a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Congressional candidate debate: minus Van Hollen, plus Gordon Clark

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 3rd October 2008

The Maryland 8th Congressional District candidate debate was hosted by the local League of Women Voters (LWV) in Rockville’s main public library last night.  It will be rebroadcast on “Access Montgomery” public cable channels 19 and 21 three times in the next 7 days.*

Gordon Clark (Green), Steve Hudson (R), Van Hollen (D) legislative director Bill Parsons
Gordon Clark (Green), Steve Hudson (R), Van Hollen (D)
legislative director Bill Parsons
at League of Women
Voters debate in Rockville.  Write-in candidates
Deborah Vollmer and Lih Young were also there,
but are obscured behind the photographer on the
right.  The moderator was LWV president Diane Hibino.
Originally uploaded by Thomas Nephew.

To my disappointment, but not to my surprise, my Representative, Chris Van Hollen (D) was unable to attend; he had to stay on Capitol Hill because of the “bailout” legislation.  Legislative director Bill Parsons took his place. The other candidates on the ballot — Gordon Clark (Green) and Steve Hudson (R) were on hand, as were write-in candidates Deborah Vollmer and Lih Young.

As I wrote on Monday, I’ve decided to support Gordon Clark in this election, and I saw nothing to change that decision last night.  Clark has a formidable grasp of issues from global warming and energy to foreign affairs to the financial crisis.  He also communicates that well, with a forceful, clear speaking style that contrasted well with the other challengers — and with Van Hollen’s last-minute substitute Mr. Parsons, for that matter.  I could easily picture Gordon Clark as a United States representative; none of the other challengers met that simple test, in my view.

The debate began with prepared statments by each of the speakers, followed by one minute responses to questions prepared by the moderator, by the audience , or submitted by email correspondents to the LWV.  I’ll give a thumbnail impression of each speaker in the following; an embedded video of the debate is just after the jump.

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The other debate this Thursday — Gordon Clark and Chris Van Hollen

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 29th September 2008

Anticipation is building for the Biden-Palin vice presidential debate this Thursday — but another debate earlier the same evening here in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District deserves attention as well.  The League of Women Voters is sponsoring a debate between Representative Chris Van Hollen (D), Gordon Clark (Green Party), and other challengers this Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Rockville Library (21 Maryland Drive; Meeting Room 1; map). The debate will be preceded by a “Meet and Greet” event at 6:15 p.m. in Meeting Room 2 of the same building.

For a quick overview of where Van Hollen and Clark stand on a variety of issues, I recommend “Gordon Clark vs. Chris Van Hollen On The Issues.”*  As that pamphlet shows, there’s a strong positive case to be made for Gordon Clark.  If you want universal health care, if you oppose the InterCounty Connector (ICC), if you want strong, immediate action to rein in global warming, and if you oppose adding yet another war to those we’re already waging, you’re on Gordon Clark’s side.

But as a long-time Democrat, I’m also supporting Mr. Clark this election because I want to send a message to the Democratic Party and its leadership — Van Hollen is chair of the powerful Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) — that I’m very dissatisfied with their leadership these last two years.

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Gordon Clark (Green-MD-8) on Congress and impeachment

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 13th July 2008

Gordon Clark is a former SANE/Freeze, Peace Action, and Public Citizen state and national organizer who is challenging Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) in the November election, as the Green Party candidate for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District seat in Congress. As befits a Green Party and progressive candidate, he’s centering his campaign on the issues of the Iraq war, global warming, and to some extent on the storm clouds gathering for a possible Iran war; as I noted at the time, I first learned about the execrable H.Con.Res.362 bill demanding a blockade of Iran via a press release from the Gordon Clark campaign.

I was curious where Mr. Clark stands on impeachment, accountability, and the dream of a healthy constitutional democracy in the United States. Via his website, I just got through listening to an interview he gave on June 13th on the (quite excellent) BlogTalkRadio news show “Radio Resistance,” hosted by Chip Gibbons. The Clark interview begins at around 32:30 minutes*; the key part, for me, is here:

GIBBONS, “RADIO RESISTANCE” (at around 44:52): If you were in Congress right now instead of Representative Van Hollen, would you be pursuing impeachment of George Bush?

CLARK: As I said, I think it’s a tough call in some ways. I’ll start off by saying: yes, I would. […] If I were in the legislature right now, there’s no question that this administration has committed crimes that deserve impeachment and I would be forced to vote for it.

