Tying It All Together
If you're an Independent or Republican who's found Tim Johnson Watch, I'd ask you for a minute of your time to make the case that right now, in 2006, you should vote for Tim Johnson's opponent.
I invite you to take a minute to peruse TJW. It documents Tim Johnson's unusually close ties to George Ryan, Tom Delay, and numerous other criminals and influence peddlers, and his dishonorable refusal to honor his three-term-limit promise. It documents a consistent policy of favoring millionaires over the hardworking people of this District, while refusing to defend Social Security and piling up unprecedented and irresponsible debt. It documents a record of painting himself as a moderate while remaining a reliable vote, when called upon, for the most extreme aspects of the Bush-Delay agenda, including opposing stem cell research, rubber-stamping unnecessary war against Iraq, and approving the half-trillion dollar drug company giveaway that was the Medicare "reform" law.
But beyond the individual failures, there is a bigger picture here. That bigger picture is of a man who has abandoned his responsibility to exercise the judgment that we have elected him to exercise. Here's what Paul Krugman of the New York Times wrote Friday concerning one of Tim Johnson's biggest contributors, the Parsons Corporation:
Consider the symbolism of Iraq's new police academy, which Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, has called "the most essential civil security project in the country." It was built at a cost of $75 million by Parsons Corporation, which received a total of about $1 billion for Iraq reconstruction projects. But the academy was so badly built that feces and urine leak from the ceilings in the student barracks.He's talking about you, Mr. Johnson. This goes beyond liberal and conservative, beyond Democrat and Republican. This is about doing the job you were elected to do. Whether it's because of the campaign contributions, or even because Mr. Johnson genuinely believes it when he says that his main job is constituent service, the fact is that Tim Johnson has been grossly derelict in his duty to exercise independent and sensible judgment, even when it may not be what George Bush or Tom Delay want.
Think about it. We want the Iraqis to stand up so we can stand down. But if they do stand up, we'll dump excrement on their heads.
As for how this could have happened, that's easy: major contractors believed, correctly, that their political connections insulated them from accountability....
As a result, the administration and its allies in Congress fought accountability all the way. Administration officials have made repeated backdoor efforts to close the office of Mr. Bowen, whose job is to oversee the use of reconstruction money. Just this past May, with the failed reconstruction already winding down, the White House arranged for the last $1.5 billion of reconstruction money to be placed outside Mr. Bowen's jurisdiction. And now, finally, Congress has passed a bill whose provisions include the complete elimination of his agency next October. (Emphasis added.)
During the debate with David Gill, Mr. Johnson refused to answer whether he had voted correctly when he voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq. He called the question "Monday morning quarterbacking" (but consider the first President Bush's autobiography that makes clear the risk was not unforseeable).
Then, he defended his vote for the war by saying that he has made "tens of thousands of votes" in his career as a state legislator and Congressman, and that none of them was a perfect vote. It's a perfect trial lawyer's technique (Tim Johnson's former career) -- acknowledge a weakness in your case, but do it so blandly that it takes all the wind out of the other side's sails. He gave a similar answer in the 2004 debate (basically, "I've made a lot of mistakes") when asked about allegations of drug use, misconduct as a state legislator, and other improprieties. It may have been a fair answer in 2004, at least if you considered the question irrelevant to Mr. Johnson's performance in Congress.
But it was not a fair answer in 2006. Instead, it was a telling window into Mr. Johnson's view of his job. His vote to authorize a war that has killed thousands of Americans, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, was not just one vote among ten thousand. It was a defining moment of his career. And he got it wrong.
Yes, Mr. Johnson, we all make mistakes. Congressman Jack Murtha did -- he was one of the House's biggest supporters of the war, but now he's taking responsibility by admitting he was wrong, and working like hell to solve the problem. But changing the subject -- Tim Johnson's main campaign ad is entirely about ethanol (an issue about which he and his opponent basically agree) -- is not good enough.
Just saying "nobody's perfect" is not good enough.