Pete Stark’s Apology

23:56 Tue 23 Oct 2007. Updated: 01:27 24 Oct 2007
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Last week the Democratic Congressman for Fremont, Pete Stark, angrily reacted to the veto of the S-CHIP children’s health insurance bill by saying:

“You don’t have money to fund the war or children, but you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement”

That’s a little over the top, of course. Bush is sending American soldiers to Iraq to increase the wealth and power of his faction, not for personal amusement. Further, I’m always suspicious about appeals to “think of the children” in politics, and perhaps there’s some case to be made against S-CHIP, although few good ones spring to mind. However, one can’t really claim that the two things are totally different, since it’s clearly taxpayer money that’s going to go to one or the other expenditure. It seems quite reasonable that Stark would be angry that money would be denied a program for children’s health care (even if that program had flaws) but granted to continue an illegal occupation that most of the country opposes.

Yet he was forced to apologize today. Apparently he was told by the Democratic leadership—i.e. Nancy Pelosi—that if he didn’t apologize, the censure motion introduced by the Republicans would have Democratic support as well. Under that pressure, he caved in.

His remarks were certainly controversial, and the right-wing media outlets went crazy over them. A lot of the “centrist” outlets felt he had “gone too far” and been “disrespectful”, although why anyone would really balk at disrespecting Bush at this point is kind of beyond me. In this particular context, his “skit” from a few years back about not being able to find WMDs, making light of the falsehoods he’d fed the American people in order to sucker them into the war, make it clear that he doesn’t deserve any respect.

But did Pelosi push for an apology for purely tactical reasons, to eliminate a “distraction”, to defend Democratic popularity? I don’t think so. A lot of people seemed to applaud his remarks, and a lot of Americans are genuinely angry at the idea that the government will spend money on a war they don’t want while not spending money on a program for children that they do want. That’s clearly a legitimate anger. It’s also clearly something that Pelosi wants no part of.

Was the push for an apology due to “traditional values” concerning what one should and shouldn’t say, essentially political decorum? Not in the sense that they really care that it’s disrespectful or impolite, although that might be a factor. But given the Republican treatment of so many sections of the government, it would be pretty weird to focus on Stark rather than on any number of Administration statements, scandals, or actions.

I don’t think Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership care much about Bush’s reputation, or decorum. But I do think that they absolutely don’t want anyone suggesting that American troops are out killing and dying somewhere distant for reasons that are anything but noble and well-intentioned, even if (perhaps) a little misguided. That’s not anything they want to talk about, since they support the power grab over Iraq (and possibly Iran). Furthermore, they support the whole imperial military program. Thus the reasons that the establishment send troops anywhere need to be kept constant—it’s always to do something that’s really for the good of all involved, perhaps for the good of humanity. Considerations of global strategic choke points, energy resources, economic advantages are all to be kept distant. Very distant, so that anyone talking about them is automatically far outside the mainstream. The mainstream view is all about those noble intentions, and wondering how things could go so wrong. Stark, in anger, challenged that by suggesting that the warmongering was done for the purposes of amusement. Untrue, but if you can have comments like that in the mainstream, next people might start looking at more plausible, but unpalatable, reasons that the wars are fought for. That might expose too many Americans to the workings of power, which would never do. So get back in the bottle, genie of possible non-noble motivations for American military adventures.

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