I sometimes wonder which is worse for our Republic -
A out-of-touch (control?) Chief Executive operating with complete disregard (utter contempt?) for majority opinion?
Or a newly elected Congressional majority who moan, after being swept into office to stop a out-of-control Chief Executive, that it's really "not as simple as all that"?
Freshman Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) might very well argue that a neutered (self-neutered?) Legislative Branch poses a greater threat to our Democracy than a out-of-control Chief Executive.
In any event, he set out to take care of both when he gave the Democratic Response to President Bush's State of the Union last night.
Webb's speech staked out positions on two fronts.
The first dealt with creating a more progressive economy. Webb said:
When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.As an Independent who leans right, I support addressing America's wealth gap. While I do not blame Bush and the formerly GOP dominated Congress for creating the problem, their fiscal priorities greatly exacerbated it.
Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.
In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.
In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy - that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.
And under the leadership of the new Democratic Congress, we are on our way to doing so. The House just passed a minimum wage increase, the first in ten years, and the Senate will soon follow. We've introduced a broad legislative package designed to regain the trust of the American people. We've established a tone of cooperation and consensus that extends beyond party lines. We're working to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons.
Creating a more progressive economy will be a theme that Democratic candidates for President will make political hay out of in 2008. And rightly so.
The second position that Webb staked out last night was on the Iraq War.
Webb, as everyone knows, is an opponent of the War (the initial invasion, the way it was managed, keeping troops there any longer).
Which makes Jim Webb a darling of the Anti-War Establishment (The New Left). He should be. As he said last night:
The President took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable - and predicted - disarray that has followed."Showing him the way."
The war's costs to our nation have been staggering.
The damage to our reputation around the world.
The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism.
And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.
The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.
As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. "When comes the end?" asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War Two. And as soon as he became President, he brought the Korean War to an end.
These Presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.
Translation: I will go to the floor of the Senate and offer a bill that cuts off funding for the war when it becomes apparent that this sissy non-binding Resolution Reid/Clinton/Pelosi are pushing does jack squat.
While I support the proposed troop surge it is clear that Senator Webb at least has the power of his convictions - quite unlike other freshman Democrats elected in 2006 to "change the direction of the Iraq War" and "hold the President accountable".
Last night Webb promised to do exactly what it was that he was elected to do. The Anti-War Establishment cheered. So did John Edwards.
Hillary Clinton not so much.
Get ready to watch a huge split in the Democratic Party over what to do about Iraq.