Bluestem doesn't often agree with Morrison County Record publisher Tom West's West Words, but he's on to something with Franken, McFadden treating voters poorly:
So the Minnesota Republican Party issues a press release announcing how offended it is that Sen. Al Franken recently held two road cones to his chest as if they were female breasts.
Really. Is that the biggest issue they can come up with?
Does anybody realize that the race between Franken and Republican challenger Mike McFadden is not for homecoming king?
West points out:
One would think a gratuitous sentence or two describing their visions for America’s role in the world would be merited.
We checked, and he's right. We visited Franken's official page and there's a section on Veterans, Defense & Foreign Affairs, but many of the items have not been updated for awhile. The section on Afghanstan, for instance, mentions "the President’s July 2011 date for beginning to withdraw our troops" but nothing of the timetable announced in May by President Obama.
West, the columnist, does not appear to approve of the withdrawal, but mostly what he's asking for is a debate, questions asked and answered.
Looking at two congressional races
We visited campaign and official websites for two other taces we've been watching more closely to see what the candidates and incumbents say about foreign affairs. In MN07, the campaign website issue pages for Congressman Collin Peterson and challenger Torrey Westom do not include a category for foreign affairs. Peterson doesn't have an issues page, focusing instead on his legislative work.
It's a certain sort of blogging justice to end this post with look at the debate of the war in Afghanistan that Jim Hagedorn is trying to have in MN01, since national attention to his old sexist, racist, and homphobic blog posts triggered last week's Apologyghazi.
Briefly put: Hagedorn wants to "bug out" immediately; Walz supports the President's timetable for withdrawal, which other Republicans wh've actually been elected for office denounce as being too fast to satisfy strategic needs.
Congressman Tim Walz has no page for foreign affairs on his campaign web site, but his congressional website does include an issues page for foreign affairs that includes discussion of human rights, China, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East. The copy for the topic of Iraq and Afghanistan reads:
After nearly nine years, the war in Iraq has finally come to a responsible close. Moving forward, we must redouble our efforts to make certain our veterans have access to the best health care possible, are provided with ample opportunities for education and well paying jobs, and are becoming fully reintegrated into the lives they once knew.
Unlike the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan was not a war of choice. It has been a war forced upon us by the terrible attacks on September 11, 2001, and reinforced by the subsequent attacks on innocent civilians in nations across the world. In general, I support the President’s overall strategy for Afghanistan to remove combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. We must continue to remain vigilant to ensure that Afghanistan and Pakistan do not provide terrorists a safe haven.
While the language about the close of the Iraq War's close is subject to question, it does spell out a clear priority for addressing the needs of the conflict's veterans. What of the Afghanistan withdrawal?
In May, the New York Times reported in U.S. Troops to Leave Afghanistan by End of 2016:
President Obama, declaring that it was “time to turn the page on a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” announced on Tuesday that he planned to withdraw the last American troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
Under a new timetable outlined by Mr. Obama in the Rose Garden, the 32,000 American troops now in Afghanistan would be reduced to 9,800 after this year.
That number would be cut in half by the end of 2015, and by the end of 2016, there would be only a vestigial force to protect the embassy in Kabul and to help the Afghans with military purchases and other security matters. At the height of American involvement, in 2011, the United States had 101,000 troops in the country. . . .
Republican critics in Congress said that even though Mr. Obama accepted the recommendation of his generals to leave behind a substantial residual force, the rigid deadline for the troops’ departure could expose Afghanistan to the same violence and instability that has erupted in Iraq since the pullout of the last American soldiers in 2011. Military commanders had recommended leaving at least 10,000 troops in Afghanistan for several years after the formal end of the combat mission in 2014. . . .
On his webpage and elsewhere, Hagedorn has focused his foreign policy attacks on Walz's position on Afghanistan. Hagedorn favors the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanstan, a position he reiterated on Facebook on August 26.
In Afghan War, he writes in part of a statement we believe to be from December 2013:
“The Afghanistan War has become a war of diminishing returns,” said Hagedorn. “Rather than prolong U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and sacrifice more blood and treasure, as President Obama has proposed, we must end the war, bring our troops safely home and cease throwing good money after bad,” he said.
Read the whole thing at the site. He includes some characteristic graceless prose that he considers clever:
Hagedorn said Congressman Tim Walz has been silent while overly restrictive rules of engagement led to needless loss of life and injury in Afghanistan. “Tim Walz is proficient at issuing partisan press releases, but on this critical foreign policy and veteran’s issue the Congressman has been AWALZ for seven years - Away Without Authorized Leave Zzzz (snoozing),” Hagedorn charged.
The Mankato Free Press covered the release of Hagedorn's statement in Hagedorn opposes Afghanistan agreement. Staff writer Josh Moniz writes:
Hagedorn said he advocates for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops and personnel from the country. He said he also advocates for ending all funding to Afghanistan for the purposes of "nation building," such as constructing schools and hospitals. He said he opposes the security pact because it would lengthen U.S. involvement in the country.
“I think our time in Afghanistan has come to an end. We need to move on. Just bug out,” Hagedorn said.
Moniz reported on Walz's reponse:
Democrat incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Walz declined to release an official position on the agreement until the final version is determined.
However he did send a letter to President Obama on Feb.13, urging an accelerating schedule for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan after 2014.
“The American people are tired of this war. I have heard from a number of my constituents who ache to see their friends and family return home. I have heard from others concerned that this decade-long war is unnecessarily debilitating our economy,” said Walz in the letter.
