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June 3, 2006

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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