This article from the Rutland Herald pretty much says it all: Welchie's new "top priority" is the care received by veterans at VA hospitals.
Ok, we'll just add this issue to the list of priorities that Welch has suddenly found to be of extreme importance, callin' hearin's on em, talkin' em' up to the media, and all that. Surprised? We're not.
It's pretty clever, actually. Part of a fairly well orchestrated PR move on behalf of Welchie's people and the national D's to A) divert attention from their lack of any coherent strategy to live up to their campaign promises on Iraq, eg, to END the war, and B) to make it seem as though they are doing something military oriented, that they "support the troops," while they attempt to pull the wool over the collective eyes of the electorate.
Let's connect the dots...
First, as this piece in the Post makes clear, the D's are abundantly screwed, in general, on the war. The reason for this is simple: they got elected on their claims that they would end it. They have the power to end it whenever they want. They will not do so.
Of course, they have now possessed the power to end the war for, well, about two months. They have made endless claims about their opposition to it. They have pontificated about their non-binding resolutions. There has been much hand-wringing and cause for consternation amongst the ranks, high and low, about the way to "move forward" on the war. A "new way forward," is what Welchie called it.
Well, what is the "new way forward," exactly?
Apparently, it is exactly what Welchie said it would not be; a continuation of the current policy. Rep. John Tanner put it well when he said that the D's "don't want to do the same thing we've been doing for 3 1/2 years that hasn't worked, but we don't want to pull the plug."
Yeah, he's got a point. That's a tough nut to crack.
Needless to say, blatantly failing to take any meaningful action on one's biggest campaign pledge is not the kind of thing that looks good on a freshman-firebrand's record. Especially when that fiery-eyed activist ran his entire campaign on his ability to "change direction." When he explicitly urged voters to weigh Iraq, almost exclusively, as the reason to support him. And when it starts looking like it ain't gonna pan out? Well, call in the spin-doctors.
Hence, Welchie's sudden "carbon offsetting" focus (never mind that carbon offsetting is actually worse for the environment than doing nothing). Also, his serious interest in milk, by which we mean "money for milk farmers." Finally, and this is key, his blustery call for hearings on VA hospitals...about 8 days after the story broke in the national media. Kind of a late call, right?
But it makes sense. Big-time. Here's how it works.
It's discovered that there are sub-par conditions at a housing facility for Iraq war vets in DC. The media is all-over it. In a move that makes a lot of sense, they ask Rep. Waxman about it. Waxman is the guy who heads one of the committees that Welch sits on. Sorry, one of the "plum" committee seats he holds. (Writing "plum" is obligatory in this context). Waxman mulls it over...hey, he thinks, we could get some traction out of this. Maybe divert some attention from the war. But how?
Ok, who really needs some pro-troop street cred? Who needs to get his constituents looking the other way for awhile? Is there a freshman on his committee who has been getting heat over Iraq? Why, yes there is! Ok Welchie, you're up. Call for some hearings, send out some spin, and you'll be fine. Ready, set, go!
And that's exactly what Welchie has been doing. He made a big campaign stop recently to tour a VA facility in Colchester, incidentally a town that he lost last election. That's pretty good: get some campaign props, some troop cred, and get your face seen in a town you will really need in 08.' And, we imagine, that's just the beginning. Watch out for articles in the paper, the regurgitation of talking points from Welchie's recently silent blogger crew, etc.
At some point, however, all of the rhetoric will inevitably spin itself out. People didn't like Welchie from the get-go, they were just mad at Bush, so they pulled the "D" handle like it was a slot machine.
Next time around they'll have a little bit better judgement. They're already asking him why he hasn't been sticking it to the man like he said he would, why he is not supporting impeaching the guy he supposedly can't stand (just ask John Sartore). What's going to happen when the 08' campaign really starts?
Here's a heads-up: it already has.