[FDL is pleased to welcome former Sen. Gary Hart to chat with us today. As always, please be polite and stay on topic. Any off-topic comments should be taken to the prior thread. With that, please give a big welcome to Sen. Hart. — CHS]
Having run the gamut from long-time Senator from a western state to Presidential candidate to national security expert and policymaker to a professorship at the University of Colorado, former Sen. Gary Hart brings to the discussion table a wealth of real world experience. This is knowledge hard earned from watching mistakes and negotiations through years of service to the United States in a domestic and foreign policy context.
After yesterday’s votes, I was fairly disheartened at the failure to overcome cloture votes and at the continued political divide. In preparation for today’s discussion, I again picked up a copy of Sen. Hart’s The Courage Of Our Convictions, and wanted to share this passage — which gets to the heart of what we need, and what we don’t seem to have at the moment.
Had our government been less arrogant and more concerned with maintaining our traditional alliances, it might have listened to the doubts and questions being raised much more seriously and insightfully from foreign democratic capitals than from the cautious “opposition” Democratic Party in the United States….
Democratic insistence, supported by a less acquiescent press, in asking the “what if” question might possibly have forced an arrogant administration to address the potential of long-term occupation, a possibility assiduously resisted by the Bush neoconservatives….
For if even a remote possibility of resistance, insurgency, and long-term occupation were to be admitted, that would have changed everything. Attention and resources would have to be redirected from the genuine war on terrorism in Afghanistan; the cost to the taxpayer would not only soar, it would be virtually limitless; we could well see thousands of Americans dead and tens of thousands wounded; we might embitter the very people we came to democratize; we might further destablize an already unstable Middle East region and wider Arab world; we might drive an even deeper wedge between ourselves and the international community. Given these disastrous possibilities, better to assume the best, operate from a blissful assumption, and thus not contemplate, let alone discuss with the American people, less-than-rosy scenarios….
Now that this very nightmare scenario has come to pass, and we now confront all these extremely ugly realities, the American people rightly ask, “Why weren’t we told that even the slightest possibility existed that we would end up assuming the British imperial role of a half-century before?” “Why was this possibility not considered and planned for?” “Why was it not openly and honestly discussed?” “Were our super-confident leaders so swept up in the arrogance of power that they could entertain no doubt of their ability to dictate terms and dominate Iraqi behavior?” Most of all, “Where was the opposition party, the Democrats on whom the nation depended to ask the difficult and penetrating questions?” Where indeed….
…The truth is, we’ve lost the course. We have kicked open a hornets’ nest with consequences yet to be felt in America. We’ve weakened ourselves at home and in the world. We are less secure today than before this war began.
Who now has the courage to say this?
Sen. Hart goes on to discuss the core values of the Democratic party, or at least what those values have been over the last few decades, and advocates a return to the principles on which the party has successfully advocated for the little guy, for American values, and for a return to honor and away from hypocrisy in our domestic and foreign policies.
Things like a return to advocacy for the rule of law rather than for increasing the power of a unilateral chief executive and a submissive Congress. Or a return to principles of fundamental fairness, equity and integrity. Returning the Democratic Party to that of FDR, of JFK, of all the leaders of the past who challenged us to reach higher and farther and to lift up those below so that they might also reach for the heavens.
In his most recent book, The Shield and the Cloak, Sen. Hart cuts through the spin to the heart of what we must do to secure our nation and the world for generations to come:
Clearly, rooting out terrorist cells and networks is a challenge for security forces, but even those most often are special branches of police forces and intelligence services rather than large-scale military combat forces. This, the most clear and present danger to U.S. national security, requires intense information sharing, international collaboration of a high order, and collective political will.
The hard part is not in knowing what must be done and how to do it; the hard part is generating the political will to do what must be done.
With that, I want to welcome Sen. Hart, and to open the floor to questions and discussion about how we can all help to move our nation and our government forward in a more productive, more honest way, how to deal with the political and media spin, and how to cut through the heart of the issues we must face together.