Rep. Eric Swalwell with an American
soldier in Afghanistan.
Starting in late May, Swalwell seemed intent on showing his liberal constituents he was game for attacking, even belittling his House Republicans colleagues. Three videos posted by Swalwell’s office showed him tussling over parliamentary procedure at the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. It didn’t hurt that the incident revolved around climate change and, more specifically, the stubborn stance of some Republicans against its prevalence. Fighting against climate change, not denying it, is certainly a winning move for progressives in the 15th District as it is for many California moderate conservatives.
But, Swalwell went further this week when he attempted use the single most explosive issue for progressives over the past 12 years for political gain. That issue is, of course, the run-up and invasion of Iraq in late 2002 and 2003. In the last week, some Republican leaders have tried to rewrite history while urging for a return of troops to quell an insurgent uprising near Baghdad.
Mama Bear: Ellen Tauscher,
a moderate, represented nearly
the same district as Swalwell and
voted for the Iraq War.
Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee was famously the only member of Congress courageous enough to stand against the rising tide of war just days after 9/11. In a local historical context, Lee’s vote and its prescience is likely one of the greatest moments of leadership ever. However, Lee’s votes in 2001 and specifically against war in Iraq in 2012 was totally in line with her past and present progressive record along with representing the overwhelming majority of her district.
Based upon Swalwell’s moderate ideology, there is absolutely no indication he would have vote against military intervention in Iraq if he had served then, and with 9/11 still in the rear view mirror of the American memory. Recall, even Pete Stark, a peacenik of 1960s proportions voted for the original authorization in 2001. But, the best barometer for hypothetically measuring Swalwell against the past, you just need to use the voting record of his mentor, former Rep. Ellen Tauscher.
Tauscher was a strong supporter of the Iraq War while periodically drawing the ire of East Bay progressives for her willingness to play ball with the Bush administration. Tauscher voted for war in 2001 and again a year later. However, there were major differences in the landscape between the two votes. By late 2002, far more Democrats were willing to stick their neck out against war in Iraq than in 2001 when Lee had stood alone (Stark was one of them).
Notably, Tauscher's vote for the Iraq War was out of step with the entire liberal East Bay congressional caucus. We have already seen Swalwell show this willingness to veer from the party line on important issues such as privacy and unemployment benefits. In addition, Swalwell and Tauscher both share great support from the defense industry. When Tauscher left Congress, she was then appointed to the State Department under Hillary Clinton. In the early 2000s, Swalwell worked as an unpaid intern for Tauscher and much of his political identity appears to have been molded by his moderate former boss.
In fact, Swalwell already has propensity for waving the American flag and patting veterans on the back at every turn. There’s no doubt, the phony threat of a mushroom cloud over the U.S. would have elicited in Swalwell the same response witnessed over a decade ago. Furthermore, if sending troops back to Iraq sounds like a bad idea to Swalwell today, then why did he believe last year U.S. intervention in another Middle East quagmire in Syria would be a good one?