Monday, November 21, 2005
Capitol Meltdown Over War; Spotlight On Heather And R's; Can Madrid Maneuver? Our Boys' Bodies Come Home And Politics Matter...Again
We can't get to Thanksgiving Day soon enough. Did you see that pre-recess breakdown in civility in the U.S. House of Representatives, replete with catcalls, boos and cheers and foot stomping? It looked like something out of a Toney Anaya Banana Republic. But losing a war does that; just what it does to our politics is still a matter in motion. But when kids are dying on foreign battlefields, oil prices are threatening economic well-being and when aging boomers are freaking out over health care, you know you are in a time when politics matter, really matter. Which brings us to New Mexico's Heather Wilson and how she has been navigating the stormiest capital weather since Watergate and Vietnam.
How many bullets can ABQ GOP U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson dodge? First, there was her non-position on the Prez's plans for Social Security reform. Fortunately for Heather the plan died and will apparently not be a major issue in next year's campaign against Dem hopeful Attorney General Patricia Madrid.
Now, she has bought political protection by becoming just one of 14 House R's to vote against a budget cutting plan that passed and takes a big chunk out of the Medicaid program for the poor, a program heavily relied on in her district. Dems may argue her House leaders gave her a pass, but it's how a Dem rep from ABQ would have voted. But what of the really big issue, the out-of-control-no-end-in-sight Iraq war?
TAKING OUT HEATHER
Talented political observers here now see it as the best hope to finally give Heather the run the D's have promised and failed to deliver since she first won in 98'. "This one may call for a gamble. Madrid could stake out a firm anti-war position and at the same time placate the big defense establishment here by pledging funding and strong mission support.
"A tough anti-war stand by Madrid combined with public opposition could finally put Heather on the defensive. It might be uncomfortable for some Dems up for re-election, like Governor Richardson and Bingaman, but as bad as things have gone, Heather is still formidable. It's unlikely they take her out on the social issues. They have already tried. It's the war and only the war.
"If it is calmed down by campaign time, Heather probably wins. If it continues, Madrid may still have to gamble. Her opposition now and into the spring could nail down the Democrat base, probably avoid a Green Party challenge and attract swing voters who are now anti-war." So argued a D insider.
Another politico counseled that Wilson's position on the House Intelligence Committee is another field to plow. "Where was U.S. intelligence and what were Heather and the R's doing about it? We may be able to challenge her on national security which is key to her credibility."
THE MURKY FUTURE
Heather has moved in the direction of a phased Iraq withdrawal, quoting a military general who says it may be possible to begin it in 06.' Will she take a cue from the polls and go further in the anti-war direction? Will Madrid force her hand, demanding explanations and accountability from the majority party or decide the safe play, unsuccessful in the past, will finally have its day? Will the war recede by next November? Or will it be successful, vindicating the President? Who knows? More than ever, those who aspire to the national stage are at the mercies of forces larger than themselves.
For now, brave, young American men are fighting and falling on the battlefields of Iraq. For them politics is a matter of life and death. Congresswoman Wilson and Attorney General Madrid have much to discuss.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
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