It wasn't Camp Casey and Maria Cantwell is not George Bush

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Lietta Ruger: Crawford Tx, and Bring Them Home Now
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Last August - 3 days into her Crawford, Texas, vigil - Cindy Sheehan was joined by - among others - my wife, Lietta. Theirs was a public vigil from which they had demanded of a certain public persona, justification, explanation and accountability for the loss of American sons and daughters to a bogus war.

Lietta reported first hand of ear-phone wearing, unsmiling, all-business secret service agents attempting intimidation by driving repeatedly on the narrow road by the site at excessive speeds in air-conditioned power cars with tinted windows rolled up tight. A nation watched, fascinated at the transparency of the national villain getting his come-uppance and too cowardly to step out into the street to outdraw a dangerous grandmother who was calling him out.

Bush sent two lesser hacks out to talk "earnestly" with Sheehan and thereby demonstrate the President's "compassionate" response without lowering the supposed dignity of the Commander-in-Chief by personally responding to every indignant citizen with a yen to ask "Why?"

The grandma was having none of that. She wanted THE MAN.

Anyone who followed that vigil is aware that the President of the United States, in an act of humiliating cowardice, hid from and avoided any meeting with Sheehan and her supporters. The commonly held view is that Bush could have avoided the subsequent PR disaster by merely driving up in a pickup truck, his brush-cutting chain saw cooling off in the truck's bed, setting his cowboy hat a-tilt in a boyishly handsome way and taken Cindy on a 20 minute drive around his ranch, letting her have her say and mouthing pithy platitudes in response.

In failing to do so, GW left the country and primarily his opposition armed to the teeth with summations, estimates and descriptions of his dishonesty, lack of integrity and cowardice  based literally on word-of-mouth stories and speculations over which he still has absolutely no power.

Crawford, Texas, was an ample demonstration of how a politician and his spinmeisters absolutely should not have handled dissent and disagreement that had reached a point of public confrontation.

Yesterday's interview with Senator Cantwell was no Camp Casey and Maria Cantwell is no George Bush - as I in fact saw more than once in irate flashes of anger at the suggestion that her Iraq policy is no different from Dubya's.

The meeting yesterday was a mutually-agreed upon face-to-face interview between the senator and those who conducted an earlier sit-in at her Seattle office to protest Maria's Iraq policies and public statements.

My being invited to attend the meeting was a consequence of having added my signature to those of the group who originally requested a meeting late last year and who felt that Maria's refusal to meet was an attempt to ignore the group, avoid a public discussion and hope that opposition would somehow fade away.

Whether or not that was Cantwell's thinking, the issue did not go away nor did those who wanted answers. In fact, as is evident on this blog and others - as well as the Times, P.I. and other publications, the issue has only gotten larger and garnered more attention.

For example, Military Families Speak Out national headquarters included our meeting in its national news release out of Boston yesterday morning. On the road to Seattle from Bay Center, before we had even gotten to Olympia I received a phone call from the Seattle Times asking about our meeting. As I was driving, Lietta spoke with the reporter who acknowledged that the paper had been alerted by the national news wire service that publishes MFSO's news releases.

The public is aware of this challenge to a sitting Senator up for re-election. Those who've read my blogging about this issue should by now understand that I have taken a personal opposition to Maria's viewpoint and actions and made no bones about it. One of the things about written expressions of opinions is that - since they are opinions with the right of expression protected by the Constitution - what you write (short of slander and libel) is not "news" to which the public is entitled, but an opinion. Therefore one has little need to check facts and a lot of opportunity to speculate.

Particularly if your opinion is based on "it looks to me like ......"

Habitually, I think that most of us who have grinded the anti-Bush, anti-Republican ax have become somewhat skilled at recognizing spin, disingenuity, downright manipulation and political avoidance because such seem to be the tools of the trade for the party in national power. It is not difficult to editorialize villains based on behavior and speculation because that crowd - as does the state republican party as well - gives us so much usable material.

Rhetoric then is based on actions of the objects of that rhetoric and related actual circumstances (such as Republicans and hurricane Katrina), but also significantly on assumptions writers make about the people involved. I have written as someone with a bias based on opposition to what specific politicians primarily of a specific party have done in totally messing up a functioning democracy and its previously positive global impact and reputation; not-to-mention popping the jingoistic mythological bubble that this nation only goes to war for the most justifiably moral of reasons.

