Blue America Welcomes Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)

We've been doing these Blue America live chats for almost seven years. Today we're proud to welcome our very first Republican ever, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina. Join us in the comments section below at 3pm (ET, noon on the West Coast). This isn't a fundraiser or an endorsement session, although I couldn't help noticing that last year the mainstream conservative, libertarian-leaning Jones voted more frequently with progressives on crucial roll call votes than 3 of North Carolina's "Democratic" congressmen.

If you watched one of MSNBC's presentations of Hubris in recent weeks, you must have noticed the spotlight that was shined on Rep. Jones because of the way he reached inside himself-- and reached out through his strongly held religious beliefs-- to reassess his vote for Bush's illegitimate attack on Iraq in 2002. It profoundly changed Walter Jones-- if not as a man (I barely know him enough to say), as a Member of Congress. Now you find him working across the aisle-- with sincere advocates of peace from both parties-- on issues that aren't especially partisan... just especially American. It was Alan Grayson who introduced me to him and when I told Raul Grijalva Rep. Jones would be a Blue America guest today he told me he recalled, vividly, "the long years of the Bush/Cheney machine and how hard it was to find a Republican to speak the truth. My colleague Walter Jones became an almost lone voice of reason in his party and he's stayed true to his word every day since. I'm glad to have him on our side. When it comes to real checks and balances, Congress' oversight duties, drone attacks and warmaking, he's been as right as anyone, and I'm happy to see him get the recognition he deserves for his courage."

Last year John Boehner had Rep. Jones' bill, HCR 107 (which was co-sponsored by, among others, Grijalva, Lynn Woolsey and Dennis Kucinich, as well as Ron Paul and... Louie Gohmert, who, admittedly, will cosponsor anything that uses the word "impeachable") bottled up in committee, where it died without so much as a hearing. The bill simply expressed "the sense of Congress that the use of offensive military force by a President without prior and clear authorization of an Act of Congress constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under article II, section 4 of the Constitution."

In November Walter Jones was reelected with a robust 63% of the vote, the biggest margin of any Republican in the state-- much to the chagrin of Eric Cantor, who had encouraged a primary challenge against him with money he got from Sheldon Adelson. Immediately upon reelection, Jones reintroduced his resolution, this time as HCR 3. This is the letter he sent to every Member of Congress explaining it, prefaced with a quote from James Madison: allowing the President alone to take the country into war would be "too much of a temptation for one man."

Dear Colleague:

Over the last 20 years American presidents have assumed powers that our Constitution does not explicitly give the commander-in-chief. From the U.S. intervention in Bosnia to the recent U.S. involvement in Libya, Congress did not authorize the use of military force. However, the president continues to send our forces into harm's way without congressional approval. To address this issue, I have introduced H. Con. Res. 3. This resolution reaffirms that the power to declare war resides in the U.S. Congress. Under Article 1, Section 8, except in response to an actual or imminent attack against the territory of the United States, the president must come to the Congress to initiate hostilities. The proceedings of the Constitutional Convention make clear that the framers firmly believed that the momentous consequences of initiating armed hostilities should be decided not by a single individual, but only by concurrence of both houses of Congress.

H. Con. Res. 3 affirms that if a president, any president, violates this most fundamental constitutional provision, doing so would constitute an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under Article 2, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution.

I ask you to join me as a co-sponsor of this important resolution. Thank you for your consideration.

"[M]y concern has always been," he said last year, "since we were misled with the intelligence to go into Iraq, and all the number of young men and women who have been killed, and loss of limbs, that Congress needs to come back to what the Constitution says, and that is, if you’re going to commit our young men and women to fight and die, you must declare war.” This session he's also co-sponsoring a bill, HR 125 with Rosa DeLauro (R-CT) that has a fascinating genesis. The bill was originally introduced in the Senate by then-Senators Clinton and Obama. Jones simply changed the word “Iraq” to “Afghanistan.” The bill directs the Secretary of State to submit to Congress an unclassified report providing the justification for the President's decision to deny Congress its constitutionally protected role by concluding an agreement on the future of the security relationship between the United States and Afghanistan as an executive agreement." Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Mo Brooks (R-AL) have since signed on as cosponsors. Boehner has it bottled up in the House Foreign Affairs Committee where Ed Royce is sitting on it. (Brooks is also a member of the committee, as is Grayson.)



California's Most Outstanding Senate Candidate--Blue America Endorses Tony Mendoza for CA State Senate

Last night Wisconsin's extreme right Governor, ideologue Scott Walker, suffered a major rebuke when his acolyte, Jeff Stone, was soundly defeated in the race for his old job, Milwaukee County Executive, by a little-known Democrat, Chris Abele. It was a stunning 60-40% loss for the Republicans.

People think that California is a far more solidly Blue state where there's much less to worry about. True enough, California has a Democratic governor, state Senate and state Assembly. But that's hardly the end of the story. All of the Republicans and nearly all of the Democrats are in the pockets of the big money lobbyists, who practically run Sacramento. You can count the number of dyed-in-the-wool progressives in the legislature on the fingers of one hand. Last month Digby, John and I spent some time with one of the most outstanding and courageous of them, Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, who has had a spectacular career in the Assembly and is campaigning for the state Senate seat opening up in his East L.A. area.