(All emphases are mine.)

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Van Hollen cosponsors Iran blockade bill

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 27th June 2008

Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) — chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and my congressman — became the 208th co-sponsor of House Concurrent Resolution 362 on Tuesday. That resolution expresses

the sense of Congress regarding the threat posed to international peace, stability in the Middle East, and the vital national security interests of the United States by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional hegemony, and for other purposes.

While that resolution is only a “sense of Congress” bill, it is asking — make that “demanding” — this president do things like this…

(3) initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran’s nuclear program; …

(emphasis added) …seems to me like waving a red cape in front of a bull in a china shop.

True, the resolution affirms that nothing in it shall be construed as authorizing use of force against Iran, but (a) little details like that are not likely to bother Cheney or Bush, (b) a blockade — and that’s what it is — is an act of war. Note also that while allegedly thoughtful internationalist types like Van Hollen may think “international effort” means “U.N. approval,”, Bush et al are likely to claim some “coalition of the willing” including Albania and the Fiji Islands is close enough for government work.

There’s also that little matter of last fall’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which seems to have gone down the memory hole, or into the Beltway’s equivalent, a “la la la I can’t hear you la la la” hole. On this, H.Con 362 is nothing if not brazen, citing and essentially ignoring the finding in the same sentence; we’re back to preventive acts of war:

Whereas the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate reported that Iran was secretly working on the design and manufacture of a nuclear warhead until at least 2003, but that Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon as soon as late 2009;

Well, what more do we need — anchors aweigh! In fact, the NIE also said, “inter alia”*:

This NIE does not assume that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons. Rather, it examines the intelligence to assess Iran’s capability and intent (or lack thereof) to acquire nuclear weapons, taking full account of Iran’s dual-use uranium fuel cycle and those nuclear activities that are at least partly civil in nature. […]

Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously. […]

Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might—if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible—prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program. It is difficult to specify what such a combination might be.

(Emphases added.) Now it’s true that a blockade would affect Tehran’s cost-benefit approach — but I’m not sure whether Congressional co-sponsors ought to be so sure how it would affect it, or even destroy it. Putting themselves in their Iranian counterparts’ shoes for just a moment, wouldn’t they be rushing to speak before the Majlis or whatever it’s called saying “we must never let ourselves be dictated to this way! Iran must have a nuclear weapon, now more than ever!” To say nothing of the real powers that be in Tehran.

For more on this, visit “Just Foreign Policy,” where those of us in Van Hollen’s and other co-sponsors’ districts can dash off yet another “disappointed” message to our elected representatives.

* I feel so smart when I say “inter alia”! I almost wonder whether some percentage of Congress co-sponsored this thing for that reason alone.

PS: Almost forgot: might not have learned about this except for an e-mail from the Gordon Clark for Congress campaign to the Montgomery County Progressive Alliance mailing list. From the Green Party candidate’s statement in the e-mail:

Rep. Van Hollen claims that the Iraq war is ‘Bush’s war,’ conveniently ignoring that it is a Democratic House – which Rep. Van Hollen himself helps leads as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – which continues to fund the war, including the $162 billion they approved just last week. Now Rep. Van Hollen has attached his name to a measure that is a major step toward war with Iran, a conflict that would dwarf even the Iraq war in its deadly, chaotic and destabilizing effect on the Middle East and world.

I call on Rep. Van Hollen to remove his name from H. Con. Res. 362 immediately, and to do everything in his power to keep this terribly destructive measure from passing.

UPDATE, 6/27: H.Con.Res. 362 is a legislative priority of the powerful American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Via dailyKos diarist Tom J.

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Mission accomplished! — "Responsible Plan" dropped off at Van Hollen’s office

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 1st May 2008

As advertised, I joined my friends Michelle Bailey, Hank Prensky, and Joy Austin-Lane in a short visit to Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s (D-MD-8) local Hyattsville office (just outside Takoma Park), to bring the Congressman a copy of “A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq.”

Michelle is a fellow impeachment activist — or I should say I am, she and Lisa Moscatiello were the ones who started Takoma Park impeachment activism, I joined in late. I was also very gratified that former Takoma Park City Council members Hank Prensky and Joy Austin-Lane joined us.

