Has Rep. Barbara Lee just destroyed her political career?
September 14, 2001 11:02 PM   Subscribe

Has Rep. Barbara Lee just destroyed her political career? Lee (D-CA-9) was the only person in Congress to vote against House Joint Resolution 64/Senate Joint Resolution 23, the bill that authorizes use of military force. Her reason: She believes military action "will not prevent further acts of terrorism." On Dec. 8, 1941, Rep. Jeannette Rankin (R-MT) was the only member of Congress to vote against the declaration of war on Japan, and voter outrage ended her career. Interestingly, Rankin - the first woman ever elected to Congress - had ruined her political career once before, after voting against the declaration of war on Germany in 1917! So ... Whither Barbara Lee?
posted by aaron (48 comments total)
So, Rankin didn't really ruin her career in '17.
posted by brantstrand at 11:06 PM on September 14, 2001

She didn't get elected again for over 20 years.
posted by aaron at 11:10 PM on September 14, 2001

I commend Rep. Lee for having a strong personal character and standing by her beliefs.

I don't agree with her, but that is what makes America great!

I doubt it will hurt her career. Now, if she had been the deciding vote on the bill and voted against it, that would be different.
posted by dewelch at 11:19 PM on September 14, 2001

I'm impressed. She's got more balls than most of those weasels in Washington.
posted by drunkkeith at 11:20 PM on September 14, 2001

This COULD really bite her in the ass when attack ads start running, unless she has better ammo to run against her opponents. "When the country was united, Lee sided with the enemy. Vote Person X, and vote America." Crap like that often works. *mumbles about McCain*

But Lee has a history of supporting Cuba and has voted among tiny minorities on several military-related issues in the past, and was re-elected despite this. So I think the people already know who they voted for. Time will tell, but I think the majority of people who support her now will still support her unless she makes a habit of opposing things throughout the duration of this time of tragedy, things which nobody else opposed.
posted by bargle at 11:26 PM on September 14, 2001

Eh, I take that back. I read her biography and most of the votes I was thinking of actually occured after she was re-elected. So who knows, she might have already ruined her career. I admire her standing up for what she believes.
posted by bargle at 11:29 PM on September 14, 2001

I don't agree with her totally either, but then again, I do think she has hit on a key point that we shouldn't ignore - military force probably WON'T prevent future acts of terrorism. Hey, who figured that 20 guys with, literally, glorified razor blades would be sophisticated enough to destroy 15 million square feet of office space in NYC (one of the more amazing things I heard, BTW) and put an unintended atrium into the Pentagon??

Tell you the truth, I tend to agree with that point, and I fear that if we screw this up badly we are in for some damn serious trouble.
posted by PeteyStock at 11:35 PM on September 14, 2001

So don't punish the guilty?

"Don't put murderers in jail, people are going to die anyway" See the problem with that?
posted by owillis at 11:41 PM on September 14, 2001 [1 favorite]

Well, on one hand if Lee's constituency supports her general political stance, then her one vote here will not be a career killer as aaron so direly predicts. The beauty of the HoR is that it is more directly representative than the Senate, allowing "fringe" reps and others who cater to their districts distinct political bent to get re-elected, even if it makes them less than mainstream overall. An example is Bernie Sanders, who has never been what you'd call mainstream/ moderate politically, but his Vermont constituency seem to like him.

On the other hand, even Sanders voted for this resolution...
posted by hincandenza at 11:46 PM on September 14, 2001

God Bless her, she has more courage than anyone else in that room.

and she's correct: a military action will not prevent further acts of terrorism. it will merely exact revenge, only on people as innocent of the crime as the office workers in tne WTC were of bombing iraq.
posted by rebeccablood at 12:00 AM on September 15, 2001

There seems to be something of a consensus here...I don't agree with her either, but I do admire her courage to stand behind her convictions and hope she isn't penalized for it by the small-minds. Anyone got HER email address so I can tell her so?
posted by rushmc at 12:03 AM on September 15, 2001

According to CNN, she voted no because voting yes would give the Executive branch too much power. But then again, the vote was 422-1, so what difference does it (one vote) make anyway?
posted by Nirvana at 12:06 AM on September 15, 2001

I don't think anyone here is saying "don't punish".