I've met my share of politicians up close and was therefore not surprised to find Maria Cantwell merely large as life and not larger. Very quickly yesterday I began to suspect that I might find myself in doubt about some of my speculations upon which I based my dissenting rhetoric. I would see the focus of my anger in close-quarter give and take.

Maria did not disappoint nor did she appear to practice much of an avoidance of issues, discussions of which were relentless highly emotionally charged and quite valid - something she repeatedly recognized and acknowledged.

We sat around a table with Maria and two aids as well as two policy ?wonks? in D.C. who were listening on speaker phone but were only called upon perhaps twice over the course of a meeting that extended from the agreed upon hour to two hours.

We sat around a table and listened as those with skin in the game spoke of the loss of loved ones, the reality of life as the family of a military members serving in harm's way in Iraq and the reality of life after soldiering in Iraq including concerns over issues that our state and the VA are woefully under funded and under-prepared to deal with.

We sat around a table and listened as Maria responded to each individual with questions as well as to group questions on a list that somehow became meaningless in and of itself as we were led by questions and answers to new questions and answers.

There was the sense - knowing the meeting was scheduled only for an hour and fully expecting a busy and indifferent politician to take advantage of the time and end the proceedings precisely at hour's end - that you had to respect those with the greatest pain and allow them their time to speak;

that those with the greatest need had the greatest right to ask "Why did you do things this way, Maria?" and "Why do you feel that we should ....?"

that those whose need for understanding for outweighs your own political indignation and desire to "ask the questions that really should be asked."

But we didn't stop at the hour. There was no sense that we were about to stop when the hour drew nigh.

We just kept going and Maria just kept responding.

I finally got my chance to ask the questions that I thought would justify some of the projecting I have been doing as to her motivations, priorities and reasons for why she supports the war effort and the military action that was launched as a result of how she and the rest of the Senate voted in 2002.

She has her reasons and has her justifications. I might not agree with her but I did not perceive them as shallow nor false reasoning motivated by what I consider questionable political planning and tactics.

When I took the opportunity to speak I made many of the statements I've previously written here directly to Maria and asked the principal questions that I've asked editorially on this blog and that have driven my doubts and originally launched me into this topic. (In fact most of my questions were previously asked in the first hour before my turn to speak presented itself.).

I don't know that our group and I asked the specific questions that each and every reader and writer in this community would have wanted asked, but if we didn't I'd be interested to know what such a question might be.

I do know that in its intensity and heat of emotion, the group itself ran questions by the Senator that she is either not qualified to know or could not possibly affect immediate and direct impact all by herself. From what is going on in Fallujah, Talafar and Kirkuk militarily to the impact of cluster bombs on Iraqi children to actions taken ultimately on the orders of the U.S. President, Maria did not attempt to  hide behind the justifiable reason that she cannot impact day-to-day decisions and is not an American military general.

In reality, she took the only position she could when confronted with the reality and horror of what this nation has done in Iraq - she asked about verification of facts offered, promised to look into the things she can legitimately look into and adamantly refused to say anything that looked like "There is nothing I can do."

What she seemed to want us to know was that those things she can do she is doing or will try to do. All of this without backing off her essential and original reasons for voting the way she did and maintaining her on-going sense of the Powell notion that we broke it so we own it. I did not sense any shift in her disagreement with the idea that we don't need to own it even if we broke it - that those who do own it desperately want us to quit trying to fix it, give up ownership by force and get the hell out.

And I want to add this: We have heard that the adminstration is planning or has already launched a "retake Baghdad" attack justified by a need to give the Iraqi government breathing room in which to operate.

We have even heard that such is to be perhaps a political surprise intended to shore up conservative and evangelical voters as a means of insuring mid-term election success.

Maria appeared genuinely surprised by this question and did promise to look into it and advise us.

Maria feels that her position is one of responsibility and accountability. She expressed a pride in the fact that her reason - unlike many Demos who have subsequently repudiated their vote to authorize action in Iraq - was based on a precedent going back to the Clinton years after the first Gulf War and the idea that a Democratic President said in effect that Saddam needed to be removed before a Republican President actually did so.

I know ... I know ... we're in the cowardly new world where that reasoning smacks of straw-grasping in the face of an overwhelming rebuttal of present circumstances and Republican/Neocon/Corporate rape and pillage of a country whose dictator needed removal but whose populace remains to this day innocent of the terrible swift sword that God's Christian in the White House has wielded.

My point here is that although Maria and I seem to be diametrically opposed to each other vis--vis what to do about Iraq, her thinking is not as shallow nor opportunistic as I had previously speculated in the absence of clarification from the senator herself.

More to the conclusion with which I left the meeting.

In essence, without intending it, our little group conducted a "pile-on" of Maria Cantwell, who has now done this little confronting exercise three times - not once, not twice, but three times. She did not hide in the ranch house or pretend to be more busy cutting brush and did not send minions out to quell the nonsense. Three times now she's met with some of us and allowed her feet to be dragged to the fire.

She did not make this point, rather Lietta and Howard did.

Maria has not "Crawforded" those who want her to explain. Whether or not I liked her answers is immaterial.

Furthermore, I did not see an imperial senator full of poise, polish and indifference whose focus was on "yeah yeah yeah-ing" her way through an endurance contest she could not avoid. At one point, Lietta literally expressed her sense of wanting to speak to Cantwell "woman to woman" and declared that if she (Maria) truly was not "impersonal" , the impersonal manner in which she has been coming across has been destructive to her image. The reaction was visible.

But ... and now I want to speak to all those who have taken me and those who agree with me to the political wood shed over our challenge to an incumbent for whose re-election they harbor terrible fears.

Maria wants you to shut the hell up.

I repeated my statement to Senator Cantwell - as I blogged two days ago - that my vote for her has never been on the chopping block and about being willing to campaign for her in rural red counties. Her response was immediate and direct and I regretted having taken that tack. She doesn't consider herself needing me to campaign for her as her campaign is perfectly fine thank you.

I draw out of that her sense of a greater disservice to her on the part of those who squawk about her supposed vulnerability and need to be treated like damaged goods - which must be shepherded or escorted through a difficult primary and general election. You do her no public service by sanctimonious blather about party loyalty, vulnerabilities and any political tactic that suppresses the basis for why primaries and general elections are held.

I think if I'd pushed her, she would have given me a lecture in civics.

Until you go into the lair of your personal dragons and see them up close, you may never realize that the dragon does not exist; that someone as human as you and bearing the same essential education and life experience is who you are trying to St. George in your righteous rage. By pretending that you are virtuous and good and that those who disagree with your are not as virtuous, not as good and not as worthy as you in their role in life, you become the dragon yourself.

If you don't believe me, look again at that Christian in the White House who has become exactly that upon which he wages war.

I came out of the meeting convinced that Maria is wrong and I am right about Iraq.

But I also came out of the meeting convinced that where she is wrong has never made her more culpable than any other Democrat AND Republican who voted foolishly when even the dumbest old Veteran in Bay Center, Washington knew that Bush as a viable and effective president was lying through his teeth and had nothing but foolish, unjustifiable and unworthy reasons for taking this country down a road of military shame that would make this nation guilty of the ultimate humanitarian horrors

I also came out of the meeting convinced that Maria is in the right place at the right time. There are no other candidates out there of equal caliber. Those who have presented themselves have not demonstrated any knowledge of how to run, let alone how to lead, how to inspire and how to engender confidence that someone more competent should be at the wheel.  

Our competent someone may have not chosen the best route regarding Iraq but she's headed in the right direction and - "it looks to me like ..... " she has the tools to help us get there and may surprise those of us who think she won't.

Nothing is as helpful as turning over the damn cover and reading the book.

Arthur Ruger 2006

Arthur & Lietta Ruger 2002-2008. The American Choice is a  political internet journal based in Bay Center, Washington. The views expressed not authored by Arthur or Lietta Ruger are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of The American Choice or SwanDeer Productions. Permission of author required for reprinting original material, and only requests for reprinting a specific item are considered.