More on Pelosi and Filson
Babaloo posted a fabulous piece raising interesting questions about why Pelosi would give any money (especially in the primary) to Steve Filson when Filson is being backed by Ellen Tauscher and Steny Hoyer. Babaloo’s main post concerned the bad blood between Pelosi on one side and Tauscher and Hoyer on the other side. In the comments, Babaloo linked to a piece by David Sirota suggesting that Hoyer is actively working to undermine Pelosi’s leadership in the House. This seems to show that the history between Pelosi and Tauscher et al is not simply water under the bridge.
But Sirota also links to a Washington Post article that brings up another big point of contention between Pelosi and Tauscher, Hoyer, and (wait for it) Filson’s friend Rahm Emanuel. The issue is the war in Iraq. The fact that Pelosi would support a candidate who’s the golden boy of her ideological rivals on this issue, especially since she’s in the midst of currying support for her own position on Iraq, simply boggles my mind. I’m not sure I’m going to solve this issue in the post, and by the end of it you might be left with a big, fat question mark on the subject like I am. Still, I think this is something worth exploring.
So to begin, let’s establish that Pelosi is supporting Filson to some significant (although not overwhelming) extent. The clearest proof is the fact that Pelosi gave Filson at least $2,000 from her re-election account. I say at least because it’s unclear whether Pelosi has given Filson any additional money since the last reporting date at the end of September. Furthermore, I know that Pelosi co-hosted a fundraiser for Filson along with Ellen Tauscher and some other Reps (including Lofgren I believe) last week on December 6.
If Filson were less wholly a Tauscher devotee (or in fact, less indebted to Tauscher for giving life to his campaign) I might see Pelosi’s actions as a way of counterbalancing Tauscher’s influence with Filson. But Filson’s in so deep with Tauscher it’s hard for me to believe he’d be anything but an extremely loyal Tauscher supporter. So by helping Filson, Pelosi is helping someone who might not be loyal to her, and in fact might actually work with those trying to undercut Pelosi’s status in her caucus. And since this has been happening while there’s been a primary on the horizon, it’s hard to imagine that Pelosi is doing this out of some sense of self-sacrifice for the party.
This conundrum is compounded when we realize how vulnerable Pelosi has made herself by endorsing John Murtha’s call for withdrawal of troops within six months. The Washington Post lays this out pretty clearly (emphasis mine):
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), the second-ranking House Democratic leader, have told colleagues that Pelosi's recent endorsement of a speedy withdrawal, combined with her claim that more than half of House Democrats support her position, could backfire on the party, congressional sources said.
These sources said the two leaders have expressed worry that Pelosi is playing into Bush's hands by suggesting Democrats are the party of a quick pullout -- an unpopular position in many of the most competitive House races.
"What I want Democrats to be discussing is what the president's policies have led to," Emanuel said. He added that once discussion turns to a formal timeline for troop withdrawals, "the how and when gets buried" and many voters take away only an impression that Democrats favor retreat.
Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) embodies this cautious approach. He has resisted adopting a concrete Iraq policy and persuaded most Democratic senators to vote for a recent Senate resolution calling 2006 "a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty" and to compel the administration "to explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq." While Republicans introduced the resolution, it was prompted by a Democratic plan.
Democratic Reps. Jane Harman and Ellen Tauscher, both of California, plan to push House Democrats to adopt a similar position during a closed-door meeting today that is to include debate on the Pelosi position.
(Parenthetically, this shows the hollowness of Emanuel and the DCCC’s effort to run “macho Democrats” in 2006. If there was ever a macho Democrat, John Murtha was one. So it’s clear that Emanuel wants to run military vets to cobble together some sort of appearance of machismo to give people the impression that Dems are “strong on defense”, even while the Emanuel-backed candidates support a rather milquetoast policy on Iraq. So much for fighting for Democratic values….)
Maybe I’m just reading too much into this Washington Post article or maybe I’m giving Sirota too much credence. But it really looks like Pelosi’s support of Filson is somewhat masochistic. I’m not sure that Ensign or McNerney would endorse (either privately or publicly) Pelosi’s position on the race. But they each are certainly light years closer to Pelosi’s position than Filson, who please remember, has characterized calling for any timetable for withdrawal (much less a six month timetable) “irresponsible.”
Looking back over the Washington Post article I have more sympathy for Democrats who want to avoid the issue because they feel it’s bad politics than for the Democrats who are just reflectively hawkish. Tauscher, for example, wet-blanketed a move to pass an anti-war resolution at the Contra Costa Democratic Central Committee because, according to my source, Tauscher said it would embarrass her. This, despite widespread opposition in her district to the war.
Looked at this way, the Tauscher-Pelosi conflict looks both real and ideological as well as personal. These are not simply a case of people disagreeing on strategy. Again, what can explain Pelosi’s support for Tauscher’s chosen candidate? I’m really at a loss on this one.