After 41 Years, A Belated Victory for Butter
Nixon issued a call to counterrevolution at home," summed up Time magazine in 1973, noting that while
the Republican administration was increasing the Pentagon budget, it was
proposing the "abolition or deep cutting of more than 100 federal grant
programs that have benefited the unemployed, students, farmers, veterans, small
businessmen, the mentally ill and tenants in federally aided housing."
resulting body bags and cuts to homeland investment were, of course,
devastating—which is why it is fitting that Obey is choosing to end his
congressional tenure where he started it: presciently on the side of butter in
a 21st-century reprisal of the ancient debate. And this time, the Wisconsin
Democrat's seniority puts him in a far more powerful position to press his
last decade, Obey has been methodically campaigning against the Iraq War and
the endless Afghanistan occupation, saying their rationales are weak, their
prosecution inept and their deficit-financed costs unaffordable in the face of
unmet domestic needs. For years, he has valiantly championed bills to legislate
withdrawal timetables and war surtaxes. Now, with President Obama defiantly
pushing a plan to boost Afghan war funding at the potential expense of economic
aid on the home front, Obey has deftly replaced the scalpel strokes of
proactive legislation with the blunt force of filibuster.
Politico, Obey last week "drew a direct link between war funding and
progress on domestic priorities" with his announcement that as
Appropriations Committee chairman, he will "withhold action on the war
funds until there (is) some resolution on a major economic relief bill
extending jobless benefits."
clockwork, the move was met with hypocritical hysteria. The same Republican
Party that bewails deficits responded with a letter asking Defense Secretary
Robert Gates to champion the deficit-exploding war funding bill in order to
avoid "undermining" the military. Gates, despite having just called
for defense spending cuts, obediently complied—and on Republicans' insipid
terms that perniciously question war critics' loyalty to our soldiers.
to Congress: Stalling on War Funding Will Hurt U.S. Troops," read the Fox
News headline after he publicly echoed the GOP demands.
The Nation's Chris Hayes has written that such tripe
boils down to "You're either with the war or you are against the
troops"—and as the bloated Pentagon budget proves, that message has
thwarted Obey for most of his life.
Yes, just as
Obey prepares to retire, there are signs that his crusade is winning converts.
For instance, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn is using his position on
President Obama's deficit commission to focus attention on Pentagon profligacy.
Similarly, Politico reports that "key tea party players (are) expressing a
willingness to put the Pentagon budget on the chopping block." And
rank-and-file congressional Democrats, once cowed by war proponents' saber
rattling, are increasingly echoing Obey's rhetoric.
not the cacophony stops the Pentagon's latest blank check is less important
than Obey having finally rekindled an honest discussion about guns and butter.
In a storied 41-year career of venerable accomplishments, that is the most
profound achievement of all.
David Sirota, a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee, is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at OpenLeft.com. E-mail him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.
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