We met at a local cafe first and went over what we were going to say. I had brought along talking points supplied by which helped us gather our own thoughts.

I introduced the plan as a comprehensive legislative agenda calling for a complete exit from Iraq, with no permanent bases, that I hoped Rep. Van Hollen would be able to support. I noted that Rep. Van Hollen is indeed a co-sponsor of many of the legislative initiatives the plan highlights — for instance, a key bill calling for a diplomatic offensive with Iraq’s neighbors — which we thanked him for.

I also noted that the plan calls for an end to off-budget appropriations for the Iraq war; Mr. Prensky added that he hoped Van Hollen would vote against the looming Iraq supplemental appropriations bill. Ms. Austin-Lane recalled the opposition to the Iraq war in Takoma Park, and the City Council resolution she and Mr. Prensky voted for opposing it.

As an impeachment activist, Michelle added that she hoped Van Hollen would reconsider his opposition to impeachment; I joined her in that, but emphasized that wasn’t a feature of the plan we’d come to discuss.

I added that I hoped Van Hollen would consider making the “Responsible Plan” part of the DCCC’s 2008 agenda, and that I thought he should make sure to support the candidates who’ve endorsed it.

It was a pleasure meeting Mr. West, who staffs Chris Van Hollen’s Hyattsville office. He listened carefully, took notes, and told us he’d have the copy of the “Responsible Plan” in Rep. Van Hollen’s hands this afternoon.

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A town hall meeting on Capitol Hill

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 23rd September 2007

[crossposted in adapted form from Takoma Park Impeach Bush and Cheney]

On the morning of Thursday, September 20, over two dozen impeachment supporters from Takoma Park, Garrett Park, and elsewhere in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District crowded into a meeting room in Longworth House Office Building for a wide ranging discussion with Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

State Senator and constitutional expert Jamie Raskin and Takoma Park Mayor Kathy Porter were among the delegates, who also included Lisa Moscatiello, Thomas Nephew, and Hank Prensky from Takoma Park, Warren Kornberg and Jim Agenbroad from Garrett Park, and Alan McConnell from Silver Spring, to name but a few.

Rep. Van Hollen was presented with a folder containing the Takoma Park City Council impeachment resolution, a list of signatories for the Garrett Park referendum, the agenda and attendance list for the meeting, prepared statements by several of the delegates, books on impeachment by Elizabeth Holtzman and John Conyers and his Judiciary Committee staff — and, in a small gesture he appreciated, a small box of “Impeachmints” candy bought at “Now and Then.”

What came next was basically a town hall meeting on Capitol Hill.

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Pattycake oversight won’t do, Mr. Van Hollen

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 11th August 2007

I (and no doubt hundreds of other people) received an e-mail earlier this week from my Congressman, Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8), on the subject of impeaching Dick Cheney. Cutting to the chase:

While I understand the sentiments of those calling for impeachment, I am concerned that impeachment proceedings would have the effect of consuming the attention of the whole Congress, and leave little room for us to pass positive reforms and fully address the business of the American people. […] Should the House engage in impeachment hearings, it would inevitably divert time, resources, and attention from other efforts to pass meaningful legislation to address the many needs of the country.

(I’ve published the full text of the e-mail separately.) Regrettably, Congressman Van Hollen thus continues to espouse the idea that impeaching Dick Cheney (and presumably George Bush) would be a “diversion” based on “sentiments” — rather than a constitutional duty he and other House members are bound by oath to perform.*

I was particularly struck by Van Hollen’s rosy view of Congressional successes to date in reining in this executive branch. After averring that “Congress must conduct aggressive oversight and investigate the Vice President’s and the Administration’s actions,” Van Hollen wrote:

I am pleased that the 110 th Congress is taking its responsibilities seriously. The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, of which I am a member, has already held hearings on waste and fraud in spending on the Iraq War, management of Homeland Security contracts, allegations of political interference with the work of government climate change scientists, political dealings at the General Services Administration, and the leak involving Valerie Plame. We have also issued a subpoena for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to come before the Committee and discuss the Administration’s flawed justifications for the war in Iraq .

Additionally, the Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Chairman John Conyers, examined Presidential signing statements in its first hearing. They are in the midst of ongoing investigations into the Attorney General’s office and the Administration’s practice of using Republican National Committee e-mail accounts for official government business. The House Select Committee on Intelligence is holding hearings into abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and on issues with the classification of national security information.