In July, the Mankato Times reported in Hagedorn Calls for Immediate End to Afghan War; Iraq implosion signals need to end Afghan War immediately:
. . .Hagedorn pledged that while serving in Congress he will vote for the immediate end of U.S. Middle East combat operations and oppose the costly and discredited practice of nation-building. Hagedorn said he would work with like-minded legislators to implement a foreign policy based upon the Reagan Doctrine of Peace through Strength and assisting those willing to fight for their own freedom. “People who build their own institutions and battle for a better way of life are in the strongest position to create and foster meaningful democratic traditions,” said Hagedorn.
“Both political parties have mismanaged Middle East foreign policy these past 14 years and the result has been an uprising of radical Islam, the loss of U.S. prestige and the slaughter of Christians,” said Hagedorn. “The recent implosion of Iraq and rise of radical ISIS Islamists proves the policy of nation-building has failed.”
“Brave U.S. military personnel fought and died to create an opportunity for the Iraqi people to fight for their own freedom and defend democratic rule; unfortunately, it appears many Iraqis would rather live in a radical Islamic state than defend a democratic form of government,” he said. . . .
Read the whole thing to learn the policy he would urge the rest of Congress to adopt.
Hagedorn's "bug out" position puts him at odds not only with Congressman Walz, but with many leaders in his own party and the United State military who are critical of the President's policy, thinking that the withdrawal comes too soon.
Republican criticism of Obama's determination to withdraw from Afghanistan
While Hagedorn views the situation in Iraq as a reason to leave Afghanistan immediately, he appears to have little company among his party's leaders for bugging out.
When the President announced his plan in May, the hawkish Washington Free Beacon reported:
Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the White House risked leaving Afghanistan in the same situation as Iraq. U.S. officials in 2011 failed to secure a long-term agreement for a minimum troop presence in Iraq, where sectarian violence has now reached its highest levels in five years without the assistance of U.S. forces.
“I’m pleased the White House met the military’s request for forces in Afghanistan,” McKeon said in a statement. “However, holding this mission to an arbitrary egg-timer doesn’t make a lick of sense strategically.”
“Does the president seek to replicate his mistakes in Iraq where he abandoned the region to chaos and failed to forge a real security partnership?” he continued. “We are in Afghanistan because it was the spawning ground of al Qaeda and the devastating attack on American soil. Those threats still exist. We leave when the Afghans can manage that threat, rather than on convenient political deadlines that favor poll numbers over our security.”
Sens. John McCain (R., Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), and Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) also noted that Obama had previously announced dates for troop withdrawals regarding his surge strategy in Afghanistan. The president’s decisions to set fixed timetables without consideration of conditions on the ground harm U.S. credibility, they argued.
“The president came into office wanting to end the wars he inherited,” they said in a statement. “But wars do not end just because politicians say so.”
“The president appears to have learned nothing from the damage done by his previous withdrawal announcements in Afghanistan and his disastrous decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq,” they continued. “Today’s announcement will embolden our enemies and discourage our partners in Afghanistan and the region.”
On August 5, Roll Call reported in Boehner: Time for Obama to Reassess Afghanistan Withdrawal Strategy:
Speaker John A. Boehner says it’s time for President Barack Obama to reassess his strategy for withdrawing from Afghanistan after an attack left a general dead.
“What happened today is not only a personal tragedy, but a setback that demands leaders in Washington and Kabul take time to assess the state of our shared campaign and the necessary steps forward,” the Ohio Republican said. “The Taliban’s recent campaign of high-profile attacks is calculated to accompany a global PR strategy highlighting the fact that U.S. and coalition forces will soon be leaving Afghanistan and abandoning its weak and ineffective government. The Taliban wants everyone to know it will soon dominate all aspects of life in Afghanistan once again. . ..
Boehner has long been a hawk on Afghanistan and Iraq.
And as far as the situation in Iraq goes, the Washington Post reports today that Senator Rand Paul, a leader of the more libertarian wing of the GOP, favors severe military action in Iraq:
Republicans pounced on the statement. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), speaking Friday in Texas, said, “If the president has no strategy, maybe it’s time for a new president.” He said in a later e-mail that he would call a joint session of Congress to seek authority “to destroy ISIS militarily,” using another name for the Islamic State.
Earlier in August, the New York Times reported that while Congress remained wary about intervention in Iraq, Republicans were warming to the idea:
A growing number of Republicans are criticizing Mr. Obama for not doing more. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said, “President Obama continues to appear unwilling to do what is necessary to confront ISIL and communicate clearly to the American people about the threat ISIL poses to our country and to our way of life.”
Representative Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican who is also a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said: “The president’s current path of action has been far too limited to make a difference. We must do what is necessary to eliminate ISIS, protect the innocent, and keep Americans safe.”
But few of these Republicans have laid out exactly what they want Mr. Obama to do to intensify the battle. . . .
Senator John Barasso wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday:
• Afghanistan. The administration says it still intends to pull out the remaining 30,000 troops by the end of 2016. If it does, the country will quickly become a terrorist haven once again. As with Iraq, the timetable seems to be mostly about the political calendar. The Obama administration seems to have lost the will to win. The terrorists have not.
These conservatives would all seem at odds with Hagedorn. Will Hagedorn's double-plus "zero option" find favorwith them--and the financial backing to promote his message on the Afghan war as a means to getting to Congress? Will voters agree? Or will he shift to be more in line with his party?
Update: While we were working on this post, Heather Carlson posted Hagedorn, Walz disagree on immediate troop withdrawal at the Rochester Post Bulletin. Carlson did not frame Hagedorn's demands for an immediate withdrawal in terms of his national party's leaders' position.
Photo: Foreign troops in Aghanistan, via BBC.
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