A bit late on this report...been suffering from very bad sore throat last couple of days.
On Sunday we had an activists dream day. Over 180 people turned out in Belfast at a public town hall meeting of Maine's Rep. Mike Michaud. Michaud has now organized two such meetings to hear from his constituency on Iraq. He quietly sat and took notes as about 40 people walked up to the microphone and gave wonderfully moving testimony. Not one person spoke in favor of the war. The same themes flowed in and out of the testimony throughout the meeting. Stop the war, bring the troops home now, cut the war funding now, investigate Bush for impeachment crimes. I had tears in my eyes over and over again. How could anyone with a heart not be deeply touched by such passion and wisdom?
Then, with just a few minutes to go before the meeting was to conclude, the Congressman stood up and commented on a few of the easier points that had come up in the meeting....things like yes he supports full funding for the Veterans Administration so returning GI's can get treatment for PTSD....softball stuff. But, much to my total shock, the "good Democrat" Michaud never said a word about the essence of the meeting. Not a word about bring the troops home, war funding, or his position on Bush lies and impeachment investigations. I couldn't believe it, but then again I could.
After telling one of his staff aides that I thought his response to the town hall was "pitiful", twenty-five of us piled into our cars and drove 30 miles north to another meeting being held by Rep. Tom Allen (D-ME). Maine has two congressmen. Allen represents the more southern part of the state where I live and Michaud the northern part. The interesting thing is that Allen was speaking in the second district, not his own, it was Michaud's district. People have been speculating lately that Rep. Allen has senatorial ambitions and on Sunday was out trying to build a base for an eventual statewide run.
There were already 30 people there when we arrived at the Tom Allen meeting. The momentum from our crew immediately turned it into another Iraq town hall meeting. Allen danced and dodged, as he is known to do on tough issues. He was a Rhodes scholar and my perception of him is that while at Oxford he learned to honor and treasure the empire as such "scholars" are taught to do. On Iraq, Mr. Allen says he is against the war but keeps voting for every $$$ that gets requested. He says we can't come home from Iraq just yet, but he also says he is opposed to permanent bases.
I raised my hand and he would not call on me. He has heard from me a couple of times before and my friends say he remembers my trademark hat. I was sitting in the front row, right next to the woman who appeared to be the organizer of the meeting. Allen kept calling on lots of other people and I kept putting my hand in the air and taking it down. Finally, the woman next to me said, "Tom, he has had his hand up a long time." Reluctantly Allen called on me.
By this time Mr. Allen had said that if we wanted things to change we just had to ensure the Democrats would be back in control of Congress. Then everything would be alright...you know how the story goes. So once called on I told the story about Hillary Clinton's trip to Afghanistan and Iraq a year ago February with Sen. John McCain, Russ Feingold, Lindsey Graham, and Susan Collins. I told how they had held a news conference in Afghanistan where they said the U.S. was building six permanent bases in that country. On her return to the U.S. I recalled, Hillary and the right-wing Lindsey Graham were on the Sunday morning news talk shows. I saw Hillary say that "we are going to be in Iraq for a long-time. The American people need to be patient, we've been in Korea for 50 years," Hillary told us.
I told Mr. Allen that leaders of his own political party were telling us we are not leaving Iraq. I asked him why he won't vote against further funding for the war. He danced, he actually has very swift feet. I hear that when in high school he ran track. Actually, very good training for a politician.
Our 25 person crew left the Allen event and went for dinner together. There we processed the remarkable day and did some brainstorming about future actions. We had representation from all over the state in that meeting. We are moving together now…..we will keep the pressure on those that like to dance.