He has got to be kidding me.

Frankly, my little girl, her 4th grade pals and I can conduct the kind of pattycake oversight this Congress has — powerless, ineffectual, bordering on the ridiculous. Why, if I’m not mistaken we issued a subpoena just the other day for Condoleezza Rice to appear before us — with results no worse than what Mr. Van Hollen’s committee has achieved to date.

This e-mail arrived after last week’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) rewrite debacle, not before. In the wake of that vote (which I should note that Van Hollen opposed, to his credit) it should not only be rank and file Democrats and constitutional patriots who should be disturbed — it should be Van Hollen.

Recapping, Congress took away the FISA court’s exclusive power to issue warrants for electronic eavesdropping “directed at” foreigners, and then gave it to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalesafter they’d conclusively established in both the House and the Senate that Gonzales lies roughly every time his lips are moving.

If that’s “aggressive oversight,” I’m a monkey’s uncle. I will of course continue to listen to Mr. Van Hollen’s views, and seek to understand them and discuss them. But I will not tolerate being taken for a fool.

And more to the point, neither should Mr. Van Hollen. Oversight isn’t just about holding hearings. It needs to involve consequences when you find out the person you’re overseeing is conducting the nation’s business badly, and especially when you find you’ve been lied to. And when Congress finds its constitutional obligation to conduct this kind of oversight is essentially being reduced to farce, it should reach for stronger weapons — like impeachment proceedings.

* The notion that a Congress busy with impeachment hearings and politics can’t meet its other responsibilities is plainly a canard. As pointed out at Takoma Park Impeach Bush and Cheney, the 93d Congress, while most remembered for the impeachment hearings in the House and the investigative hearings in the Senate, was also responsible for landmark legislation such as the Employment Retirement Income Security Act, the Congressional Budget Act, and the War Powers Act.

In what Wikipedia warns is only a “partial list of notable legislation” by the 93rd Congress, I also found such obscure achievements as the Endangered Species Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, along with the Fair Labor Standards Amendment, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, the Amtrak Improvement Act, the Domestic Volunteer Services Act of 1973 (VISTA), the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act, the Research on Aging Act, the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1973, the Rehabilitation Act, the Legal Services Corporation Act, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, the National Mass Transportation Assistance Act, the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act, the Privacy Act of 1974 (what were they thinking), the Trade Act of 1974, and the National Health Planning and Resources Development Act.

I hope Mr. Van Hollen will be as impressed and inspired as I was at this record of achievement by a Congress whose attention was allegedly “consumed” by impeachment — and that he’ll no longer argue Congress must choose between impeachment and serving the American people in other ways.

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You took an oath, Mr. Van Hollen

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 28th July 2007

As required by Article VI of the Constitution, Representative Chris Van Hollen swore this oath of office for the 110th Congress:

I, Chris Van Hollen, do solemnly swear … that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Mr. Van Hollen’s memory of that oath may need refreshing.

As first reported on Takoma Park Impeach Bush & Cheney on Friday, Representative and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chairman Van Hollen made some remarks about impeachment during a telephone conference call with DCCC supporters and bloggers:

A caller asked about “Congress’s constitutional responsibility to impeach,” adding “How much further abuse will be required for Democratic leadership to take action?”

Representative Van Hollen replied that Democrats have “stepped up from Day 1” and that they’re now in a “big fight” over the process of how U.S. Attorneys are hired and fired, and are now using subpoena power to try to compel testimony about that matter.

However, he did not want to “consume the entire resources and efforts” of Congress on impeachment. He claimed that impeachment would “would indisputably be the whole [focus] of Congress,” and that with the amount of time remaining before the next election, that would hinder Democrats’ ability to move forward on other things. He closed by reiterating the talking point that he did not want to “consume the entire resources of Congress on impeachment.”

While these are discouraging words to those of us who celebrated the city of Takoma Park’s impeachment resolution on Monday, there may be a silver lining — this argument is so patently absurd that an accomplished, intelligent man like Mr. Van Hollen could surely not bear repeating it for very long. I’ll look it up to make absolutely sure, but I don’t believe that crops rotted in the fields, millions starved, or that Congress was unable to do other work during the Nixon and Clinton impeachment processes.