Honorable Ms. Lee merely voted against the bill. The bill states: "The President is authorized to use United States Armed Forces and all other necessary resources of the United States Government against any entity determined by the President to have planned, carried out, or otherwise supported the attacks "--I don't necessarily trust that Mr. Bush will act in ways that don't cause 100 Usama Bin Ladens to appear in the near future.
posted by mikojava at 12:08 AM on September 15, 2001

owillis: So don't punish the guilty?

Way to spin, owillis- I do believe that's what is called a "straw man" argument. I suppose the stunningly poor people of Afghan- and other places in that region- who've already been victimized for years by the lunatic militaristic fringe that run their "governments" are 'the guilty' of which you speak? Or to steal your straw man: "Don't just put murderers in jail; we must also shoot up the neighborhood they live in and hunt down their previous victim's families and kill them too! THAT will teach people to kill people! Mwu-hahahahaha!"

I guess the concept those who can't understand why Lee would cast a 'Nay' vote may be missing is that voting now for 'military force' may be too early and too-wide open. Ms. Lee may fear that it's a vote and resolution that leaves a too-wide open door with a $40B blank check for Bush (just days after the Congress/White House was in a big spat over the fact that the huge tax break swallowed up the surplus that would be MIGHTY useful right now) that might mean indiscriminate bombing in the future. That's indiscriminate bombing that will take innocent lives for the sins of their governments or a few extremists from their country, indiscriminate bombing that will potentially create a new generation of survivors yearning to get revenge at the country that bombed them "back to the Stone Age" ( <-- I'd urge ya to read this; it's that article from the Afghan-American writer linked earlier today).

I'm not sure how I would have voted on this resolution if I were in Congress, but I hope owillis you realize that this isn't just some "namby pamby liberal 'don't punish the guilty'" scenario. There may actually be thought behind it, and at least we should commend Ms. Lee for having the courage of her convictions especially in a situation when it would be so easy to just go with the rest of the Congress.
posted by hincandenza at 12:11 AM on September 15, 2001

owillis: of course punish the guilty!

The only guess I can make on her reasoning - I'd like to see a statement from her - is that military force will cause more harm than good (my "screw this up badly" comment) and just enrage Osama and his cronies more and motivate them to more extreme and heinous acts.

Personally I am not willing to go as far on that reasoning as she is. But I do agree with the point she is making and I'd bet that the military is keeping this in mind while mapping out their strategy.

Yeah I know I am sounding equivocal, but it's hard to get this to all sound right at 3 AM in DC.
posted by PeteyStock at 12:13 AM on September 15, 2001

Ah geez- I'm always the last one on the bandwagon! I'm hoping MeFi Pro 2001 has the ability to notify me while I'm typing up a comment that someone else (or several someone elses) has just posted what I'm gonna say, except more succinctly.
posted by hincandenza at 12:14 AM on September 15, 2001

Sorry I didn't add this to the last post, but here is the congresswoman's email address :
send email

I've already sent her a message of encouragement.
posted by mikojava at 12:14 AM on September 15, 2001

damn, hincandenza made that sound a heck of a lot better than I did. :-)
posted by PeteyStock at 12:17 AM on September 15, 2001

"The President is authorized to use United States Armed Forces and all other necessary resources of the United States Government against any entity determined by the President to have planned, carried out, or otherwise supported the attacks "

Wonder how much backpedalling there would be if Bush decided to use a nuke...
posted by rushmc at 12:28 AM on September 15, 2001

hincandenza: you presume too much with your hyperbole. As I have said time and freakin' time again (but it seems nobody's listening) "the guilty" are the perpetrators of this crime: the terrorists and the governments that hide them. The people of Afghanistan or any other country have committed no crime. I want the bad guys punished.

