The Hightower Report

Gut-Check Time for Congress; and Betrayal on Trade by Democratic Leaders

Gut-Check Time for Congress

In another of his ever-changing rationales for his Iraq war, George W. has bizarrely proclaimed that this conflagration is like the Vietnam War – a comparison he spent the previous four years heatedly rejecting!

Well, on at least one point, his Vietnam comparison is apt: Next year, the Iraq war will pass the $600 billion mark in U.S. spending, making it nearly as costly as the long Vietnam debacle. Bush has now requested an additional $173 billion for Iraq war funding in 2008, making it the most expensive year yet for his disastrous misadventure.

For those of us who want to end Bush's Big Mistake, however, the focus of our effort can no longer be on him. George is who he is: a bonehead. Intent on dumping ever more lives and money into his war, he is immune to sanity.

Rather, the question now is where the hell is Congress? Yes, I know the new Democratic leadership has only slim majorities and the Bushites use filibusters, veto threats, and demagogic lies to thwart their efforts to initiate a withdrawal from Iraq. But, come on – it's time to toughen up! Asserting congressional authority to check and balance a runaway, lawless executive is not a mere political option; it's a constitutional obligation.

The founders deliberately gave real muscle to Congress to use in situations like this, and previous lawmakers were not too timid to use them. From the exposés of the Fulbright hearings in the 1960s to the withholding of war funds in 1973 to stop Nixon from extending the Vietnam War into Laos and Cambodia, earlier Congresses have had the guts to show they really are a co-equal branch of government.

It's time for Congress to pull the purse strings on Bush's war. It has the power to stop the needless killing and maiming of thousands more Americans and Iraqi civilians. Failure to use that power is not just political cowardice – it's immoral.

BETRAYAL ON TRADE BY DEMOCRATIC LEADERS

What is it about "no" that Democratic congressional leaders don't get?

Less than a year ago, one of the top issues in congressional elections was adamant voter opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement-style corporate-trade scams that both Bill Clinton and George W. have hung around the necks of regular folks in our country and in Latin America. The new class of more populist-minded Democrats made "No More NAFTAs" a grassroots battle cry in the 2006 elections, and 37 of them displaced incumbents who had been backers of the corporate deals.

Their election put the Democratic party in charge of Congress. So, what is one of the first things the newly ensconced old guard of the party did? It agreed to try hanging yet another NAFTA around our necks! Working with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel recently pushed a business-as-usual trade pact with Peru through his committee.

Oh, sure, they dressed this one up with some new baubles and bows, but, at its core, the Peruvian deal is the same old giveaway to corporate power. A clue as to how bad of a deal this one is came when the Bush White House and corporate interests lustily applauded Rangel's bill.

Why would Democratic leaders betray the members and voters who put them in power? Because the leadership is financially tied to Wall Street and the corporate honchos who profit from these trade scams.

An indication of just how shaky the leadership is on this key issue is that Rangel didn't even allow a public hearing on the Peru pact – and he passes it by voice vote, so the public wouldn't be able to hold the betrayers accountable. The good news, however, is that rank-and-file House Democrats oppose this dirty deal and will fight it on the floor. For information on how to help them say "no," call Global Trade Watch at 202/454-5106.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Iraq war, George W. Bush, Vietnam War, Congress, trade, NAFTA, Bill Clinton, Charlie Rangel, Peru Free Trade Agreement, Global Trade Watch

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