There are political ‘mavericks’ and then there is Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie
By Kent R. Kroeger (July 25, 2019)
Who is Thomas Massie (R-KY) and why is he the only Republican who voted against U.S. House Resolution 246 (Opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel)?
H.R. 246, in a non-binding resolution approved 398–17, condemns the movement to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) Israel for its policies regarding the Palestinians. Who says bipartisanship is dead? When it comes to pissing on Palestinians, Democrats and Republicans have no trouble coming together.
The resolution, backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, also enshrines the long irrelevant two-state-solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, in a presumably sharp rebuke of current Trump administration and Israeli policy.
Additionally, H.R. 246 says Americans have a “right to petition in opposition to government policy,” soothing some Democrats who oppose a stronger Senate anti-BDS bill that penalizes companies and individuals for supporting boycotts, divestment or sanctions directed towards Israel.
Massie ignored the rhetorical smoke screen and recognized H.R. 246 for what it was — a government-led effort to discourage the exercise of free speech. If only more Democrats looked upon the Constitution with the same respect Massie does.
Massie, an M.I.T. grad, is the kind of ‘maverick’ politician other ‘maverick’ politicians keep at arm’s length. He is both predictable and hard to predict. An unfailing anti-interventionist and strong deficit-hawk since entering Congress in 2012, Massie was endorsed by former Texas Representative Ron Paul and his son Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.
He’s the male Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), skeptical of U.S. strategy in the Middle East and the hundreds of other military commitments spread throughout the globe. In May, with Congressman Andy Levin (D-MI), he introduced the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) Clarification Act, designed to require the Trump Administration to receive an explicit authorization from Congress before engaging in military action against Iran.
“Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution clearly gives Congress the sole power to declare war,” Massie said. “Our Founding Fathers believed that Congress — not the President — should possess this power, and that giving such authority to the executive branch presents a direct threat to liberty. As the AUMF Clarification Act states, Congress has never authorized military force against Iran, and any such action would be illegal and unconstitutional without an up-or-down vote.”
The AUMF Clarification Act argues that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, nor any other existing law gives the Trump administration the legal authority to use force against Iran. Only a direct authorization by the Congress would give the administration authority.
Not surprisingly, the Trump administration points on current Iran policy, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, disagree.
Both Gabbard and Massie don’t blindly cheerlead U.S. military adventurism lacking sufficient predicate or well-defined goals. However, since he’s not a woman, Massie doesn’t get smeared as being soft on dictators and tyrants as Gabbard does. He’s ‘thoughtful’ and ‘highly-principled’ according to his congressional colleagues, while Gabbard is ‘weak’ and easily “manipulated” by totalitarian rulers, according to her fellow Democratic Party critics. If you ever want examples of palpable sexism and bias, spend just a few days listening Democrats talk about other Democrats.
Which is why H.R. 246 has been a disturbing outcome for many progressives who fight for the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation or substantive control. What made the House vote on H.R. 246 so striking is that Massie was on the only Republican to vote against it, while Gabbard and most progressive Democrats, to the dismay of many of their supporters, voted in favor.
Independent journalist and documentary filmmaker Abby Martin, whose film “Gaza Fights for Freedom” was released in June, didn’t hesitate to call out the rank hypocrisy of progressives with respect to H.R. 246:
Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) spent a good part of Wednesday on Twitter explaining their ‘yea’ votes to constituents and followers:
If groveling contrition were an Olympic sport, Khanna and Pressley just won the gold and silver in the ‘How to Betray Palestinians While Pretending You are Their Biggest Supporter.” Spare us your mental gymnastics Ro and Ayanna.
When the U.S. government criticizes free speech (e.g., boycotts) — even without legislating against it — it is discouraging free speech. As a First Amendment-hawk, Massie didn’t need to parse out political considerations from his principles, He knew how to vote on H.R. 246.
And accusing Massie of anti-Semitism over this vote would be like calling Santa Claus the Grinch that stole Christmas. The accusation would never stick. He has no ill-expressed criticisms of Israel that can be misinterpreted as anti-Semitic or any other kind of demonstrable religious, racial or ethnic bias. He criticizes policies, not people, religions or countries.
Unfortunately, for many Democrats, the fear of such a charge has led them down a dark path that not only chips away at our Constitutional freedoms, but makes it increasingly likely that the U.S. will get involved in a prolonged military action against Iran at the urging of the Israeli and Saudi Arabian governments — just one more military commitment to add to our current participation in conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
But what is most problematic about support for H.R. 246 is that it normalizes anti-BDS sentiments — including the association of pro-Palestinian activists as anti-Semitic hate groups on par with the neo-Nazis and KKK — and clears the path for more draconian anti-BDS legislation to become law at the state-level.
While 16 Democratic House members voted against H.R. 246, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Massie may be the lone North Star in the Republican Party, along with the few remaining in the Democratic Party, still pointing us towards the protection of our constitutional freedoms and recognizing the human rights and dignity of the Palestinian people.
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