Unfortunately, once you allow for hyperbole, Van Hollen’s statement is doubly discouraging. For it can surely only mean that supporting and defending the Constitution simply isn’t worth it to Rep. Van Hollen, when he thinks of all the other things he wants to accomplish — it’s too costly, too much effort, too many other priorities suffer.

Too bad.

You took an oath, Mr. Van Hollen. That oath wasn’t to pass an energy bill, it wasn’t to raise the minimum wage, it wasn’t to enact the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, it wasn’t even to get us out of Iraq.

I’m sorry it’s inconvenient; I’m sorry it may mean more work; I’m sorry you may pass one less highway bill. But the oath you took was to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. That is your job.

Do your job.

CROSSPOSTED to “Daily Kos”. I edited the second paragraph to read: Mr. Van Hollen is by no means the only Democratic leader whose memory of that oath seems to need refreshing. But he’s my representative — one I’ve voted for, one I’ve worked for, and one whose positions I usually support — so I’m addressing him. An attached poll asks the question “Should Democratic leadership put impeachment on the table?”; currently 86% of the nearly 60 respondents answer “yes.” Go join the fun.

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Van Hollen disappoints on Iran

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 22nd May 2007

Last Wednesday evening, my representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) joined a minority of his own party but a nearly unanimous GOP bloc in sending the DeFazio amendment to the House Defense Appropriations bill (HR 1585) to defeat, 286-134, with 12 abstentions. From the brief debate as published in the Congressional Record, here’s the full text in full of that amendment:


(a) Rule of Construction.–No provision of law enacted before the date of the enactment of this Act shall be construed to authorize the use of military force by the United States against Iran.

(b) Requirements.–Absent a national emergency created by attack by Iran upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces, no funds appropriated pursuant to an authorization of appropriations in this Act or any other Act may be obligated or expended to initiate the use of military force against Iran unless the President receives authorization from Congress prior to initiating the use of military force against Iran.

As Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4) pointed out in his remarks,

This simply restates the Constitution of the United States and the War Powers Act. It is law, 93–148, and article I, section 8, of the Constitution. This is not about whether or not military action against Iran is wise or necessary. Regardless of how you come down on that question, I urge you to support the amendment. It is not about binding the President’s hands so he couldn’t retaliate if they are involved >in attacking our troops or capturing our troops in the area. It allows, as does the War Powers Act, in the event of any attack by Iran on the United States, its territories or possessions or Armed Forces, it is fully within the President’s purview to respond.

(Links added.) Rising in opposition was presidential candidate Duncan Hunter (R-CA-52), who said too late! we already are at war:

Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to this amendment. We have been at war with the radical Islamic jihadists ever since they supported and fomented that storming of our embassy in 1979. They held Americans hostage and they held them for 444 days, and every President since President Carter has renewed the national emergency with respect to Iran, most recently on March 8 of this year.

If you look at the War Powers Act, Mr. Chairman, it states that a national emergency does justify the President utilizing his constitutional powers as Commander in Chief. My reading of this amendment is that this proposal, this amendment, changes the War Powers Act and extracts that power from the President of the United States. We have had Democrat and Republican Presidents renewing that finding and that national emergency status with respect to Iran.

Hunter — one of the worst of the yahoos (“even if it involves very high-pressure techniques, one sentence: Get the information”) in last week’s Republican presidential debate — went on to recite the meaningless claim that some of the expertise and materials for IEDs in Iraq “are being transferred from Iran.” So is some of the airborne dust in Iraq, that doesn’t prove Tehran is behind it.

Yet Hunter’s arguments seem to have prevailed with Van Hollen — chair of the DCCC — and all too many of his Democratic colleagues. Nell Lancaster notes netroots faves Patrick Murphy, Joe Sestak and Carol Shea-Porter among their number as well. Curiously, Nancy Pelosi is nowhere to be found on the roll call, not even under abstentions. Almost more curiously, frequent local bete noire Democrat Al Wynn is among the abstentions; along with his cosponsorship of Kucinich’s Cheney impeachment bill, Wynn is arguably more “progressive” of late than Van Hollen. Few things concentrate the political mind more than a healthy electoral scare, I guess.

This was a pitiful abdication of legitimate Congressional powers to a President who really doesn’t need any more encouragement to go off half-cocked. Between this and similar moves during the runup to the late lamented Iraq supplemental, Congress has all but signalled “go ahead if you want” when a war with Iran would be — what’s the phrase I’m looking for — a fricking catastrophe that would make Iraq look like a picnic in the park.

