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April 15, 2005

To Beat the Drum (or the Horse) Further
Posted by Michael Signer

So, the military benefits issue has been exploding all over the place, and all the 2008 Presidential playas (or so they think) are claiming credit for a lot of recent Congressional activity.  Just today, I got an e-mail from the John Kerry machine -- gearing up already.  To wit:

Yesterday, I put our values to a vote -- advancing two key elements of our Military Families Bill of Rights. Their successful passage produced a dramatic victory for military families that have sacrificed so much for our country.

You made it happen. By giving voice to our values over months of effort, the community moved military families closer to the help they so richly deserve.

We succeeded in getting the Republican Senate to allow military families who have lost a loved one to remain in military housing for a full year, not the current 180 days. Then we got the Republican Senate to agree to assure that all military families receive a total of $500,000 in death benefits when a loved one dies in service to America.

These measures passed, in no small part, because I was able to read some of the more than 3000 personal stories that community members shared in response to my call for help.

Several Senators were so moved that they asked on the spot to be added as co-sponsors. We still have work to do. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives where we'll have to press for action.

But, right now, I just want to thank you. We gave voice to our values and won.


John Kerry

And then yesterday, an e-mail from Wesley Clark:

Dear Friend,

The American people have a strong tradition of honoring our war veterans.  And Democrats have always led the fight to give our veterans what they deserve for their brave service to our country.  The time has come for us to do it again.

We all may not agree with the causes of this current war in Iraq, but we all agree that the brave men and women fighting it, and their families, deserve more than we can ever give them.

Now we must focus attention on our veterans and military retirees who have seen the government cut medical benefits, close VA hospitals, double tax disability payments, and more than double prescription drug co-payments, while requiring veterans to pay an annual enrollment fee of $250 to use government health services in the 2006 budget.

All of these costs add up to a "GI Tax" on our soldiers and veterans.  And it's time to end that "GI Tax" -- once and for all.  I need your help!

I was proud to join House Leaders Nancy Pelosi, Ike Skelton, Lane Evans, and Jon Salazar on Capitol Hill yesterday to unveil the new GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century.  From the original GI Bill, signed by Franklin Roosevelt, it's always been up to a grateful nation to stand up for veterans and their families.  Now it's our turn -- so please help.

So, to take these e-missives at face value, it looks like folks are following my and Lorelei's  ideas for re-allying progressives and the military.  Or are they?  Is there a sustained, well-thought-through platform underlying these momentary legislative blips?  Does the DNC have what it takes to build such episodic flirting into a marriage?  Is there an underlying theme (with teeth and legs), e.g., we're moving toward our middle-class military folks, aggressively showing them we're on their side, and that the nature of the left is to work for the people who need help? 

I hope my choice of the Rhetorical Question Device doesn't too obviously expose my own sneaking suspicion that a "Yes" for all is hardly in the offing.

Some of the responses to my earlier post on health benefits for veterans were interesting.  Don Birchler, Ph.D., wrote the following:

I am an analyst for the Navy and worked in the Navy's assessment office for one year. During that time we looked at the Navy/military health benefit. And I can tell you that it is a very rich benefit that most Americans will only DREAM of having. It really is the closest thing to socialized medicine in this country. Throw on top of that the annuity that many of them receive after 20 years and it hardly clear that they are in financial hardship.

Hm.  Hard to know where to start, except that the slam about "the closest thing to socialized medicine"... this is ideology, folks, as pure as the driven snow, and I wonder if Dr. Birchler has unwittingly exposed the true, anti-New Deal, radical-right underpinnings of this policy... and then, the condescension in "it is a very rich benefit that most Americans will only DREAM of having" -- well, I'd rather have a dream be the incentive for joining our armed services than a nightmare...

And I suppose the more pungent point is why was it OK, even laudable, for many military contractors in this public/private war to make lots of money, yet the people who actually fought the war... they don't deserve a "very rich benefit"??? 

I still don't understand why moderate progressives -- not the Michael Moore oil conspiracists, but regular old left-leaning jus' folks -- haven't made a bigger issue of war profiteering generally.  This is not just about Cheney/Halliburton.  In a sense, Cheney distracts from the larger issue, which is that this extremely expensive and inefficient war was and is being used simply as a way for Bush-friendly companies to make money.

Ack, alack.  It boggles the mind.


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The reason the issue has not been made is that the so-called liberal media is not doing it's job. Bush is one of the most unpopular presidents in the last 60 years, but he is still referred to as "the popular war time president".
The press has become a running yellow dog of war.

Providing the highest level of compensation and benefits to our soldiers is our moral obligation, before Social Security, before Medicare, before anything else. It's good to see that obligation is being met.

However, I still find it difficult to square the term "progressive" with the Democrats mentioned in this post. John Kerry and Wes Clarke are "progressive"? Since when?

Also, if the Democrat Party (since that's who we're talking about I guess) wants to be trusted with the defense of this nation, they're going to need two things:

1) Make it abundantly clear that use of military force is ALWAYS ON the table in resolution of global conflicts involving U.S. interests.

