March 13, 2007

David Obey meltdown

From a report by Barry Grey in yesterday's World Socialist Web Site (click the title of this post):

Rep. David Obey (Democrat from Wisconsin), a 20-term congressman who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee in the new, Democratic-controlled 110th Congress, lashed out at the mother of a Marine and another antiwar activist when they approached him in a congressional corridor and asked if he planned to vote against a supplemental funding bill to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. ...

Obey is the lead sponsor of [the] supplemental war funding bill announced last week by the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives. The measure is an attempt by the Democrats to present a bill granting the Bush administration's request for more than $100 billion to continue and escalate the war in Iraq as a plan to end the war. ...

The video clip initially posted on YouTube shows a woman, later identified as Tina Richards, and a colleague approaching Obey outside his office in the Rayburn House Office Building. Richards explains that her son is a Marine who has served two tours of duty in Iraq and is facing a third tour. She tells Obey her son suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has attempted to commit suicide. "It took us six months to get his first appointment with the VA (Veterans Administration)," she tells the congressman. "They told him after ten minutes it sounds like you have childhood issues."

Obey responds politely, if somewhat curtly, clearly anxious to end the discussion. However, when Richards asks him if he plans to vote against the supplemental war spending bill, he grows increasingly agitated.

"Absolutely not," he declares, "I'm the sponsor of the supplemental. We're trying to use the supplemental to end the war. ... You can't end the war if you go against the supplemental. It's time these idiot liberals understand that."

Obey goes on to raise the standard pretext of "supporting the troops" (by continuing to send them into battle): "I'm not going to deny the troops body armor," he says. He follows with another sophistry, pointing to the Democrats' proposal to add nearly a billion dollars for medical care for soldiers and veterans to Bush's war spending request as further justification for voting to fund the war. "I'm not going to deny funding for veterans' hospitals and defense hospitals," he declares, "That's what you do if you vote against that bill."

Richards attempts to speak, but Obey cuts her off, saying, "I hate the war. I voted against it to start with. ... But we don't have the votes to de-fund the war and we shouldn't." ...

Obey grows even louder and more hysterical ... "I'm the sponsor of the bill that's going to be on the floor and that bill ends the war. And if that's not good enough for you, you're smoking something illegal. ... I'm not going to debate anymore. Go talk to somebody else. Goodbye."

With that, the congressman rushes into his office and slams the door behind him. ...

What Obey displayed toward his questioners was not mere frustration [as he stated in a later apology], but hostility and contempt. And the frustration Obey and the rest of the Democratic Party apparatus feel is not so much with the war, as with the mass popular opposition to the war.

The Democratic Party is entirely complicit in this colonialist enterprise, and fully defends the imperialist aims that underlie it. But having ridden to power in Congress on the back of the massive antiwar vote cast by the American electorate last November, the Democrats have the task of appearing to oppose the war while opposing any action that would lead to an outright defeat for the United States in the Middle East.

Obey's assertion that he and the rest of the Democratic leadership are in agreement with the American people on ending "US involvement in that war," and that the only question is how to do it, is false. The majority of Americans want to withdraw US troops and end the slaughter now because they know the war is based on lies and they sense it is being waged for deeply reactionary ends. Increasingly, they associate the war with the assault on their jobs, living standards and democratic rights.