Is that so hard to understand?
posted by owillis at 12:40 AM on September 15, 2001

I want the bad guys punished.

so you don't advocate war? I *have* been misunderstanding you, I apologize.
posted by rebeccablood at 12:44 AM on September 15, 2001

"War" on the bad guys, meaning we go in with our army, drag the bad guys out and take care of them properly. I classify it as "war" because we have to use a lot of force, and we can't rely on these governments to assist - so we have to violate their borders. There is no reason to attack the innocent.
posted by owillis at 12:53 AM on September 15, 2001

owillis, do you think it will really work that way? can you think of even one time that it ever *has*?
posted by rebeccablood at 12:59 AM on September 15, 2001

Well, I'd be willing to believe that owillis- all of us want the bad guys punished- except: why in this particular thread did you post "so don't punish the guilty"? To whom were you directing that? In response to which comment or link? Because I read and re-read this thread up to your comment, and it sure seems to be that your comment is responding to either the general "I admire the courage of her convictions" posts or PeteyStock's particular "She has hit on the key point that... military action probably WON'T stop terrorism". Hence it was my inference that you are supporting larger-scale military action against the general people of Afghanistan. Currently, it sounds like diplomatic discussions are occuring with many nations like Pakistan and even the Taliban in Afghanistan to see if the various terrorist cells can be rooted out- hopefully with as little direct military action necessary from the US as possible.

Although to be fair about the general tone of my postings, I will freely admit I'm the most prolific-est hyperbolating poster that ever lived!
posted by hincandenza at 1:00 AM on September 15, 2001

I too admire her for voting her conscience, however, if she is not re-elected because of this, her constituents may not be reacting improperly. Her job is to represent their views, and if the majority of those she represents think that this bill should have received a yes vote and they think that this issue is big enough to affect their voting, then they would actually be doing their jobs as informed voters to vote against her come her next election. (Of course, I also realize that unfortunately, her opponents may use it against her and many who vote may not be well aware of other issues in which they are in agreement with her. But that is the way politics seems to occur in this country).
posted by Caz721 at 1:18 AM on September 15, 2001

She believes military action "will not prevent further acts of terrorism."

Neither do I and I admire her stand, but the time has come for us to kick some ass.

That sounds cheap, but we can strongly discourage any more terrorist actions inside our borders.

I did notice that Drudge linked her site in his headlines, so someone will be sorting though a ton of mean mail.
posted by BarneyFifesBullet at 1:41 AM on September 15, 2001

Barbara Lee will not even maybe suffer politically for her vote. No one has mentioned the very relevant fact that she represents Berkeley and surrounding East Bay communities. I staffed the polls at my Berkeley precinct in the November elections, and we were giving out many more Green ballots than Republican. On the day of the disaster, the only public gathering I saw as I walked through the U.C. campus was a small anti-war demonstration...
posted by Zurishaddai at 1:51 AM on September 15, 2001

Here's her statement (Not sure if this is a her oral statement on the House floor, her revised and extended remarks for the Congressional Record, or a combination.):


I rise today with a heavy heart, one that is filled with sorrow for the families and loved ones who were killed and injured this week. Only the most foolish or the most callous would not understand the grief that has gripped our people and millions across the world.
This unspeakable attack on the United States has forced me to rely on my moral compass, my conscience, and my God for direction.
September 11 changed the world. Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States.
This resolution will pass although we all know that the President can wage a war even without it. However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, let's step back for a moment and think through the implications of our action today so that it does not spiral out of control.
I have agonized over this vote. But I came to grips with opposing this resolution during the very painful memorial service today. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, "As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore."
posted by Vidiot at 1:51 AM on September 15, 2001


Has Art Bell weighed in on the subject yet?
posted by red cell at 2:05 AM on September 15, 2001

There is an old parable wherein a village is plagued by a serpent. The warriors of the village decide that the snake must be killed. They kill it and from the corpse sprout a hundred snakes, all angry becuase of the death of the original snake.

I'm not saying don't go after the perpetrators of the heinous assult on freedom -- I'm just saying that if you mix metaphors/parables, cauterize the hydra's necks.

I think that parable may be Kenyan, not sure.
posted by j.edwards at 2:28 AM on September 15, 2001

I was responding to the statement: military action probably WON'T stop terrorism
posted by owillis at 2:58 AM on September 15, 2001

