) just because he wanted to mess with the networks. I didn't like it then, and I don't like it now.

Here's the thing. You don't need to threaten the American people with the possibility of a draft anymore to turn them against the war. You don't need to raise the specter of a draft to illustrate that the Bush administration is clueless in the Middle East.

The new congressional leadership needs to concentrate on getting something done, not wasting our money making a point that everyone already gets.


Kristy said...

If I could manage to put down my glass of wine, Dusty, I'd stand and applaud. Had a great debate in the K house from this tonight. I'll save the applause for when I see you next.

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

Another great column.

Tasha Alexander said...

Great one, Dusty!

RAC said...

I'm not sure people were voting for Democrats as much as voting against the current Republican administration. With Bush planning to veto most everything, there's going to be a lot of smoky room negotiating going on just to get a measly slice of pork.

steve ordog said...

I am against the draft. It was sneaking up on me all through Viet nam and was supported strongly by demographics such as white women over 50. I will agree with the draft if the 1A classification goes first to elected officials over 40. That would truly put the brakes on making war. No exemptions for Pres and vice either.