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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown: Wrong On Petraeus Vote

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- War is a hideous tragedy. The suffering cannot be measured. Winston Churchill said that of World War I. Today Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, made a hideous decision against the backdrop of the tragedy that has unfolded in Iraq under President George W. Bush.

Brown voted against a U.S. Senate amendment that condemned the personal attacks on Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and also honored the integrity of all members of the "United States Armed Forces."

Virginia Sen. Jim Webb -- another Democrat who actually served in combat in Vietnam and came to the Senate as an anti-Iraq War candidate -- voted in favor of the resolution. Webb's son has served in the war. Webb may hate the war, and he has been a leading critic of the President as an incompetent and foolish wartime leader, but he won't denigrate the soldiers who have been sent to fight it. Ohio's Republican Sen. George Voinovich voted with Webb.

Petraeus is the four-star who commands coalition forces in Iraq. ran an ad last week that played off the alliteration of Petraeus and Betray Us, an ad that implied the general would sell out his country if he did not speak loudly and clearly against his mission in Iraq. The members of the "United States Armed Forces" are men and women -- thousands from Sherrod Brown's state -- who put on uniforms and make huge sacrifices for their country, sacrifices that can include life and limb.

The were 46 words in the sentence that Sherrod Brown voted against:

"To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces."

Brown was wrong to say "Nay" when the vote was called.

If he cannot stand Petraeus, if he feels the general betrayed his troops and his nation, he should draft a resolution or amendment saying just that: Gen. Petraeus betrayed his country, he is a traitor.

Others strongly disagree. Jeff Coryell at Ohio Daily Blog believes Sen. Brown upheld the principle of Free Speech, and saw the Senate's adoption of the GOP-introduced measure as a tragic event in its own right. Jeff's view of the Brown vote and the free speech implications are well worth reading at his well-respected Ohio Daily Blog. He writes:

"It is a sad day when our government condemns political speech. Whether tasteful or outrageous, expression of political opinion is fundamental to democracy and is at the core of our most cherished freedoms. The brouhaha over is not just a despicable diversionary tactic to deflect attention from popular opposition to the war, it is an affront to our basic civil liberties."

The Senate, however, was well within its rights to condemn what , or anyone else for that matter, said about an American soldier's honor and integrity. Senators made no attempt to erect a legal barrier interferring with's activities, nor did they stop its message from being spread across the nation, and MoveOn remains totally free to say whatever it wants about Gen. Petraeus and the war. Popular opposition to the war is unfettered and unrestrained, and basic civil liberties were unaffected by the Senate vote.

But civility, perhaps, got a boost.


  1. Alliteration? Not according to my Merriam-Webster. And just 46 words? I think the amendment included language stating that the advertisement had impugned “the honor and integrity of … all the members of the United States Armed Forces.” All the members? Please.

    MoveOn made a stupid political statement, and the Senate Republicans followed suit. Don’t hold it against Mr. Brown for not playing along.

    Also, one day earlier, Mr. Voinovich voted against Mr. Webb’s amendment guaranteeing our troops family time equal to time served in Iraq. Mr. Brown supported it. To me, that was the more significant vote of the week. Care to poll the troops?

  2. Hi Anon 1:05 AM --

    I considered rhyme over alliteration. But didn't say that because:

    One of the words used by MoveOn was "Petraeus."

    Then there were two others: "Betray Us."

    The entire word Petraeus was alliterative to the word Betray in my view.

    There was, indeed a rhyme on the back end of Petraeus with the second word, "Us." I guess I focused on the front end not the back end.

    Yes, Sen. Webb wanted the troops to stay home longer between rotations. And, yes, that was the more important vote. And, yes, Sen. Brown wants to end the war, which is the most important effort of all.

    For some Americans, however, the vote was not as abstract an act as some might think. These people were watching because they have loved ones in uniform, know people in uniform, have served in uniform, or have family members who have worn uniforms. I cannot speak for all, but I know there was a reaction and that the vote against was viewed as not supporting the troops. (That is how I took it, and I was a bit suprised at how strongly I felt.) I don't know how lasting that reaction will be -- if it will have legs. You seem determined to say that the vote was a Republican trick or trap or maneuver of some kind. And yes, it was. My opinion is that Sen. Brown should have voted with Sen. Webb on both measures -- to keep the troops home, and to say they are serving with honor. That is how I feel.

    As for Voinovich, he has other problems on the war, but I don't think he's run into the problem of being seen as not supporting the troops.

  3. "As for Voinovich, he has other problems on the war, but I don't think he's run into the problem of being seen as not supporting the troops."

    What? Go back just a few sentences in your comment and anylize the two votes being discussed here. Brown voted nay on a meaningless resolution condemning a newspaper ad, while Voinovich voted nay on an ammendment to give the overused troops equal time home.

    Who's not "supporting the troops?" And if Voinovich is somehow viewed as being more supportive of the troops than Brown, there is something really, really, really wrong with our culture.

    As the other commenter said, poll the troops.

  4. In his best John Kerry voice, Senator Brown might say he actually voted for condemning the advertisement before he voted against it. Brown voted “yea” on Mrs. Boxer’s amendment, which included the following:

    "On September 10, 2007, an advertisement in the New York Times was an unwarranted personal attack on General Petraeus; who is honorably leading our Armed Forces in Iraq and carrying out the mission assigned to him by the President of the United States; and

    (7) Such personal attacks on those with distinguished military service to our nation have become all too frequent.

    (b) SENSE OF SENATE.--It is the sense of the Senate--

    (1) to reaffirm its strong support for all of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces; and

    (2) to strongly condemn all attacks on the honor, integrity, and patriotism of any individual who is serving or has served honorably in the United States Armed Forces, by any person or organization"

    Meanwhile, as you and I blather on about amendments that in no way impact the troops, a significant one, Mr. Levin’s mandating commencement of draw down within ninety days, has just been defeated. The MoveOn ad has certainly distracted us from that which truly matters.

  5. Hi Mark --

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I completely understand where you are coming from. I just don't agree with you -- and a lot of people -- on this particular vote.

  6. Hi Anon11:59 AM --

    Yes, there is too much blathering. And way too much bleeding and dying. Bodies are torn, limbs are lost, lives are shattered. And yet we blather.

    While people are surrendering their lives -- or taking lives -- in Washington they blather on.

  7. Reading this, I'm tempted to ask when the GOP retook the Senate. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the resolution would not have gotten to the floor had not the Dem leadership felt pressured to take it up.

    If the Dems didn't want it considered, but the GOP somehow snookered the majority into getting the resolution to the floor with clever parliamentarianism, whose fault is that?

  8. Hi Tom/Bizzylog --

    I guess the fault --or faultline --for Dems is that they can't get anything done to bring the war to a close, or get a timetable to bring the war to a close. If you have time today (and this is a slight change of subject) check out Radio Free Europe's broadcast from midweek about Petraeus and Crocker in London. They were quite concerned about the Brits leaving, which then leaves U.S. supply lines exposed in the south, which made me wonder if what has been said about people coming home anytime soon comports with reality.

    , s lc

  9. Maybe Sherrod's problem was the the phrase "sense of the Senate," a clear oxymoron.