Friday, June 22, 2007

Sherrod Brown Is Sorry

Got an email from Adam Green, MoveOn's "Civic Communications Director." Apparently progressive activists and bloggers are quite excited about Sen. Sherrod Brown's mea culpa about voting for the "torture bill" when he was a Representative running for the Senate last legislative session.

The vote caused lots of hand-wringing in the lefty sphere last year. I was offline working for Tom Sawyer at the time and in fact, the kerfuffle confirmed the wisdom of my decision to refrain from blogging while I was working there.

My take on the controversy was somewhat contrarian, you will be shocked to here. I was confident that Brown would have voted against the bill had his vote mattered. As it was, he was in a position where his vote would have been a protest vote on a flawed bill that nonetheless carried some important national security provisions. The bill was written so that anyone who voted against it would be attacked as soft on terrorists. In other words, the Republicans were playing partisan games with security again, to the surprise of no one who mattered.

I was pleased that then-Rep. Brown refused to fall into the trap. The vote on the bill was wired and he did not give DeWine ammunition just for the warm fuzzy feeling of a protest vote. On balance the world is better with Senator Brown than Senator DeWine.

Plus it was worth whatever damage his vote might have done to higher principles to see the stumbling response of the DeWine campaign. DeWine's handlers clearly expected Brown to vote against the bill and had the attacks ready to roll. The campaign's reaction to Brown's "yes" was like a big guy throwing his shoulder against a door, not knowing it was unlatched. DeWine lurched into the room and tried to assume an "I meant to do that" posture.

At the time all this was going on, I was in contact with the Brown campaign seeking help in a couple of areas. Brown had already allowed Tom to share the stage at a campaign rally his campaign had organized and we were looking for a little more here and there. If I had been blogging, either I would have refrained from commenting on the biggest campaign story of the week, or I would have made the case above.

Either way, I would have put myself in the uncomfortable position of having an opinion that cut against the prevailing current and was friendly to the candidate that my candidate was seeking campaign help from. Maybe no one would have found out about the entreaties to the Brown campaign, but regardless, it was a lesson in conflicts of interest -- real and perceived -- that political bloggers face when we move beyond blogging.

Back to the leftysphere's reaction to the Brown apology, Adam Green sent the following links. Apologies for font chaos and long, unembedded links -- I'm doing this on the fly:

Transcript - Sherrod Brown on The Young Turks Brown Cops to 'Bad' Vote
Huffington Post: Sherrod Brown Now Opposes the "Torture Bill"
Daily Kos: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Admits Military Commissions Act Vote Was Mistake
Agonist: Sherrod Brown Admits He Was Wrong to Vote For Torture
DownWithTyranny: Sherrod Brown Comes Clean and Promises to Make Amends for His Vote For Torture Bill


Chris Baker said...

Excellent analysis. This clears up my thinking a lot.

Village Green said...

Your links are all cut off and don't work. However, thanks for helping to clear things up. I had suspected that something like this was at the root of his vote. Ditto the last Iraq spending bill. Idealism and politics are not a happy mix.

Jason Haas said...

The links are java, perhaps that's the issue.

I think we talked about this at the time and were in general agreement.

There was a lengthy "You're Dead to Me, Sherrod" thread at BSB after the vote. I was contrarian, but was woefully alone.