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June 3, 2006

Yes on Dept. of Peace, Nothing on Impeachment

Posted by David Postman at 5:59 PM

Democrats voted to approve a resolution calling for creation of a U.S. Department of Peace. The resolution calls on the state's Congressional delegation to "support and cosponsor a Cabinet level Department of Peace & Nonviolence to be established to study and advance peace and nonviolence as the organizing principles in all human relations from families and neighborhoods, to courts and congresses, both nationwide and internationally."

The two impeachment resolutions were left undone along with about 90 others. The party said those will be considered at a meeting of the state central committee in September. There were unhappy shouts, and one delegate said it was important to vote on the impeachment resolutions. But by a voice vote the stack of resolutions was postponed.

Many delegates were unhappy that so much work was left undone. A delegate who said this was her first convention addressed the crowd choking back tears and said, "I'm wondering if we have the political will to stay and do the work." Another woman opposed the move because as a delegate she won't get to vote on the resolutions, which are now in the hands of the central committee. There was a complaint that too much of the convention was taken up with "rah-rah stuff" and not enough debating the platform.

The convention is adjourned.

UPDATE: A platform committee member e-mailed to tell me that the Dept. of Peace is also in the platform. It was moved from foreign policy to the section on government and political reform, so now it is endorsed in the platform as well as by resolution..

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Democrats Approve Platform

Posted by David Postman at 5:39 PM

Democrats approved their platform with very little debate and very few changes to what the platform committee proposed. Some delegates were clearly unhappy when a majority voted to end debate on the platform. And some didn't agree when a voice vote was said to have approved the platform.

The changes were mostly minor. For example, in the foreign policy plank delegates eliminated the call for the United States to leave not just Iraq but military bases in adjacent countries.

There are still resolutions to consider, including the ones calling for impeachment of President Bush. It's already been a long day.

"Stay hydrated," someone just announced from the stage. (So far no warning about dangerous pink liquid being passed through the crowd.)

In other convention news:

  • Among all the Democratic pins for sale here is a small one that says, "It's not working." That was what state party chairman Dwight Pelz said to DNC Chairman Howard Dean about the party's mushy stance on Iraq.
  • Republican Party Chairwoman Diane Tebelius has sent out her weekly message to party members. She declares last week's GOP convention a success and highlights the immigration plank.

    "The section on immigration is in-line with the sentiments of Washington State voters," Tebelius wrote. She describes it as a call for an immigration plan that strictly enforces borders, does not provide amnesty and "creates a reasonable guest worker program." She doesn't mention the party's call to oppose automatic citizenship for babies born to illegal immigrants.

    The party posted the entire platform here.

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Cantwell's Opponents Speak to Demos

Posted by David Postman at 3:37 PM

The anti-war candidates running against Maria Cantwell — Mark Wilson and Hong Tran — each got a few minutes to address the Democratic convention this afternoon. And they presented a clear distinction from Cantwell on the war and other issues. And from Wilson at least, delegates saw a far different Democrat than any other party official or candidate who has spoken.

Wilson is a Marine veteran who has run for office as a Green and a Libertarian. While he was hard on Cantwell, it was nothing compared to his indictment of the Bush Administration. He called them "terrorists in the White House" and "incompetent chicken hawks who wage immoral war against the innocent at home and abroad."

Wilson said he supports repeal of the Patriot Act and said "We must get to the complete truth about September the 11th. The commission's distortions and omissions are not worth the paper it's written on." This all brought cheers from a small chunk of the crowd.

Wilson said he believes in "ordinary citizens united with a commitment to positive change." But not in dealing with the Administration. He said he would be a "forceful, combative obstructionist to the Bush-Cheney, neo-con agenda."

"Let's make the final days of the Bush-Cheney nightmare a living hell for the dangerous duo," he said.

Attacking Cantwell on her stance on the environment, which she generally gets high marks for, Wilson said, "You can't be a true environmentalist when you support the pillage and plunder of war or neo-con, fast-tracking, free-trading policies."

Tran, an attorney who has left her job giving legal advise to low-income familes to campaign full-time, said she knows that some Democrats are willing to overlook Cantwell's war stance because of the environmental record. "The truth is however we can't count on her to protect our environment any more than we can count on her to uphold our key Democratic values."

That was the one line that brought boos from Democrats in either speech.

Tran criticized Cantwell's vote to confirm Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, saying Kempthorne opposes some of the environmental issues that Cantwell has pushed for. "Either Cantwell doesn't understand that or she's not the environmentalist we hope she is," Tran said.

