Ginny, you know the way the wind blows

By GREG HAMILTON, Editor of Editorials
Published January 15, 2007

You're Ginny Brown-Waite, and you are in uncharted, and uncomfortable, waters.

You awoke on Nov. 8 and, for the first time in your 16-year political career, you found yourself in the minority party.

From county commissioner in Brooksville to state senator in Tallahassee and now as a congresswoman on the world's biggest political stage, and snake pit, Washington D.C., you have always been on the winning team.

Your Republican party had the votes, and thus the clout, to do whatever it wanted. Now, you must play nice with the other side if you want to be relevant. You have had little experience in this area over the years, and no inclination, till now, to even try.

You're Ginny Brown-Waite and somehow you have to get along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a woman whose personality rivals your own in strength and, at times, prickliness. The best you can say about your relationship is you two are civil toward each other. But for the next two years, at least, Pelosi's agenda will prevail.

Unlike many of your Republican colleagues in the House, you won your race for re-election, defeating a challenger your supporters labeled a cockroach. It was a nasty race that did nothing to improve your feelings toward Democrats in general. But, unlike some others in your party, you are being pragmatic about the turn of events. "If we were so smart," you say, "we would still be in the majority."

You're Ginny Brown-Waite and your congressional district has the largest number of military veterans in the nation. All things military, therefore, matter, from benefits for vets who served decades ago to the war in Iraq that is fracturing the country today.

You come from a family of military men, so you respect and understand the loyalty and sacrifices required of those in uniform. But you cannot blindly follow a president whose war plan has been one bloody disaster after another, whose latest grand design is opposed by more than two-thirds of Americans, who has rejected the key elements of the Iraq Study Group, a distinguished panel whose findings you have applauded as echoing your own sentiments.

You see how many Republicans lost their seats in the House and Senate in November in the antiwar backlash. You hear your own party leaders ripping the president in terms that are even stronger than those being used by Democrats. You hear a nation calling for troop withdrawal and you see a president ordering escalation. You wonder whether this "surge" is all about "beefing up the presidential legacy."

So, you call the president's plan "troubling, with many questions left unanswered."

You want more specifics about the role of American troops in relation to the Iraqi forces during this upcoming push. You want Iraqis, not Americans, kicking in the doors of Baghdad. If the Iraqis falter, you want them to face the toughest consequences: immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces and the loss of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money that flow each week from the American taxpayer to the black hole of Iraq.

You temper that tough stance, though, noting that the Constitution "does not provide for 535 commanders in chief." You want full briefings and congressional oversight on the war. On that point, you can rest assured you will get your wish. With the Democrats in charge, the days of the legislative branch giving the administration a blank check on all aspects of the war are over.

You vow not to join those in Congress who would try to force the president to abandon this surge operation by voting to cut the funds he needs to carry out this latest adventure. "I cannot in good conscience vote to deprive our soldiers of critical resources while they are in combat," you say, adding, "We all want our soldiers to come home safely and as soon as possible. You have my commitment that I will do everything in my power to ensure that this happens."

You stop short, however, of saying exactly how you plan on accomplishing this goal.

You are Ginny Brown-Waite, and you have famously said people cannot oppose the war while saying they support the troops. You have said, "The war in Iraq is a war of which every American can and should be proud." You now say that you have reservations and questions about the president's latest plans for furthering the war. Not quite the same as outright opposition, perhaps, but hardly full-throated support.

You back the troops while having doubts about how the war is being run. It's a position you once scorned but you now share with an overwhelming number of Americans as demonstrated in the past election and by polls after the president's speech this week.

You're Ginny Brown-Waite, and, in this area at least, you are standing with the majority.