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On Fence-Straddling, Or, And Now, A Few Words From Blanche Lincoln September 27, 2010

Those of you who’ve followed my work over a period of time know that I’m usually the one suggesting moderation and keeping everyone in the big tent, and, even in this most difficult year, I’m the one telling folks that sometimes you just have to hold your nose and vote for the candidate that sucks less.

And even though the last thing I’d ever want is a Speaker Boehner or a Leader McConnell (or even worse yet, DeMint), the fact remains that there are two Democratic Senators I would actually vote against, even if the candidate that sucks more does win…and those two are Arkansas’ Blanche Lincoln and Nebraska’s Ben Nelson.

One of those two is up for re-election this year, and thanks to a particularly ridiculous vote by Senator Lincoln, we found ourselves in a bit of an email exchange, which is what we’ll be talking about today.

And there is still this most difficult question of all: If we are eventually fortunate enough to find truth, who among us will know how to make good use of it?

–Jean Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Arts and Sciences

So here’s the deal: as you may or may not know, Senator Lincoln’s was one of the Democratic votes that killed any chance of reforming the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy and also killed the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for non-citizens who serve in the US military…despite the fact that she is one of the Senate co-sponsors of the DREAM Act and has publicly supported repealing DADT…despite the fact that this vote hurts her in a re-election campaign, by painting her as a flip-flopper…and despite the fact that her vote hurt Democrats nationally, twice, once by not forcing Republicans to vote against the Defense Appropriations bill (“they hate the troops!”), and, secondly, by making Democrats deal with a very, very, angry base, for no good reason.

I’m part of that angry base, and, even though I normally try to be a bit more restrained, I just had to send a note to the Senator’s office to make a point; here’s that note, reproduced:

Apparently Senator Lincoln has no interest in supporting troops who are gay who are serving today, despite the flag-waving stuff on your own home page?

As a supporter of Democrats, I have to say; “nah nah na na, nah nah na na, hey hey hey…good bye!”

Have a great November…and honestly, we won’t really miss you.

The Senator was kind enough to offer a response, which arrived Friday.
Today we’ll look at what she had to say:

Thank you for contacting my campaign regarding my recent vote on the Defense Authorization bill.

The stalemate we find ourselves in today is an example of Congress’ failure to appropriately deal with issues of critical importance to Arkansans and the American people, and that is why people are so angry.

Both political parties are so focused on how they can tear each other down that they’ve forgotten that we were all elected to build our country up by coming together, finding common ground and working to move our nation forward.

So far, so good…

I voted against the Motion to Proceed on the Defense Authorization bill today because of the lack of an open amendment process. I had eight amendments to improve services and benefits for Arkansas’s veterans, Guardsman and Reservists. But under the process and time-frame established by the Democratic Majority Leader, none of my amendments will merit consideration this week.

Well, now we’re getting to something.

Apparently you felt, Senator, that Arkansans would be so grateful that you absolutely killed reforms that even you support because you couldn’t insert a few amendments, that they would ignore the fact that…you absolutely killed reforms that even you support because you couldn’t insert a few amendments.

Well, guess what? This kind of thinking is exactly why you’re gonna lose your job.

Try to imagine, Senator, if you hired me to paint your house, because I made such a great sales pitch (“I’ll paint that house, and I’ll paint it cheap, and I’ll use good quality paint!”)…and then I held a press conference to announce that I’d like to paint your house, just like I told you I would…but I can’t, because right now you won’t allow me to propose cutting the grass and redesigning the pool.

That’s appears to be what you just did…and if I came up with a story like that, wouldn’t you fire me?

However, my vote against this procedure does not in any way alter my co-sponsorship of the DREAM Act or my support for allowing the military to repeal the ‘Dont’ Ask Don’t Tell’ policy. These important issues were taken hostage by an election year political agenda at the expense of full and open debate on a $726 billion defense spending bill. I look forward to the day we can debate these issues fully and vote on them.

You might still support the DREAM Act, and you may still support DADT…but your vote killed ‘em both…which means you’re holing those issues hostage, right this very second…and since you’ll become a lame duck in November, and you won’t be around after January, you probably won’t be debating much of anything.

Transparency should be the rule, not the exception. I have heard Arkansans loud and clear, and I will continue working to ensure that we do things in an open and transparent way.

If you had heard Arkansans loud and clear, you probably wouldn’t have supported either of these reforms in the first place…but if you really believed in these ideas, what you should have been doing these past 18 months is gettin’ out there and doing a better job of explaining why, so that Arkansans would have heard you loud and clear.

That’s called “political leadership”, and that’s how you win elections, and, sad to say, a lot of other Democrats this cycle also seem to have been unable to grasp this most basic lesson from Politics 101 (Barack Obama, I’m looking at you…).

There are many important issues in this critical bill that deserve our full attention. When we are ready to get serious about debating the multitude of issues that are relevant to this bill, I am prepared to help move that debate and this legislation forward.

Translation: I hope to be the super duper important 59th vote, after the election, and I hope that y’all will get serious about making a deal so that Olympia Snowe can get something and I can get my last eight amendments, even though by then I’ll be fired and my Party will have taken a beating in the election and the reform I claim to have supported will basically die away in the night, pretty much thanks to me.

In late July, I was able to gain unanimous approval by the Senate for the most ambitious Child Nutrition Authorization Bill in the history of our country. It didn’t require a procedural motion. It was bipartisan, paid for and reflected the best of what this Senate can be. I hope that process becomes the norm.

Well congratulations to you for having the political courage to support feeding babies, and I’m willing to bet that if a “don’t strangle puppies” bill comes along, you’ll probably have the intestinal fortitude to support that as well.

Again, thank you for contacting my campaign.

You’re more than welcome, and you have yourself have a great day.

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