Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Loebsack vs. Peace Left: Reports Exaggerated?

Loebsack vs. Peace Left: Reports Exaggerated?

Buzz on the Eastern Iowa peace left that Dave Loebsack is miffed with them is getting a firm dismissal from the congressman's office, and from some peace activists.

"The Congressman is not in any way upset with people opposed to the war," Loebsack spokeswoman Gabby Adler told Iowa Independent Tuesday night.  "He's repeatedly encouraged constituents to stand strong in their efforts to hold the Bush Administration's feet to the fire."

The dustup that's been circulating on email lists since the weekend came as Loebsack joined 78 other House members in signing the House Progressive Caucus pledge not to support any more Iraq War funding except for troop withdrawal.  The effort started in mid-July with three California Democrats - Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters.  "Just this week eight more signed on," said Adler.

While peace activists are pleased Loebsack has signed on, some reported he was not happy.  The flap started Friday after Loebsack and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., met with peace activists in Coralville and Loebsack reported he had signed the House Progressive Caucus letter. 

That afternoon, Maria Conzemius wrote on a blog at the Iowa City Press-Citizen site: "You will remember that Rep. Loebsack was irritated with some on the Left who demand absolute proof that he will do the right thing, when he feels that he has been doing the right thing."

But others dispute the characterization, such as Iowa City activist Mona Shaw.  "I have no reason to believe the Congressman is mad at me or any other member of the peace community," Shaw told Iowa Independent.  "It would be contrary to my experience for a legislator to be upset to be asked to do something consistent with their position on an issue."

Charlotte Martin, a professor at Mt. Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, attended the meeting with Loebsack and Hoyer.  "I really didn't think they were feeling brow-beaten," she wrote in an email to several peace lists.  "Impressing (Conzemius) was not my primary goal."

"I was persistent but also, I think, persistently respectful," MArtin wrote.  "I was trying to get Mr. Hoyer, who is responsible in large measure for strategic and tactical decisions by the House Democrats, to shed some light for me on what has been puzzling me--namely, why the Democrats, if they really want to stop the war, do not use the strategy of showing the Republicans in Congress and the President that they won't pass a bill that funds more fighting, that they'll only pass a bill that funds a safe withdrawal of our troops."

"When I heard that there wasn't enough agreement among the Democrats to get a more definitive ending of the war started, I said (only this once and pretty quietly), "I guess that's why I'm part of the angry Left."  I also said, "You have your role in all of this, Mr. Hoyer, and I respect that even when I am very angry.  I hope you understand that I have my role too, and that if I dial down the volume in my insistence that we get this done, no one else [no one outside of the peace activists, I meant, obviously] will turn it up, so I need to keep playing my role, just as Dr. Loebsack always thanks me for the fact that I keep pushing him on this issue."  What I thought he said in response was something like 'oh, sure, don't back off for a minute.'  But I guess Maria didn't get that impression at all."

Loebsack spokeswoman Adler was not at the meeting, but said she heard it was "a frank discussion, and one more piece of the effort to end the war.  Signing the letter was one more part of Congressman Loebsack's effort."

Adler said the position in the Progressive Caucus letter would not have changed any of Loebsack's votes on war funding.  "He's committed to changing the direction," she said.  "He's been working with his colleagues in the Progressive Caucus and the Out of Iraq Caucus.  We need to begin a safe and secure withdrawal, and in order to do that you need to fund that withdrawal.  The Congressman believes that should start immediately."

An analysis of Iraq war voting patterns shows Loebsack, along with fellow Iowa Democratic freshman Bruce Braley, among the largest and second-strongest anti-war group in the house.  They voted for war deauthorization and against funding without a withdrawal deadline.  Only a small group of about eight members, including presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, take a not another penny, immediate defunding position.  Iowa's other Democratic House member, Leonard Boswell, is in the second-weakest Democratic cohort, opposed to deauthorization but supportive of timelines.  This position trails only a half-dozen Democrats who are actively pro-war.

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