You Work For Us Summer Tour: The Earful
Back in April, we talked about the campaign to put elected representatives in districts where the public sentiment was clearly against the Iraq failure on the spot: to force a choice between the constituents and George Bush. As Jane said, it is high time that the Republicans had to own the quagmire of their own making.
Today, the WaPo has a piece about constituents taking that message directly to one of those elected officials. This is exactly the idea behind the You Work For Us Summer Tour. And I wanted to be sure that you all got a peek:
The woman stood waiting amid the lunch counter clatter at the Grand City Variety Store to confront Olympia J. Snowe.
“We need to get out,” Stephanie Slocum told Snowe, one of Congress’s most conflicted members over the war in Iraq. It was the Maine Republican’s first week of her summer break, and Slocum was among the first of many constituents who would tell her the time to act is now.
The self-described “proud mother of an Army cavalry scout,” Slocum is taking Iraq personally. She told Snowe in a matter-of-fact voice about her 27-year-old son, who is now home but shouts angrily at her, whose body trembles, who at times feels he is still in Iraq and who, if Congress does not begin to redeploy troops by September, will be sent back. She spoke of her son’s leave that never came, the goggles to protect him that she had to buy herself and the mental health treatment he has just given up. Because, he told his mom, “what’s the sense” if he has to go back.
“Outrageous,” Snowe said of the problems. “I would encourage him to continue to get his care.”
“I do, but you know how it is,” Slocum said. “In the Army . . . if you get the therapy, it’s shame on you.”
As she spoke, Slocum’s poise slipped, and her voice shook. She was frustrated, most of all, with the failure of Washington to make it end — and frustrated, too, with Snowe’s careful hedging on Iraq. “I think you’ve changed your position a little bit, and we’re very appreciative of that,” she told her senator. “But it doesn’t seem like whatever we think — as the majority of people in Maine and across the country — it doesn’t seem to have any impact.”…
James bit her lip: “I’m proud of my service. I’m glad it’s done.” During her year in the Green Zone, “we started getting mortared heavily, very, very heavily,” James said, describing the attacks’ escalating from two or three in a week to 19 in a single day. People she knew were killed.
“Do you see any progress?” Snowe asked.
“The Iraqis say it’s taken so long for everything to get so bad, in 40 years, it will be good,” James said. “Forty years is a long time.”
This is exactly the sort of thing that every elected person in Congress needs to be confronted with, every damn day of their “vacation.” It’s called reality. (H/T to OKK for this link. It’s a painful read.) Welcome to life outside the Beltway, kids — where your constituents are disgusted with your insular, ill-informed, patronage-laden pandering to the Bush Administration and your outright disrespect toward how the rest of America feels.
And it isn’t just the mendacity on Iraq. The FISA bill is a horrid abomination of civil liberties violations:
Therefore, as long as the government is engaged in “surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States,” it cannot possibly run afoul of FISA’s criminal or civil liability provisions, even if it totally disregards all of the procedures and oversight requirements spelled out in the bill. There’s no penalty for non-compliance.
It is imperative that members of Congress and the media be made aware of the full scope of this bill. It is not as advertised. By carving out a large category of surveillance activities from the definition of “electronic surveillance,” the bill effectively exempts such surveillance from FISA altogether. And while the bill purports to establish conditions and procedures for conducting warrantless surveillance, these requirements are effectively optional and, in any case, there is no penalty in the statute for disobeying them. Those lawmakers who voted for this bill need to be confronted with these facts and shamed into doing something to correct the situation.
It is time that each and every one of these people gets an earful and then some. If you go to a public meeting, set up a private discussion for you and several of your political pals, get a response to a letter or e-mail or FAX, let us know about it. If you blog about contact with your elected representative, let us know about it. Every bit of public accountability that we can get out there makes it that much harder for them to close out transparency in government. It is our job to let in the light, because they sure as hell won’t be doing it for us willingly, now will they?
It’s time for every single member of Congress to get a “performance review” — and it isn’t going to be pretty for most of them, is it? They need to know that we expect them to work for us.
Citizenship has to be something that we do. So let’s get out there and do it. And then report back here what happened — because we want to be sure that they all know that we are paying attention, each and every day. And that when they screw up, we’ll be there to tell them — and to expect them to do better or face the electoral consequences. Now, let’s get to work…
PS — Glenn has his interview with O’Hanlon up. Do give it a read.