The Daily Star recently interviewed Gabby Giffords as one of the young incoming freshmen who charged into Congress with an agenda for change. Disappointing was the lack of clarity and conviction one would expect from someone so enthused about making a difference.
The interview revealed nothing surprising about her position on No Child Left Behind. She is still repeating her campaign mantra that the program is underfunded, but she offers no solutions or even a clue as to how she will vote on it. She feels something needs to be done about the border. Other than an occasional drone flying across the desert, she doesn't know what it should be. But it can't be a fence like the one that worked in Southern California. The only thing clear about her "comprehensive plan" is amnesty for illegal workers (guest worker program) which is hard to understand as a means of halting the flow of known felons, drug smugglers and terrorists.
Here's a tricky one: What about Iraq? It seems that whatever the President says is wrong. She says the Democrats are going to support the troops, but adding more is wrong. They may or may not support funding, but the President is going to send the troops anyway, which they oppose, but they will support them if the troops are there. Here's the actual dialogue. See if you can understand it.
Star: You said the president's viewpoint on certain issues isn't necessarily that of the American people, and polls show the escalation in the number of troops in Iraq is an example of that. What can and what will Congress do?
Giffords: Well, the president commissioned a bipartisan group to come together to set proposals for Iraq, the Baker-Hamilton study group. I was there when it was being presented. And the president has completely discounted the recommendations. They set forth recommendations that talked about a phased redeployment, working with other Arab nations, working with other countries, focusing on other areas, such as the Israel-Palestine conflict, refocusing back to Afghanistan. And the president essentially ignored that. His new plan can be sort of boiled down to stay the course plus 20,000.
But when we had (Defense) Secretary (Robert) Gates and Gen. (Peter) Pace come to testify before us, the majority of the questions that were asked by Democrats and Republicans were, "What is Iraqi leadership doing to state that they merit us sending more troops in, more men and women, more persons who are risking their lives?"
Secretary Gates responded that if Prime Minister (Nouri) al-Maliki was not able to deliver, they would have to go back and revisit the strategy.
Well, that's not good enough. It's absolutely not good enough for the American people. We as a Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, are going to support the troops that are currently there. There is strong bipartisan support for the men and women that are currently serving in uniform. But to add 20,000 additional troops when we're not requiring more benchmarks for the Iraqi government or for the Iraqi security forces is just too little, too late.
Star: So what can you do?
Giffords: The president is commander in chief, we know that. We can pass a resolution that at least indicates where the members of Congress — who are obviously closer to the American people because we are elected or re-elected every two years — are. And then when we look at funding, you know, those are certainly areas we can look at to see whether or not we are going to appropriate more dollars to send the troops in.
Star: Do you think Congress would say, "We're not going to fund this?"
Giffords: There is a very strong sentiment, both in the House and in the Senate, both on the Democratic side and the Republican side, that adding additional troops is not the solution to the problem.
Star: How do you then support the troops who are there but then cut the funding off on some things? It's got to be a difficult decision. And how much detail do you really drill down into on that money?
Giffords: That's what I'm starting to learn. We had our first Air/Land subcommittee meeting, it was just an organizational meeting. And it was important for the committee to come in and hear face-to-face from Gen. Pace and Secretary Gates about what the plan is and to ask really hard questions.
I've only been there a week and a half. It's not clear yet to me about the appropriation process through the House Armed Services (Committee) and how that would be divided. I've heard that the president's starting to send troops immediately. And once they're there, obviously we're going to support them.
But, again, it's a failed policy.
Okay, so what's her position beyond everything is wrong? Does she support more troops or fewer? Stay, or bail out? More funding or less? How about an alternative strategy? What is it? Regardless of one's position on the war, simply repeating over and over that the President is wrong offers little satisfaction to voters who will eventually wear out on Bush-bashing rhetoric with no solutions.
At some point, Gabby will need to decide what she is for, not just what she is against, and pursue it with some passion. If she continues to play it safe, she is likely to find herself facing re-election in just two short years with no record on which to run—safe for now, but a losing strategy in the long run.