Since the end of August, less than 3 weeks ago, voters across the United States have watched, bemused, as our Nation’s leaders ramped up rhetoric and readiness for a military strike against Syria due to the fact that chemical weapons were deployed during that country’s Civil War.
In a matter of days, our ally, Great Britain, was forced to bow out of what the political leaders in what amounted to NATO, had promised voters would be a ‘limited military strike’ against the government of Bashar Al Assad of Syria to send a message that the use of chemical weapons had crossed what President Barack Obama had characterized last year as a ‘red line’ that could not be tolerated.
A funny thing happened on the road to that ‘limited military strike’: Members of Parliament demanded to vote on this measure, and once the Prime Minister, David Cameron( leader of a coalition government), agreed to put this to debate and a vote, the unthinkable happened: he lost. He lost members of his own Conservative Party, plenty who voted NO and many who failed to vote. He lost members of the Liberal Democrats whose support is crucial as part of his ‘coalition’ in the same manner: some who voted NO and some who failed to vote.
That NO vote by Parliament sent a shock wave across the Altantic.
It woke up Members of Congress who had no desire to answer constituents’ basic question during Town Hall meetings regarding why they, Congressmen and women, could not vote on this issue as Members of Parliament had done. It was completely bi-partisan. Letters circulated among Members of Congress demanding that Congress be called back into session as to debate this action as Parliament had done.
Secretary of State John Kerry seemingly daily asserted the right of the President to move unilaterally on this issue without Congress’ approval. It looked as if the US was set to act upon that ‘limited military strike’ when the President stepped into the Rose Garden, and while echoing that assertion that he could act unilaterally without approval from Congress, he ‘decided’ that it would look better if Congress supported this action in concert with his plans.
A funny thing happened to that ‘plan’: the American people flooded Capitol Hill with the message that no-one wanted another act of war committed in the Middle East on another country by American forces where there was zero admitted direct threat to the United States. Additionally, Members of Congress were leaving classified briefings and were expressing to reporters that the briefings were leaving them with more questions than answers. It appeared as if every time Secretary of State John Kerry testified before a Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, more and more votes were melting away from supporting the President’s plan to strike.
In the midst of this debate, the President travelled to Sweden for the G-20 Summit and we have been told that while there, he and Vladmir Putin of Russia had serious discussions concerning Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry made a flippant remark claiming that Syria’s government could give up all it’s chemical weapons, but that ‘wasn’t going to happen.’ Russia said….not so fast, maybe we can help make that happen. And just this past weekend high level talks between Secretary of State Kerry and his counterpart from Russia seemed to have yielded positive results that may actually be measured by 2014 for the removal of those weapons from Syria.
How does all of this affect Massachusetts voters?
We witnessed our newest US Senator, Ed Markey, announce that he would be a NO vote after receiving all the briefings he said he needed, and had not gotten, which had led to his PRESENT vote in the Foreign Relation Committee which voted on the amended AUMF.
We are witnessing our senior Senator, Elizabeth Warren, having such an impact in Washington that the President’s choice for the next head of the Federal Reserve, Lawrence Summers, has withdrawn his name – she has publicly led the effort to stop Summers’ nomination. While she might not get the person she wants, Janet Yellen, for the post, the fact that Summers was stopped cold speaks to Warren’s willingness to speak truth to ‘power’ – even if that ‘power’ is a President of her own Party.
We are in the middle of a rapidly escalating Boston Mayoral race: more and more debates and forums and gatherings are ramping up in anticipation of the upcoming Primary which is a few short days away in political terms.
In the races for statewide offices – voters have registered that there is a ‘controversy’ concerning an announced candidate for Governor, State Senator Dan Wolf of the Cape and Islands district, and perhaps have an inkling that the ‘issue’ is of his candidacy( is he ethically ‘barred’ from running for and being elected to political office due to his line of work and ‘dealings’ with a statewide agency);his very occupancy of his State Senate seat, is far from settled.
Voters are probably aware that there are others ‘running for Governor,’ among them – for the GOP – the person who lost 4 years ago, Charlie Baker, who claims that voters did not see the ‘real’ Charlie…..really? Who did we see 4 years ago? Charlie McCarthy? That prompts the question : then who was playing Edgar Bergen?
We have Steve Grossman running for Governor which now opens the Treasurers Office for people to run for that elected office. We have a couple of doctors running for Governor: Joe Avellone and Don Berwick who probably thought that once Labor Day came and went, as well as the Boston Mayoral race was finishing up, voters would start to re-focus on the state wide races. Additionally, over the summer, a woman most Democratic activists who attend Democratic State Conventions[disclaimer - I have attended, oh the past 7 or 8] are completely unfamiliar with besides the fact that she would sometimes write a column for the Boston Globe and is considered an expert in Homeland Security:Juliette Kayyem, ~ threw her hat in the proverbial political gubernatorial ring. She as well, no doubt wanted voters home from summer vacations and finished up with the Boston’s Mayor’s race.
What happens today? With rumors circulating all weekend?
Martha Coakley, the Attorney General of MA, who, in 2010, infamously lost to a ‘relatively’ unknown GOP State Senator by the name of Scott Brown for the US Senate seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy, has decided that NOW, she wants to be Governor instead. Which will leave her office of Attorney General ‘open’ as well.
Meanwhile, there is a concerted effort on the South Shore, of which I am actively involved and a founding member – of the new group South Shore Progressive Massachusetts. This group is to be issue oriented and our Inaugural Meeting is set for the evening of September 26th, 2013 at 7pm at the Cohasset Public Library. We have a full agenda to discuss the purpose of the group and issues that we would like to bring attention to.
Feeling overwhelmed politically yet?
Never mind that the Red Sox are now compelling attention as the baseball season winds down……..despite all the news which is coming at the electorate fast and furiously we trust that people are ready to engage politically as Autumn unfolds and Winter approaches.
Stay tuned~ it is never boring to be from Massachusetts when it comes to sports, or politics, and the statewide races for 2014 promises to be a doozy of a year.