Blue America is proud to endorse him and proud to ask you to consider making a contribution to his Senate campaign.

Tony, the son of immigrant parents, farm workers, is a former school teacher and the first in his family to go to college. Public education is close to his heart and he has been one of California's most outspoken champions for teachers and students. "I have benefited," he told us, "from a system that is free, open and non-discriminatory. The greatest strength of the U.S. educational system is universal access to public education. This belief is what keeps our country competitive. It is what fuels the American dream. More than 90 percent of students in the United States attend public schools. And if they try hard, almost all of them have the opportunity to go to college-- the opportunity to make whatever they wish of their lives. I fight for public education not only because I am a former public school teacher of 10 years, but because I am one of those kids you read about who has defied the odds and graduated from college. I know I couldn’t have done it without a strong public education system and I am committed to preserving, protecting and strengthening it for the benefit of future generations.”

When Tony got to the Assembly, instead of resigning himself to a go-along-to-get-along mode, he moved right into action, never fearing controversy. His very first bill, A.B. 97 in 2007 was all about ending the use of trans fats in California restaurants. With the special interests-- particularly the California Restaurant Association and the Chamber of Commerce-- lined up solidly against him, it literally looked impossible. It took two years and he didn't get a single Republican vote, but he managed to get it passed and signed into law. "We're the first state to require restaurants to cook without artery-clogging trans-fats, which have been linked to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Banning their use helped to reduce the number of cases of cardiovascular disease-- the No. 1 killer in the nation-- by an estimated 6 to 19 percent, reducing health care costs and most importantly, saving lives.”

That's why Tony is in government service-- to make a real difference in people's lives. It's why Digby, John and I have decided to try to help keep him in government service and why we're recommending him today. Right now we're working with him on a bill he's shepherding through the legislative process again, A.B. 22, a model for what progressives in Washington would like to do. Tony's bill would prevent employers from using credit reports to discriminate against workers. It's already passed both houses twice and was vetoed twice by Schwarzenegger. “A credit report," Tony told us, "is not a good indicator of a person’s trustworthiness or work ethic. Many Californians are still experiencing financial hardships from the economic downturn including layoffs, high unemployment rates, and the ongoing foreclosure crisis. All of these things make it harder for people to pay their bills. Consider the condition of the economy and the negative effect these circumstances can have on a person’s credit-- a credit report is an unfair lens through which to view job applicants. Using credit checks in the hiring process decreases employment opportunities. Many people have blemishes on their credit reports, especially at this time in our economy. Preventing someone from becoming employed due to a poor credit history is shameful. This bill will simply remove an unnecessary barrier to employment for those seeking jobs.”

It's likely the L.A. Democratic Machine will run a candidate more easy for them to deal with against Tony. Blue America is proud to endorse him and proud to ask you to consider making a contribution to his Senate campaign. Tony will be joining us for a live chat at Crooks and Liars 2pm (PT) on Thursday and we hope you can come by and meet him. He's an extraordinary guy-- and a leader for the future.

Thanks for doing what you can,
digby, John, Howie and the Blue America team



The Progressive side of the conversation

After watching the President's State of the Union speech and the Republican clown show that followed, you might be wondering if there's any room for a forthright, full-throated defense of progressivism in American politics these days. It certainly doesn't seem to be much in fashion -- the conversation revolves around an axis of centrism, conservatism and inane, far right nuttiness. There aren't many voices speaking for our philosophy (at least that anyone in the media cares to notice.)

But that doesn't mean they aren't out there. Blue America's first endorsee for 2012 is an unabashed progressive who knows how to talk the talk and he does it very well. Nicholas Ruiz III has already announced that he will be running against right wing Republican Sandy Adams in Florida' 24th, and he has something to say, something you'll want to listen to -- and something America needs to hear. Here is an excerpt from Nicholas's response to the President's State of the Union address last night:

If Obama is in need of some regulations to reasonably review, Democrats can help. For example, let’s review the stifling minimum wage regulation. The minimum wage, unreasonably and unrealistically, remains untethered to the consumer price index. Therefore, it almost never goes up. But market prices sure do. And that’s why the buying power of the average American today pales in comparison to the buying power senior citizens had when they were young. Deregulate the minimum wage by tethering it to the market via the consumer price index. Republicans, whose charms and favor Obama seems too eager to court, will be happy, too: it has the word ‘market’ in it.

The country is in the midst of a Great Debate about its future. The political elites are only representing one side of that discussion and are simply fighting over the details (while the Tea Party dances around them both with burning torches in their hands.) Nicholas is speaking for the rest of us. And when you hear it, you realize just how lopsided our politics have become.

We have invited Nicholas to join us this Saturday for our first Blue America chat of 2011 to start a new conversation among progressives about what is to be done. If you are available at 11a PST/2p EST this Saturday, we invite you to join us at Crooks and Liars.

And we urge you to help get Nicholas's campaign started by donating what you can, here.

Thanks for doing what you can,

digby, John, Howie and the Blue America team




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