I hear a lot of talk about the innocent, presumably meaning the 99% of the population who happen not to be professional soldiers.
My question is - are we, mere MeFis, innocent too? I don't think so.
If the Taliban were able to read a thread or two and put a fatwa on all those who dissed them, would be protest our "innocence" in order to save our asses from any reprisals?
Wouldn't it be a bit braver to just stand by our convictions and pay the price for them, if necessary?
For instance, the presumption that women are more innocent than men, or active citizens less "guilty" than the politicians they support and egg on, is insulting to women and citizens. And just the slightest bit cowardly.
This new apartheid, separating the armed forces and politicians(of any country)from the population that supports them - as if a soldier's life is worth less than any other guy's - is one of the most dangerous and sick-making of our age.
I suppose all those Palestinians dancing and handing out candy when they heard of the massacres are innocent too. No - neither are we who condemn them.
Only people who don't care a jot about politics(not as many as we think, by the way)are innocent.
The rest of us are guilty as hell. And should be proud to be so.
Not to assume one's responsibilities and to expect justice and retribution to be brought about with no risk to the so-called innocent is to be truly guilty, for the protection it affords to the few really guilty, murderous creatures who take advantage of our little niceties.
A lot of people around the world enjoyed watching the Twin Towers come down. Many may have lamented the heavy loss of life. But not so much that you could actually call them "innocent"..
Give them at least that much respect. Just because they're our enemies doesn't mean they're less human.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:09 AM on September 15, 2001

It seems to me, the goal of the War on Terrorism must be to eliminate, or at least, minimize terrorism.

Those who actually carried out the attack had no cumpuntions about giving their own lives in the cause of terror. We cannot wage war on the dead.

Fighting and executing those directly responsible for organizing and supporting the attack will prevent them from commiting such acts again. These people must be identified so that they can be stopped.

If we indescriminately attack anyone who happens to be sympathetic to the enemy's cause, we will probably create more terrorists in the long run. In this case, we've lost the war.
posted by Loudmax at 5:16 AM on September 15, 2001

I, unfortunately, am beginning to believe that this is an endless cycle that has no solution.

On the one hand, you have the possibility of going to war against "those who support and harbor the terrorists". Most these countries, like Afghanistan, are seemingly impregnable. Guerrilla warfare has proven to be remarkably sufficient to ward off any attack. It takes longer than a conventional confrontation, but I don't think those doing the defending care. The only option, then, is to so utterly destroy the country that there are no guerrillas left to fight. Unfortunately, the perpetration of such utter destruction would likely draw the rest of the world into a truly "world war", including nuclear strikes.

On the other hand, you have the possibility of pursuing a strictly non- or minimally violent apprehension of those directly involved and putting them on trial, just as we did with the WTC bombing. However, I fear that in taking this route we will be sending the message to the other terrorist cells out there (and there are multitudes) that even such a massive attack on the US will only result in the loss of 10 or 20 "soldiers" at a time, and no direct reprisals. I'm completely convinced that this is a more than palatable consequence to them, and they will just continue to rain terror down on us. They will not stop. Indeed, I think that it will only get worse and worse.

So, the options are to live in hell, or to create our own.

Not much of a choice.
posted by elfgirl at 5:53 AM on September 15, 2001

This resolution is limited to:

those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

The prevention of future terrorist acts seems to be symbolic as in see what we will do. It appears that after we've 'taken care' of the 911 acts this bill would not apply.

Yes, this was worded in this manner to remain within the US constitution. Make no mistake this is NOT a blanket anti-terrorist resolution.
posted by DBAPaul at 5:53 AM on September 15, 2001

For instance, the presumption that women are more innocent than men, or active citizens less "guilty" than the politicians they support and egg on, is insulting to women and citizens. And just the slightest bit cowardly.

I agree.
posted by rushmc at 7:38 AM on September 15, 2001

red cell: I didn't find anything on the front page of Free Republic about Lee, but there are ample other examples where dissenters are now earning the label "traitor", from the national media ("91% support for President. I had no idea the national media made up 9% of our country.") to Rep. "Osama bin Meehan" of Massachusetts for taking a dig at the White House spin machine. And they've already revived the "Loose Lips Sinks Ships" meme -- understandable, but can posters of ugly subhuman Arabs dripping blood from their mouths be far behind?

Ah. Wait. I found it. "I dub thee Barbara Laden." (Morphing quickly into the Freeper's favorite sport of taking digs at the sexuality of liberal women: "Barbara hasn't been laiden".)
posted by dhartung at 8:06 AM on September 15, 2001

Barbara Lee has never met a terrorist, communist, welfare mother or crack dealer she doesn't like. Her strident leftists stances have made her anathema to thinking people in Sacramento (when she was there) and in Congress -- but, alas, the combination of loony left and the welfare mother / crack dealer constituency in her district is quite powerful. (I lived there 5 years, so I know.)

