Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who is now being mentioned as a strong candidate for Sen. Barack Obama’s running mate, co-sponsored the 2003 resolution authorizing the Iraq war.
Bayh not only voted for the war and embraced its neo-conservative rationale by chairing the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, as a New York Times profile noted this week. He went further, taking the single most aggressive, pro-war position possible. The few Democratic co-sponsors of the White House Iraq resolution provide context for the kind of senators who shared Bayh’s position at the time — they include Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn), Zell Miller (Ga.) and John Breaux (La.).
This legislative approach was not only on the far end of the pro-war spectrum, it undercut the efforts of even pro-war senators to advance alternatives pressing disarmament over invasion. There was a bipartisan Biden-Lugar proposal from the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for example, and an effort by Sen. Carl Levin (Mich.) to require more diplomacy and potentially avoid the entire war. (Levin, the current chairman of the Armed Services Committee, ultimately voted against the war.) Thus while the Senate’s official leaders on foreign policy sought to check President George W. Bush’s march to war, they were undermined by a few senators who rushed to endorse the entire White House approach as written. At a personal level, Bayh’s choice was also striking because he undercut Sen. Richard Lugar, the respected Foreign Relations Committee chair from his home state of Indiana.
It is a testament to Bayh’s political skills and Washington popularity that he not only retains "centrist" credentials, despite staking out a war position to the right of Republican colleagues, but apparently remains in serious consideration as the running mate to a Democratic nominee who owes his rapid rise to early, unambiguous opposition to the war. Facing a slew of candidates with other advantages — from a primary populated by former diplomats, governors and seasoned Washington hands to the current race against a foreign-policy-fixated veteran — Obama calmly stressed how the right judgment is better than the wrong experience.
Now he needs to use that same judgment to choose a leader with the right experience.
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