The DeFazio amendment may not have had much of a chance for all I know, but that shouldn’t have mattered. While I’ve generally sung his praises here in this little blog of mine, this time I think Van Hollen really screwed up badly, and he should hear about it.

NOTES: Links within DeFazio’s statement lead to FindLaw’s discussion of Article II, Section 8 of the Constitution, the Yale University Avalon Project discussion of the War Powers Act, the Wikipedia discussion of the same, and the text of 50 USC 1541, where the War Powers Act is found in the United States Code. “Worst of the yahoos”: New York Times transcript of the disgusting Republican debate in South Carolina last week, via Roy Edroso, whose precis of that debate is hilarious and indispensable.

UPDATE, 8/20: A belated note, here for starters, that Rep. Van Hollen responded by e-mail a couple of weeks ago to a protest e-mail of my own about this. Key quote: “I am, however, somewhat wary of passing legislation that says the President may not violate the Constitution with respect to one country (such as Iran), because singling out one country only could lead to the false impression that the Congress would countenance unauthorized and unconstitutional military actions against another country (such as Syria).” That seems pretty weak to me; by that token, passing a law specifically penalizing the murder of, say, DEA agents could lead to the impression Congress countenances the murder of mailmen.

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Great choice: Chris Van Hollen for DCCC

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 19th December 2006

Nancy Pelosi has chosen Montgomery County’s own Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) to succeed Rahm Emanuel as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the New York Times’ Greg Giroux reports. Giroux quotes from a succinct political bio of Van Hollen by Emanuel at the DCCC web site:

“Coming in the same class as Congressman Van Hollen, it was clear to me from his hard-fought primary victory and even tougher general election win [in 2000, agains Connie Morella — ed.] that he had an acute political capacity rarely found in Washington,” Emanuel said Tuesday in a statement, in which he also noted that as head of the 2006 candidate recruitment team, Van Hollen “helped create the field that became the Democratic majority.”

Van Hollen co-chaired the “Red to Blue” committee of the DCCC, recruiting and supporting candidates in districts that had leaned Republican in the past, but seemed vulnerable in ’06.

This is a great choice. Van Hollen is no triangulating, finger-to-the-wind DLC Democrat — Maryland blogger Stephanie Dray got this admirably succinct position from Van Hollen’s staff on the issue of torture and the MCA bill:

“Congressman Van Hollen opposes torture, opposes efforts to redefine torture, and opposes efforts to redefine our commitment to the Geneva Conventions.”

Van Hollen also took the lead in fighting for the Davis-Bacon Act when Bush wanted to revoke that in the Gulf Coast after Katrina, and voted “Nay” on the bankruptcy bill — where both Steny Hoyer and John Murtha voted “Yea.” He also stands for clean politics, most lately as a stalwart supporter of Jamie Raskin in this year’s Democratic primary in my state district when misleading mudslinging began to get out of hand.

I have a feeling — at least I sure hope — that Van Hollen can also iron out something else that got out of hand: the rancorous differences between his predecessor and Democratic party chair Howard Dean. The DCCC and the DNC have different purposes, of course: the former is all about the next Congressional election, the latter is about the party as a whole, at federal, state, and local levels. But Dean’s 50-state strategy has already paid dividends for the Democratic Party in the past election, and it will only get better as more and more strong candidates emerge at the local level across the country.

There’s no need for Congressional leadership to alienate rank and file Democrats or undermine what we’re all working for in different ways: a rekindling of a progressive, effective Democratic party. Both Dean and Van Hollen stand for that, and I have high hopes they’ll work together as closely as possible in setting agendas and plotting strategies for the years ahead.

UPDATE, 12/20: In comments, Nell Lancaster recalls Van Hollen’s letter to Rice criticizing U.S. policy regarding Israel, Hezbollah, and Lebanon this summer — and his subsequent rowback/clarification/call it what you will. I found links to the statements involved, and agree this was a disappointment, however rare.
UPDATE, 12/28: Giroux (writing for CQPolitics this time) interviews Van Hollen: “The main thing for our members is to be able to go into the next election telling voters that they heard the message that was delivered in November, and that they are following through and keeping the commitments that were made.” Via OnBackground at “Free State Politics.”

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