She's most likely there for life, just like her predecessor Ron Dellums.
posted by MattD at 9:01 AM on September 15, 2001

Wow, MattD. Way to bring partisan nastiness to a new low.

I'm glad at least one person voted Nay. I don't know if she was conscious of continuing Jeanette Rankin's tradition, but I think that there should always be at least one dissenting voice for decisions of this gravity.
posted by feckless at 9:26 AM on September 15, 2001

MattD, you have gone off the deep end. (You sound like Ashcroft saying "criminal tendencies" about Ronny White.)
posted by chrismc at 9:54 AM on September 15, 2001

I'm glad to hear at least one person in the U.S. government has not yet lost their sanity.

I hear a lot of talk of war, and not a lot of reason why. All that seems to come up are things like "Because we have to! Because somebody has to pay for this! Because we can't let this happen!" Well, those are bullshit reasons. We DON'T have to. What's the good of being "the most powerful nation on earth" if you have to jump every time a terrorist feels like jerking your chain? We have the power: we can take our time, let the wheels of justice turn, find out good and solid who did it, put them on trial, and then give them the legally prescribed punishment. That we have power means we DON'T have to go to war unless we really want to.

And what's this about "paying for it"? Are we really going to base foreign policy, and the lives of thousands of American soldiers, on revenge? Whoever planned this attack probably wanted America to "pay for" something it'd done, anyway; why is it OK for us to take revenge on them, but not OK for them to take their revenge on us? Am I to believe that the U.S. government is a terrorist organization, if it goes through with this war?

And "can't let this happen" - well, it DID happen, and it happened in spite of our previous military retaliations for terrorist attacks. Going to war will not stop it from happening again. Going to war implies that if we can beat up whoever did this hard enough, they'll be so afraid of the U.S. that they'll never dare try it again - or that, more likely, once we're done mashing them into a pulp, everyone else who might have set off a bomb here will be scared of the U.S. This is a silly idea. This attack didn't happen because the terrorists were insufficiently afraid of the U.S.! They didn't give a damn - they went down with the planes. What are you going to threaten someone with, when they are so desperate they are willing to commit suicide if they can hurt you while they're doing it? Such a person would welcome war.

I'm glad at least one person in the House sees that war would just make everything worse.

posted by Mars Saxman at 9:55 AM on September 15, 2001

I fully agree. "Lets kick some ass" is exactly what the terrorists would love to have as a response. If there's a hell, they are laughing at us from there.
posted by mikojava at 10:55 AM on September 15, 2001

Excellent post, Mars.

And I found Barbara's speech to be both moving and wholly, well, right.
posted by Marquis at 4:44 PM on September 15, 2001

The resolution doesn't call for a 'kicking of ass'. I'm no lawyer or Military Expert, but why would anyone think that a resolution asking for "Authorization to Use Military Force" necessarily means "carpet bomb Afghanistan"?

To deny a country the right to use its military in the upcoming campaign to stop terrorism is just about the worst case of fruitcakery I've ever heard. How does she propose we proceed? Thoughtful letters-to-the-editor? Tough love?

War is probably not the answer. But any move we make will involve the military - am I just uninformed or is this all this resolution is asking for?
posted by glenwood at 9:54 PM on September 15, 2001

upcoming campaign to stop terrorism

No possible military campaign will stop terrorism, except the one that stops the world. "Kicking ass" might provide catharsis for some Americans, but it would inevitably result in more atrocities on American soil.

From the Chomsky article that someone (skallas, I think) linked elsewhere:
Again, we have a choice: we may try to understand, or refuse to do so, contributing to the likelihood that much worse lies ahead.
posted by ceiriog at 2:05 AM on September 16, 2001

Nice post mars. I would vote the same as Rep. Lee. Just wouldn't be, um, Prudent.
Not that this ecstatic orgy of revenge isn't tempting. I just wish the energy could be channeled some other way.
posted by aflakete at 4:11 AM on September 16, 2001

But other Americans simply threaten her life. Don't the Freepers make you proud?
posted by holgate at 10:06 AM on September 18, 2001

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