When Bush was president, Delahunt sometimes voted for war funding bills and sometimes voted against them. The inclusion in the bills of lipstick measures, such as relief for hurricane victims, etc., was not a decisive factor. Delahunt appears to have voted No when the Democratic leadership was most accepting of that action. But, with all the Republicans voting Yes, there was never a chance of a No vote actually helping to block funding.
Since Obama became president, Delahunt has voted yes at every opportunity to support the funding of wars that the majority of his constituents have opposed for years. Several weeks back, I had the opportunity to speak with some of Delahunt's more engaged constituents as part of a book tour, including members of Cape Codders for Peace and Justice. They had taken to calling their congressman "Dela-Won't" and had largely given up on him. I encouraged them to sit-in at his office and demand opposition to war funding. I was encouraged when I heard that they had done so and that he had agreed to meet with them.
Apparently, Delahunt met with a coalition of groups and refused to commit to voting No on war money. As is typical of congress members who take their orders from the president or a party leader, Delahunt didn't say he would vote Yes, he just refused to commit to voting No. Spineless servants of a party boss want to vote against unpopular bills if the bills are guaranteed to pass and they can be sure that no one will punish them for their action, but they want to keep open the option of voting yes if their vote becomes necessary for passing the bill. This is why the behavior of the people we think of as the best congress members largely amounts to voting No on bills that have been guaranteed passage and voting Yes on bills that have been guaranteed to fail.
Bruce Taub, the state coordinator for PDA-Massachusetts, represented his organization's 4,000 members who are united in opposing more war funding. He reported that Delahunt refused to commit to voting Yes or No. Taub said that Delahunt offered two reasons for his position (or lack thereof). One was the fascistic-sounding nonsense that Delahunt called his "concern for the safety of the Homeland." Delahunt cannot be unaware that the wars are making us all less safe, just as he cannot have been unaware of that when he voted against funding them in the past.
The second reason was, in Delahunt's words: "President Obama is my leader. I respect him and trust him. I think he is earnest, someone who wants to genuinely do the best he can for the country, someone who considers all the options and is a thoughtful intelligent man. And if he thinks a supplemental is needed, I give that great deference."
He may be telling you to risk your political career. He himself can afford to sacrifice dozens of servile Democrats and get himself reelected two years later, just as Clinton did. You want to run for reelection on nationalizing Massachusetts's disastrous healthcare plan AND using the money people need for jobs to fight hugely unpopular wars? Are you sure that's what you want to do, Bill? Congressmen Kucinich and Grayson don't need Rahm's support because they have gone public with a commitment to decency and peace. You want to obey a president who would throw you under a bus without a second's thought? You want to do that because you think he's earnest and have bowed down before him as your leader? You expect to have no regrets for this on your death bed?
We claim to have separated church and state, but we obviously have not separated stupid blind faith and obedience from the rhetoric of our statesmen. Or stateswomen. Last June Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who had voted against war funding while Bush was president, voted Yes with the explanation "I want to support my president." Congressman Donald Payne, who voted No on war funding when Bush was president and last June as well, told me last weekend that he would not commit to a No vote on the $33 billion, and this purely because Obama is president.
Payne gave no credence to talk of protecting the "Homeland" by killing Afghans and Iraqis. Payne made a lengthy speech about his passionate opposition to the wars and his desire to move our resources to human needs. Then he told me that he would like to vote No on the funding but could not commit to it because Obama is president. I blogged about this on DailyKos, where criticizing Obama is considered at least a misdemeanor. One of the comments posted in reply read:
<blockquote>"The 'only difference' is a different person is President? That's all the difference in the world, when one President is the apex of neoconservativism and the only President ever to govern with that philosophy, and the other is the only President to EVER run against neoconservatism [sic]. Bush wanted us in those countries, killing and destroying, as long as it made big corporations as rich as possible. He believed foreign occupation was limitlessly good. Obama believes foreign occupation is inherantly [sic] destructive to everyone involved, he watched the effects of it growing up in Indonesia and resented it everyday, not to mention its effect on his entire family history through Kenyan occupation; it's part of the understanding of and rejection of tribalism that has guided his entire life. From being the only Democratic candidate of the main three in 2008 to have had [sic] written a bill saying 'no permanent bases in Iraq', to his refusal to fear-monger on Iran, to his perfect handling of the protests there this year, to his pledge in the Cairo speech not to have permanent bases in Iraq OR Afghanistan (unprovoked by any progressive pressure and completely on his own) [sic], to his beating the 6/30/09 deadline to withdraw out of all Iraqi town and cities [sic], to his rush to get troops deployed quickly as logistically politically possible [sic] in order to begin withdrawing out of Afghanistan by July 2011, to his books that outline his thought process as inherently anti-occupation from childhood, assuming Obama will act like Bush with the same variables is an incredibly ignorant statement. This is because the problem with not giving Obama any more credit than Bush is that you're giving Bush the same amount of credit as Obama despite having done NONE of the things in the last paragraph, but rather for being the penultimate [sic] neocon and invading countries at every opportunity - and that, as someone who opposes wars vehemently, turns my stomach. I respectfully submit that this is what the Congressman gets that you do not."</blockquote>
So, there you see? Obama's obliging Congress has escalated the wars. There are more troops and mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan than ever during the Bush years, a larger military budget than ever, bases in more nations than ever, a dramatically increased use of drones, a complete failure to withdraw from Iraq the one to two brigades a month for the 16 months of Obama's presidency as promised, horrific war crimes routinely reported, and we are supposed to view the wars as decreased and improved because of a story about the president's childhood. This is what we've come to. Congress members don't believe this hooey. They just want the Party to fund their campaigns, throw them pork, and make them chairmen. But Party loyalists around the country actually think this way. That is fundamentally what is wrong with our country and what could end up killing us all, even though these president worshippers are still in a minority on the question of war.
Delahunt knows his constituents are paying a heavy economic price for these wars and that a majority does not want them funded. Anyone in search of such information need look no further than http://defundwar.org And, to his credit, Delahunt has agreed to hold a public meeting on the topic of war funding. Let us hope the outcome is not yet another elected representative bragging about his willingness to defy the will of the public.
I think we can count on Delahunt's constituents not to ease off on the pressure until he does, not just says, the right thing.