2) Make it abundantly clear that once force is used, the mission will be completed regardless of opinion polls, expense, or loss of life.

Hammering that home would go a bit of the way to earning a second chance from the American people.

1) Make it abundantly clear that use of military force is ALWAYS ON the table in resolution of global conflicts involving U.S. interests.

2) Make it abundantly clear that once force is used, the mission will be completed regardless of opinion polls, expense, or loss of life.

Well, I think you forget the war we fought in the Balkans to bring peace to that area. It was done in spite of the republcans who were against it from the beginning because it was Mr. Clinton's war.
And number two above is just ridiculous. That is what Mr. Bush has done. Lie to get in, keep lying, stonewall, change the objectives, appoint leadership that is totally inept, make mistakes that cost American lives and if anyone questions him start the right-wing echo machine asking why liberals hate America. I love America, but I'll be damned if I like stupid Americans.

The Republicans are two-faced political hacks! That's certainly a news flash. I didn't think we were talking about strategies to be just like the Republicans.

Bosnia is not out of the woods yet, but I believe we finally pulled the last of our troops out last year. I'll call it a success. I was more referring to Clinton's other wars, Haiti, Somalia, and Iraq; especially the latter two. When the polls went south on Somalia, the mission was abandoned despite the lives already spent trying to achieve that mission. The noble and liberal goals we were trying to achieve in Somalia we not impossible, they just became unpopular.

And now we get to your boilerplate retort about Bush. "Lied to get in"? Is that the lie we "progressives" now have to tell ourselves so we can feel more comfortable voting for a Democrat who made a fully informed vote authorizing war? "Changed objectives"? He certainly failed to predict the organized and prolonged resistance of the reactionary Ba'athist forces, and he certainly overestimated the capabilities of the initial interim government; but Bush has never waivered from the objective.

Forget it. The fact that "progressives" talk about rebuilding trust with the American people and the military in terms of healthcare is proof enough that it is a lost cause.

I think that some on the left recognize the Democrats national security image problems, but in order to appeal to the masses we're going to have to put forth candidates who embody our national security values. Once you have these candidates it's up to the Dem. media strategists to use their candidacy to reframe the national security debate. (in the same way that Elliot Spitzer could, and should, be used to frame many of the progressive views on the economy)

But the real key to victory in this arena (IMHO) is picking candidates who we can frame these issues around. We need to put a face (or many faces) on this shift, in national, state, and local races.

"Progressive" hell, I'm a liberal and proud of it and national security is a catch phrase for nothing. Do you really think the war in Iraq is about our security? We are now safer? This is just not so, the war in Afghanistan was about security, the war in Iraq was about who knows? Bush changed the reason about four times until he jumped on the "freedom for the poor Iraqi people" bandwagon.

"National Security is a catch phrase for nothing." LOL! Will that be the campaign slogan to enstill confidence in the American voter? And here we go again with another Bush lied, Bush changed horses, Bush this, Bush that... That's what I call a lot of "nothing".

2008 will be the first time in 40 years we've had a presidential election where the office was not being defended by the incumbent or the vice-president. In fact, the only reason Johnson didn't run for re-election in 1968 is because he knew he would be finished in the Southern Democrat primaries after signing the Civil Rights legislation. So, there isn't going to be a big evil "BushCo" or "Halliburton" or any other of that rot to run against in 2008. The Republican Party is weak and far more timid than George W. Bush. This will be the best opportunity we have to cast off our reactionary baggage and put the Liberty back in Liberal!

We're going to have to run FOR something if we're going to have any chance of winning in 2008. Without Bush in the race, all the communists, green party reactionaries, trotskyites, and various marxists who held their noses and voted for Kerry in 2004 aren't going to be pulling the lever for a Democrat in 2008. It's time to get proactive and out in front of the Republicans on both foreign and domestic policy! Simply being "not Bush" isn't going to get it done this time since everyone in the race will be "not Bush".

Just a nit to pick. Separate these topics out. The fact that Bushco is getting read to tax veterans is bad enough. The killer is that they are thinking about reassessing the disability claims currently being paid to veterans. It took 10 years for my father to get the 100 percent service connected disabiltiy he deserved. That is absolute bullshit. The VA medical care system should be the best in the country and available to all veterans. When I talk to co workers and friends they all comment about how the system should take care of Vets. What about concurrent recipt? Why should career military people be forced to fund their own disabilities? Most people think that is wrong.

The profiteering issue is going to be seen as just going after Dick Cheney ( nothing wrong with that, but it seems that everyone is afraid of him so no story).

"Do you really think the war in Iraq is about our security? We are now safer?"

Do you have a point? What the hell does this comment even have to do with this post?

what is going on with the concurrent recipt of retirement pay during the past two years the politicians always say that a comple end is in sight so people that is rated 100% permenant and total disabled wuold finally get there full benifits like everyone else but so far the bush administration stll will not allow this to happen (WHATS UP WITH THIS)

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