To celebrate the sixth year of the never-ending conflict in Mess-o-Potamia, this writer believes that the time has come to take a look back at the original Iraq War Resolution that Congress passed in 2002.
Specifically, I want to focus on seven courageous Republicans who bucked their party and voted "nay" on giving President George W. Bush a blank check to take the country to war against the regime of Saddam Hussein.
The greatest irony is that nearly half of these Republicans were voted out of office in the 2006 midterm elections, in part because of public dissatisfaction with the war they had opposed from the very beginning.
When Joint Resolution 114 was voted upon on October 11, 2002, 77 senators supported it while 23 senators opposed. Voting against the war were 21 Democrats – out of 49 Democrats in the Senate – and one Independent. Only one Republican – out of 49 Republicans in the Senate – joined them.
It is interesting to note here that early Senate backers of the war included several candidates for the 2008 Democratic nomination, such as Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards.
In the House of Representatives, the resolution passed by a vote of 296 to 133. Only six Republicans – out of 222 Republicans in the House – joined 126 Democrats – out of 208 Democrats in the House – and one Independent in opposing the rush to war.
Because of the highly misleading Left/Right debate that rages in the mainstream media and talk radio, many Americans may not even be aware that ANY Republicans were against the Iraq War from the get-go. After all, everyone knows that Democrats are antiwar and Republicans are pro-war.
Although all of the members of Congress who voted "nay" on taking the U.S. into what has turned out to be an unnecessary and tragic conflict deserve kudos – regardless of party – it can be argued that those Republicans who did so paid a heavier price than their Democratic and Independent counterparts. To be a politician of any stripe and vote against the war resolution may not have been popular with many Americans at the time, but to be a Republican and vote against the will of your party – not to mention a president who happens to lead that party – was nothing short of heresy.
Of course, many Republicans have since recanted their earlier support for the war, most notably North Carolina representative Walter B. Jones, Jr. – the inventor of "freedom fries." However, it is easy to oppose something after it has become unpopular. The real test of courage is to take a principled stand against a popular undertaking and, in the words of our commander-in-chief, stay the course. That is exactly what these seven Republicans have done and this writer believes that time and circumstances have vindicated them.
It is interesting to note that these particular members of Congress represent three great Republican traditions – "Rockefeller Republicanism," Midwestern Progressivism, and Midwestern Conservatism. Sadly, these traditions are dying out as the GOP completes its transformation into a stronghold of Christian fundamentalists and neoconservative Jacobins.
Because most Americans are susceptible to the misperception that being antiwar is a characteristic of Democrats, I believe that these Republicans deserve some praise and recognition.
And so without further ado, here are the Republicans who went against the stream.
Lincoln Chafee – The only Republican from the Senate to oppose the Iraq War, Chafee served the state of Rhode Island from 1999 to 2007. As a lawmaker who took moderate-to-liberal stands on most issues, he was a worthy descendant of the "Rockefeller Republicans" who once dominated the East Coast wing of the GOP. Chafee's views alienated many in his party's conservative base, who often referred to him as a RINO – Republican In Name Only. Unfortunately, this maverick reputation did not prevent Chafee from being defeated by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in the 2006 Midterm Elections.
In July, Chafee left the GOP and became an Independent. He has since endorsed Democratic Senator Barack Obama for president.
John Hostettler – One of only six House Republicans to vote against the war, Hostettler served his country from Indiana's 8th District from 1995 until his defeat to Democrat Brad Ellsworth in the 2006 Midterm Elections. Ironically, Hostettler came into office during the "Republican Revolution" of 1994. A signatory of the Contract with America, Hostettler proved to be a reliable conservative on most issues. In October 2002, he committed his most conservative act yet by voting against a war he believed to be unconstitutional.
Since leaving public office, Hostettler has published a book titled Nothing for the Nation: Who Got What Out of Iraq.
Jimmy Duncan – A conservative with a mean libertarian streak, Duncan has served in the House from Tennessee's 2nd District since 1988. Although not from the Midwest, Duncan's political profile aligns him with that region's conservative tradition – a tradition that once stressed noninvolvement in foreign affairs.
Ron Paul – A libertarian with a mean conservative streak, Paul has served nearly 20 years in the House from the state of Texas and shows no signs of leaving. A staunch supporter of a noninterventionist foreign policy and individual rights, Paul was the Libertarian Party's candidate in the 1988 presidential election and ran for the GOP nomination in the 2008 presidential election. Like Duncan, Paul can also be said to hail from the tradition of Midwestern Conservatism – as represented by his declared hero Senator Robert Taft – although he, too, comes from the South.
Amory Houghton – A veteran of World War II, Houghton served in the House from New York's 29th District from 1987 to 2005. A "Rockefeller Republican," he repeatedly clashed with the more conservative members of the GOP during his tenure in Congress.
Jim Leach – Leach served in the House from Iowa's 2nd District from 1977 until his defeat in the 2006 Midterm Elections. As a liberal who opposed taking his country into Iraq, Leach is reminiscent of past Republican progressives from the Midwest, such as Robert La Follete and Gerald Nye, who also favored a noninterventionist foreign policy.
Leach currently serves as the John L. Weinberg Visiting Professor of Public and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University.
Connie Morella – Morella served in the House from Maryland's 8th District from 1987 to 2003. A "Rockefeller Republican," she often found herself in conflict with conservative members of her party, who thought of her as a RINO. Morella also served as the United States Permanent Representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development from 2003 to 2007.