[FDL is pleased to welcome Tom Matzzie of MoveOn.org to chat with us about the work that MoveOn.org is doing with Americans United For Change to force elected officials to listen to the will of the majority of their constituents who want out of Iraq — or go on record as supporting George Bush over the people who sent them to Washington.  This is a powerful political message, and we are thrilled to be able to chat with Tom about it today.  As always with guests of FDL, please stay on topic and be polite — any off-topic discussion should be taken to the prior thread.  Welcome, Tom! — CHS]

Politics is a lot of theater and posturing and public relations mastery.  At least, that is what the spinmeisters within the Beltway would like us to think, because it allows their clients to have an "everybody does it" or a "that's just politics" attitude and excuse about every problem that we face in America today…and then they never have to face up to the challenges and the hard work required to solve those problems. 

The honest truth is that these political decisions impact all of us.  And the lack of decisions and lack of critical thinking, or taking the "rubber stamp" road as Republicans have done the last six years and counting as "yes" votes for any plan the Bush Administration has put forth, no matter how idiotic or destined for failure it may have been — that is exactly how we have gotten into the abysmal mess that we are in today in America.

Thankfully, the folks at MoveOn.org and Americans United For Change have been asking much needed questions about elected officials whose actions in propping up the failing Bush Administration policies in Iraq are directly contradictory of the wishes of the majority of voters who put them in office.  And, if I may say so, it is well past time that we started asking these critical questions rather than just shrugging and saying, "Well, that's politics."

The American public, our troops and their families deserve a lot better than what theyhave been getting.  And we want to help our elected representatives understand just that.

America's reputation as an honest broker in foreign policy matters has been decimated by the poor choices that the Bush Administration has made.  And those failures have been enabled for far too long by rubber stamping Republicans in Congress who have continued to try and have it both ways:  criticizing the failures in Iraq when they are back home at public meetings while voting each and every time to allow the Bush Administration to keep on failing without any consequences for their poor decisionmaking.  Those consequences are costly — in lives and in tax dollars.  Here's an estimate of what could have been done with West Virginia's share of the money (That is my home state — you can check the numbers for your state here.  H/T to C&L for the link to this.): 

364,579 People with Health Care or
25,336 Elementary School Teachers or
187,624 Head Start Places for Children or
530,327 Children with Health Care or
17,621 Affordable Housing Units or
111 New Elementary Schools or
299,057 Scholarships for University Students or
25,336 Music and Arts Teachers or
37,980 Public Safety Officers or
1,094,581 Homes with Renewable Electricity

The fact is that for every day we stay in Iraq, there are trade-offs in terms of policy choices and costs that have to be made. And Congress must stand up and discuss, publicly and honestly, not only what these costs are, but why they are willing to continue the mess in Iraq at the cost of all of these other governmental programs — especially where a majority of constituents do not support their voting record.

As Rep. Henry Waxman said today in the hearing in his committee doing oversight on the Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman pentagon media fiascos, "the bare minimum that we owe our soldiers and their families is the truth."  Absolutely right. 

And, beyond that, the Bush Administration and every other elected official on the Hill, regardless of party affiliation, owes it to the American public to not only look at the truth squarely and without the shading of rose-colored glasses — but they also owe it to their constituents to listen to all of their voices.  Collectively.  And to provide full and complete accounting for their decisions regarding the support or lack thereof for any ongoing military action.

Congress must provide continuous and ongoing oversight for military action — because they have the power of the purse and the obligation to ensure accountability for the decisions made by a Commander in Chief whose ideas about unilateral Presidential action tell him that he is answerable to no one.  (Kind of flies in the face of that whole inconvenient Revolutionary War and Founding Fathers Constitutional drafting arguments, doesn't it?)

But the folks at MoveOn.org and Americans United For Change need our help.  Political action requires not just ads on television, but direct action by constituents whose elected representatives have decided that the needs of the folks who elected them can just be ignored with no political consequences whatsoever.

They could not be more wrong.

What we are asking today is that we all stand up and say enough.  That these elected officials who think they can do whatever they want for political expediency without anyone in their districts or their states noticing get a big wake-up call.  And that the voice of a majority of Americans be heard.  Loud and clear.

Tom Matzzie, whose political experience is substantial and very valuable, has agreed to hang out with us and chat about what all of us can do to make certain that our elected officials — ALL of our elected officials — understand that they must listen to their constituents about Iraq.  The time for ignoring the will of the American people has long since passed.  And if they think there are no consequences for choosing the needs of George Bush over the people who elected them to Congress, they can think again.

Help us get these folks on the record:  your constituents or George Bush — you choose.  This is especially important for Republicans who have, up until now, gotten a pass for mouthing all the moderate words on camera and in constituent meetings — but whose voting records say "rubber stamp Republican" when it counts.

Members of Congress already on the spot with this campaign include:

Rep. Mary Bono (CA)  (more here)

Rep. Timothy Johnson (IL)  (more here)

Rep. Heather Wilson (NM) (more here)

Rep. Randy Kuhl  (NY) (more here and here)

Rep. Dean Heller  (NV) (more here and here)

Rep. Jim Walsh (NY)  (more here)

Sen. Susan Collins  (ME) (more here and here and here)

Sen. John Sununu (NH) (more here)

Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY)  (more here)

If your Representative or Senator is not already on the list, but you think they should be, let us know who and why in the comments. This is just the first step — there is a lot more to come with this. The folks within the Beltway far too often dismiss the voices of those of us outside the Washington power hierarchy. They are about to find out just how big a mistake that is.  (And you thought the 2006 election results were a wake-up call…)

Some things that you can do to help:  write a letter to your elected representative and ask them if they represent the will of their constituents or George Bush — and then report what they answer so we can all know.  Or fax them and do the same.  Call their office — in DC or a local constituent services office — and leave a message about this.  Better yet, schedule an appointment with your elected official or one of their staffers to talk about this face to face.  Write a letter to the editor.  Call a local talk radio show.  Start a local politics blog — and report the answers that you receive there as well.  Get your Roots Project group together in your area and set up a group meeting.  There are a LOT of things we can all do — and I'd like us to spend some time talking about your ideas for this inthe comments today.

Citizenship is something that we do — and it is time that we all stood up and let these folks know that we expect them to do the same.  And with that, I welcome Tom Matzzie to FDL and open the floor for your questions and comments.

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com