Only two men voted against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. For those who don’t know, that was the event that led to the escalation in Vietnam. The incident that sparked this escalation turned out to be a lie (huh, familiar). And yet only two men voted against it. One turned out to be Oregon State Senator Wayne Morse.
Morse was known as a cantankerous individual, and so the fact that he and a senator from Alaska stood up to not be counted should seem a brave and smart thing to do. But when I was in college, my Political Philosophy Professor had us read a book that decried the war, but still (essentially) called Morse a pussy for not going along with it. A book from the mid-90’s, mind you. Wish I could remember which.
In 2002, the country was still reeling from 9/11. That much is true. But when President Bush wanted authorization to go into Iraq, there was a gut feeling many of us had that the charges were bullshit. That we were rushing headlong into something we shouldn’t have. The Democratic party was not so much beleaguered as exhausted from the sort of snipe hunting the modern Republican party has become famous for (and a delightful sense of Schadenfreude is the sole benefit of watching so many of that party fall to similar corruptions, though many more excessive).
But, if someone is to be viewed as presidential, playing it safe when the Democratic party needed to be rallied, to stand up for what was and is right when the time called for it is a big plus. And I understand why she didn’t, to the extent that Clinton would have been tortured like Joan of Arc had she been the dissenting voice – but it would have also galvanized the party, and perhaps led the country to a Clinton or a Kerry in 04. Or not. She could have ended up a footnote in the books like Morse.
One of my greatest heroes is Nat Turner – who may very well have been crazy. His response to a situation wherein which he was wronged as wrong as any man could be (to be a slave) was to say, “I will not abide.” And so he revolted. He revolted against a definable bad, perhaps the most definable bad that there is besides genocide or mass slaughter for any reason.
That’s not a way to draw parallels to Barack Obama – that would be the dumbest thing ever, and there’s a strong possibility had he been in senate he would have voted for the war or had been obliterated by the noise machine the Right so successfully engages. It’s just that many of us suspected what we suspected and wish there had been a voice for it, a voice that might have saved untold lives, and perhaps helped America’s reputation abroad. I might be able to forgive Hillary Clinton for that, I might, but if she does become president, she’s got a lot of making up to do.
This is a good summary of my DVD collection: