Losing hope - Page 2

The Afghanistan escalation has angered many Obama voters. But can the antiwar movement revive itself against a Democratic president?
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Lynn Woolsey, the Marin Democrat who chairs the Progressive Caucus, issued a statement immediately following Obama's speech in which she minced no words: "I remain opposed to sending more combat troops because I just don't see that there is a military solution to the situation in Afghanistan," she said, adding that "This is no surprise to me at all. I knew [Obama] was a moderate politician. I've known it all along."

Woolsey told the Contra Costa Times that she thinks a majority of Democrats will oppose funding the troop increase — and that it will pass the House only because Republicans will vote for it.

Barbara Lee, (D-Oakland), the only member of Congress to vote against sending troops to Afghanistan eight years ago, has already introduced a bill, HR 3699, that would cut off funding for any expanded military presence there.

George Miller, (D-Martinez), has been harsh in his criticism. "We need an honest national government in Afghanistan," Miller said in a statement. "We don't have one. We need substantial help from our allies in the region, like Russia, China, India, and Iran. We are not getting it. We need Pakistan to be a credible ally in our efforts. It is not. We need a substantial commitment of resources and troops from NATO and our allies. While NATO is expected to add a small number of new troops, other troops have announced they are leaving. We need a large Afghan police force and army that is trained and ready to defend their country. We don't have it."

So where's Pelosi? Hard to tell. At this point, she's refused to say whether she supports the president's plan. We called her office and were referred to her only formal statement on the issue, which says: "Tonight, the president articulated a way out of this war with the mission of defeating Al Qaeda and preventing terrorists from using Afghanistan and Pakistan as safe havens to again launch attacks against the United States and our allies. The president has offered President Karzai a chance to prove that he is a reliable partner. The American people and the Congress will now have an opportunity to fully examine this strategy."

That sounds a lot like the position of someone who is prepared to support Obama. And that might not play well in her hometown.

The San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee has been vocal about criticizing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on July 22, 2009, the committee passed a resolution demanding an Afghanistan exit strategy. There's a good chance someone on the committee will submit a resolution urging Pelosi to join Woolsey, Lee, and Miller in opposition to the Obama surge. "I've been thinking about it," committee member Michael Goldstein, who authored the July resolution, told us.

That sort of thing tends to infuriate Pelosi, who doesn't like getting pushed from the left. And since there are already the beginnings of an organized effort by centrist Democrats and downtown forces to run a slate that would challenge progressive control of the local Democratic Party, offending Pelosi (and encouraging her to put money into the downtown slate) would be risky.

Still, Goldstein said, "she'll probably do that anyway."

And it would leave the more moderate Democrats on the Central Committee — who typically support Pelosi — in a bind. Will they vote against a measure calling for a withdrawal from Afghanistan? Could that be an issue in the DCCC campaign in June 2010 — and potentially, in the supervisors' races in the fall?

In at least one key supervisorial district — eight — the role of the DCCC and the record of its members will be relevant, since three of the leading candidates in that district — Rafael Mandleman, Scott Wiener, and Laura Spanjian — are all committee members.

Tom Gallagher, president of the Bernal Heights Democratic Club and author of past antiwar resolutions at the DCCC, acknowledged what an uphill battle antiwar Democrats face.

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