Water Man Spouts

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

102 Letters from the Grass Roots

Part One: From a Letter From a Region of James Baldwin's Mind
"One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us. ... It is the responsibility of free men to trust and to celebrate what is constant -- birth, struggle, and death are constant, and so is love, though we may not always think so -- and to apprehend the nature of change, to be able and willing to change. I speak of change not on the surface but in the depths -- change in the sense of renewal. But renewal becomes impossible if one supposes things to be constant that are not -- safety, for example, or money, or power. One clings then to chimeras, by which one can only be betrayed, and the entire hope -- the entire possibility -- of freedom disappears. And by destruction I mean precisely the abdication by Americans of any effort really to be free."
-- James Baldwin; The Fire Next Time; 1962; pages 124-5.
Though I reside in the state of New York, I am fascinated by a struggle taking place in Connecticut. Senator Joe Lieberman is being challenged by Ned Lamont in the democratic primary. Lieberman is a curious case: he appeared to be progressive in the 2000 campaign, as Al Gore's choice for vice president. Yet his behavior in the Clinton years had been a cause of concern. Had Lieberman changed? As we have found out since, Senator Lieberman has grown closer to the Bush administration.
I think that Senator Lieberman is best defined as a neoconservative. But I try to keep an open mind. If one calls him a lap dog for VP Cheney, or a cheerleader for the OVP military occupation of Iraq, I will not strongly disagree.
However, democrats must change to master change .... and thus, yesterday I mailed a contribution to the Ned Lamont campaign. (Send checks to: Ned Lamont for Senate; PO Box 422; Green Farms, CT, 06838.) I also e-mailed a message to "info@nedlamont.com," and was pleased that my question was answered -- fully -- within two hours.

Part Two: One Hundred Letters to Elected Officials
In my last entry on my blog, which I post on three progressive sites on the internet, I advocated that citizens at the grass roots level begin a media campaign to shine a light on the issues involved in the Plame scandal. I noted that in political campaigns, letters to the editor of newspapers are a powerful tool for voter education. I suggested that people would do well to write a simple LTTE that states that President Bush had promised to fire anyone in his administration involved in the Plame leak; Rove and Scott McClellan publicly denied Karl was involved; the FBI and grand jury investigation showed Rove spoke with both Bob Novak and Matt Cooper about Plame; why hasn't Bush fired him?
More, I suggested that people should consider sending brief, 5 to 10 question "surveys" to elected officials, and use the results in LTTE and related media campaigns. This type of citizen survey works especially well in the smaller newspapers of rural America. We are often fooled into thinking that it is far more important to target the New York or Los Angeles Times, and are frustrated when our letters are not printed. Yet he who bemoans a lacvk of opportunity often neglects to see that small doors often open into large rooms. We build the strongest foundation by starting at the lower levels.
Yesterday I sent a cover letter explaining an inclosed survey to 100 elected officials. Because 2006 is an important year for elections involving the House and Senate, I decided to send the letter and survey to 50 officials in each branch of the Congress. In each, I selected 25 democrats and 25 republicans.
I explained that my goal is to get responses from a large cross-section of elected officials to issues that should be important to voters in this election year. The results of the survey will be published on internet sites, and used in LTTEs. The survey allows politicians the opportunity to speak to American citizens at the grass roots level; it could likewise help people at the grass roots level determine which candidates they will support with possible investments of time, contributions of money, and on election day with their ballots.
The 100 politicians included those suggested by readers of the Democratic Underground, and by two college students who are my "summer help." They intend to use the results of the survey in the fall, when they network with other politically active college students across the country.
The students ask me: Do I expect all -- or even most -- of the 100 politicians to respond to the survey? That is a fair question. I suspect that there might be a larger response from democrats than republicans, but the important thing is that we are doing our part. We are not responsible for the actions or inactions of the politicians .... but we can try to hold them responsible.

Part Three: One Thousand Questions of One Hundred Politicians
My survey includes 10 simple questions. Four involve Karl Rove. They include questions about President Bush's 9-30-03 promise to fire anyone in his administration involved in the leak; Rove and McClellan's lying to the news reporters about Rove's involvement; and Rove's enjoyment of a security clearance granting him access to sensitive classified information.
I also included four questions about VP Dick Cheney. Does the American public have the right to know if Iraqi oil supplies were discussed during Cheney's secret energy meetings in early 2001? Has Cheney been honest with the American people about his role in the Plame scandal? Does the VP's copy of the NY Times op-ed by Wilson, complete with Cheney's hand written notes, indicate that Cheney was more actively involved in the operation to discredit Wilson than the White House has previously acknowledged? Should the House/Senate investigate the role Cheney played in misleading the country on intelligence reports on Niger yellow cake and WMD programs in Iraq?
There are two other questions, including one asking if he/she will request that President Bush allow the justice system to deal with Libby and anyone else who may face future charges, and not grant any pardons.
I attempted to ask reasonable, fair questions about the Plame scandal. The survey allows both democrats and republicans an opportunity to express their beliefs about some of the important issues involved in a scandal that helps define the lies the administration relied upon to bring this nation to war in Iraq. The truth is that the war is unpopular, and VP Cheney is now the most unpopular person at that level of power in our nation's history. He recently told a journalist that he isn't running for office, and so he doesn't care what the polls say. But we do. It is fair to ask if politicians embrace or reject VP Dick Cheney.

Part Four: "My Dungeon Shook" with James Baldwin
On the one hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation, author James Baldwin penned a remarkable letter to his nephew about being black in America. The letter originally appeared in The New Yorker under the title "Letter from a Region in My Mind." It also appeared as "Down at the Cross" in Baldwin's classic "The Fire Next Time."
It used to be considered "required reading" in high schools across the country. The letter allowed readers -- especially white readers -- to share an intimate insight into how the disease of racism infected human beings. James Baldwin was a sensitive man who used the pen as a most powerful weapon. His message to his nephew was "do not become bitter."
I am reminded of this when I read progressive/democrats being disappointed that Karl Rove was not indicted by the Fitzgerald grand jury in May. I, too, wish that Karl Rove had been indicted .... and, indeed, frog-marched from the White House. I do not know why he wasn't -- perhaps he is providing valuable information to the prosecutor, perhaps the grand jury did not think the evidence warrented indictments.
Whatever the case may be, I know that Karl Rove lied to the public (and had Scott McClellan lie as well) about the role he played. Progressive/democrats know that Karl is a criminal, even if he is not charged or convicted. He is, at best, an unindicted co-conspirator, much like Nixon in Watergate.
We can allow Rove's non-indictment to create bitterness and division within our ranks, as it has already done to a small extent. Or we can use Karl Rove as a political punching bag. That choice is ours. Likewise, VP Cheney's gross unpopularity is a most powerful weapon that we should take full advantage of.
When the survey results begin to be returned, I will be posting them on my blog and the three internet sites I contribute to. I encourage readers to use the information in LTTE in their area. We might not have the pleasure of seeing Karl Rove convicted in criminal court for his Plame crimes .... but it would be poetic justice if we use his skating as a weapon to disable the Bush administration in 2006's elections.
As Baldwin quoted, from a famous poem of long ago, in his letter to his nephew: "The very time I thought I was lost, My dungeon shook and my chains fell off."


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