After Wilson and Tran spoke, veteran Pierce County activist Harvey Brooks took to the microphone to try to calm the divisions. Brooks is a Vietnam war veteran with what he called Agent Orange cancer and said he was struck by watching Tran, a refugee from that war, touting a run for the U.S. Senate. "Now although we may make mistakes, which we have, we had some today, we are still and will forever be the ones who include others in our tent," he said to the biggest applause of the afternoon.

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Cantwell Speaks to Democrats

Posted by David Postman at 11:38 AM

Maria Cantwell just spoke to the convention in what was the most anticipated event of the weekend. I didn't hear anything new in the speech, but Cantwell emphasized liberal credentials, like yearning for Ted Kennedy as chairman of the Senate Health Care Committee and recounting her success in stopping drilling in ANWR.

"This senator will not be bullied and not be bought," she said. The war, though, was the subtext and the cause of obvious division in the hall. Cantwell supporters filled the aisles with signs and drums and banners and screamed their support, guided by campaign whips that had been organizing the crowd.

Anti-war Democrats held small "NO WAR" signs that were marked, "Paid for by Citizens for Maralyn Chase." (Chase is a liberal Democratic state House member from Edmonds.) Many sported campaign paraphernalia for Mark Wilson who is running against Cantwell in the primary. They too were organized, with one activist saying before the event that he couldn't say too much outside of his "cell" of anti-war protesters.

As the pro-Cantwell demonstration filled the hall, chants of "No more war" broke out. They were loud and Chase's little signs could be seen throughout the hall. The Cantwell people responded with chanting "Six more years."

I wondered what would have happened if Cantwell's people joined the anti-war chant. Cantwell could have joined, too, and said something like, "I agree there should be no more war and this is the year our troops need to come home." In her speech she reiterated her position that 2006 should be the year "when the Iraqi people stand on their own and our troops come home."

The problem, as Cantwell explained to me, is that "no more war" means different things to different people.

"These people have a wide range of ideas and views on that and we have had many meeting with different groups of them talking about exactly what they mean. And you can sit down with seven of them have seven different ideas about what each of them mean. I've tried to articulate what I actually voted for and what I think are the important principles for us to keep our eye on and that is to make sure we are making progress in getting the Iraqi people on their feet so our troops can come home."

Cantwell told reporters after her speech she was not bothered by the reaction, saying it was about what she saw at the King County Democratic Convention and other events.

MORE: Probably the most pointed response to the anti-war crowd came this morning in a speech from party chairman Dwight Pelz:

"This is not our war. Iraq is a Republican War. Had Al Gore been elected President in 2000, which he was, invading Iraq would not have been his response to 9/11. Not a Democrat in Congress would have voted to force a Democratic President to invade Iraq."

"The War in Vietnam belonged to Democratic Presidents -- Kennedy and Johnson -- but this is a Republican War, launched by a Republican President and a Republican Secretary of Defense with no reason to start it and no plan to end it. If you are looking for a parallel between Vietnam and Iraq you will have to look outside of the Democratic Party to find it!"

That's from the prepared text of Pelz's speech. He didn't deliver the Johnson and Kennedy line.

And here is the text of Cantwell's convention speech.

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Democrats' Proposed Platform

Posted by David Postman at 9:46 AM

The Democrats proposed platform just came out. It will be debated, perhaps amended, and voted on late today.

This looks to be the new language on the war. Democrats:

"Declare that there is irrefutable evidence that the war against Iraq was an unjustified war based on false and misleading statements and faulty thinking, and that it has led to the death and injury of thousands of innocent people, including U.S. service men and women, and has made the U.S. and other nations less safe from terrorism."

The proposal also says:

"The sovereignty of Iraq belongs to the Iraqis; the developing and implementing of an orderly, complete, and rapid exit strategy from Iraq of all U.S. military forces and economic interests, including all military bases in adjacent countries, and the provision of funding for rebuilding under the United Nations of infrastructure destroyed since 1991; the U.S. government should seek a peace/disengagement/reconciliation ... conference organized by the Secretary General of the United Nations."

There is an anti-terrorism plank, saying Democrats support and affirm:

"Efforts to stop attacks on this country and attacks by this country on others by working on the root causes of conflict, including poverty, land distribution, injustice, and the ongoing political marginalization of all those around the globe who want a voice in shaping their own political and economic futures."

The Department of Peace, an inspiration of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and in the platform first in 2004, is out of the platform. But it is proposed as a resolution that is scheduled to be debated later today.

Some Democrats will also argue for impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

There are two separate impeachment resolutions in the packet scheduled to be debated. One says Bush and Cheney violated the trust of the American people through domestic surveillance and Cheney's alleged involvement in the leak of a CIA operative's name. The other lists a series of crimes that Bush and Cheney are accused of, including the charge that the president committed a felony by "withholding information from Congress about doubts in the intelligence community about Bush's justification for war," that he embezzled funds authorized for the war in Afghanistan to use in Iraq and that he "committed an act of terrorism" by "ordering the kidnapping of President Aristide" of Haiti.

The impeachment resolutions come to the full convention with no recommendation from the platform committee. It's unclear whether they will be debated today. If time runs out the resolutions are often the thing that gets bumped from the agenda.

The Department of Peace and the impeachment resolutions are among 26 out of an original 191 resolutions proposed at the convention. Because there were so many, the others will be considered at a later Democratic meeting.

UPDATE: Congressman Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, said he doesn't think there's any support among the state's Democratic House delegation for impeachment. "I've got to tell you there can be a backlash." He knows because he won in 1998 "running against impeachment" of Bill Clinton.

"It is valid and important to say that America deserves a Congress that fulfills its oversight function," he said. But that doesn't mean impeachment. "I think there are better ways to us to talk about it."

Darcy Burner, the Democratic candidate against Congressman Dave Reichert, didn't rule impeachment out.

I support Congress exercising its oversight responsibility. There should be hearings. Where that leads I don't know.

Poking at Congress' lack of oversight is clearly a Democratic talking point. This morning Rep. Rick Larsen spoke to a convention breakfast about the House Armed Services Committee which he serves on.

The House Armed Services Committee over the last five and a half years has practiced more over-look than oversight. ... We're overlooking everything and when Democrats get the House back and we get control of the Armed Services Committee we're going to start looking at what this administration has been doing the last six years to the men and women in the military.

UPDATE: There are plenty of people here who like the idea of impeaching the president, as well as the vice president, secretary of defense and secretary of state.

As delegates left the hall for lunch they were greeted by a group of people in big paper-machie heads of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice and wearing prison stripes and leg chains. They were promoting impeachment efforts of a number of liberal groups, including the Backbone Campaign, which has been active in Washington Democratic politics.

Many delegates offered their support, suggested other names to add to the chain gang and gave donations for chain gang bumper stickers.

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Pharmacy Board Members Never Confirmed

Posted by David Postman at 6:49 AM

None of the members of the state Board of Pharmacy have been confirmed by the state Senate and in January Gov. Chris Gregoire could replace the entire panel if she wanted.

And she may. The governor told me last night that she's learned the board members had never been confirmed, neither the two members she appointed or the five appointed by Gary Locke. On Thursday the board voted 5-0, the two non-pharmacists on the board don't get a vote, to to endorse a regulation that would allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense medication on moral grounds. The vote moves the proposal forward to a public hearing in late summer, after which another vote will be taken by the board.

Gregoire has been criticized for not fighting harder to stop the proposal. Now, though, she says she's committed to a tough and aggressive campaign to get the board to reverse its position. And that could mean replacing board members next year.

"This is all about patients' rights and they must focus on patients. And if they're not going to do that I need a group that will. But they've got a chance. They can make it right. They have until August."

I interviewed Gregoire in Yakima last night after she spoke to the Democratic state convention. In the convention hall she papered the room with copies of her letter to the pharmacy board opposing the plan and mentioned it in her speech to delegates.

Gregoire is also working to build a coalition of interest groups to lobby the board. Gregoire said she is trying to enlist groups like the AARP, cancer organizations and doctors. While much of the attention on the proposal has been on emergency contraception, Gregoire says it goes much further.

"What if I came up and you assumed that I was an undocumented (worker), so you're going to deny me, because you decided I was getting some sort of state help and I don't deserve it. Or you decided because I'm getting some prescription having to do with AIDS, therefore I'm gay and you don't like that or I have some sort of cancer and you think I've been a smoker and that's my problem so you're not going to do that. I could go on with the list. I think there's no end to it."

"This board did not appreciate what they were doing. They did it too quickly. They looked for a compromise and they failed to understand what they've done and once I think they are aware of it, I have confidence they'll do the right thing in the end."

Gregoire has been on record since January opposing the plan. But should she have moved sooner to build a coalition and speak out publicly as she began to do just last night? "I've asked myself that today," she told me. But I was left with the clear sense that she didn't think that would have worked before now. Most people, she said, thought about the proposal only in terms of birth control and she said there was "complacency" about the board's deliberations.

Now, though, she seems jolted into action "I don't know of another state that's gone this way and I am shocked that we have," she said.

I'm sure the governor will be criticized for being slow to take on the issue in the high profile way she now seems ready to do. This is how she does things. It has been clear from her two legislative sessions that rather than get out front on issues and use the public bully pulpit, Gregoire is more likely to step in later in the game and then work usually behind the scenes to break logjams. It has become her trademark. UPDATE: Here and here are stories about Gregoire's leadership style.

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