Last November, the Connecticut congressman from the 4th district barely staved off his Democratic challenger, Diane Farrell, winning 52-48 in the first competitive election of his 18-year career. She has since announced that she will be back for another run in 2006, and outraised him in the last quarter.
Now Shays needs to seriously go out and raise money and campaign for votes, a process he seems to hate with a passion. In the meantime, his party is crumbling around him, he's been targetted by the DCCC, the right-wing still doesn't like him or trust him, and the war that he has consistently and passionately supported isn't going all that well. So you could understand why Shays might be a little tense.
So tense that he might announce that no one who hasn't been to Iraq should express an opinion on it. Especially if they don't agree with him.
You may remember Chalabi from the allegations last year that he had passed sensitive U.S. state secrets to Iran, and that he was in fact a paid agent of that regime. Or you may remember him as the source for a great deal of the now-discredited reports that Saddam Hussein's government had weapons of mass destruction. Or from his contacts with Paul Wolfowitz and the Project for a New American Century. Or from his conviction in absentia for bank fraud in Jordan, which will result in a seventeen year sentence if he ever returns there.
However you remember him, Chalabi is clearly a shady character. When Rep. Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform committee, found out that Shays was meeting with Chalabi, he suggested that Shays should instead hold a public hearing where Chalabi would instead testify under oath. As this morning's stories indicate, when Republicans refuse to put people under oath, its usually because they know the subject is going to lie.
Why does Shays claim he had his meeting in private?
"I was looking for a nonpartisan discussion that would help me understand better how I could help get our troops out sooner and win this war," Shays said.
Besides, he said, Chalabi "would have just said no."
"Some day he may be the next prime minister of Iraq, so it seems to me you want to start a relationship," Shays said.
Outstanding. We have lost over 2,000 American soldiers and wasted hundreds of billions of dollars to replace Saddam Hussein with a criminal agent of Iran who lied to our government to get us to invade.
As one might expect, Shays' challenger, Diane Farrell, called him to account for this:
Seems like a perfectly rational thing to say. Lord knows, I sure feel queasy about the sum and substance of the meeting.
When Shays heard that Farrell had dared to state an opinion on the subject contrary to his own, he blew his stack.
I admit, I haven't been to Iraq. I haven't met with the Sunni, Shia, or Kurds. Neither have the vast majority of Shays' other constituents. In all probability, neither have you. But I damn well still have an opinion on the war, and so do you, and I think we all have the right to state it.
It is utterly ludicrous to claim that only people who have been to Iraq should be able to have opinions about the war. It makes about as much sense to claim that Shays shouldn't be allowed to talk about food stamps, because he's never needed them, or that he shouldn't be allowed to comment on race because he's white.
Or, for that matter, that he shouldn't be allowed to comment on war because he was a conscientious objector during Vietnam.
In fact, I would argue exactly the opposite. I would argue that if you've been to Iraq ten (!) times since the fall of Baghdad and you still support indefinite deployment with no timelines to get out, you have lost all credibility on the subject.
A lot of people, even here, seem to be under the impression that Shays is a moderate. Just remember next time you start to think that, he doesn't think you have the right to disagree with his position on the war. That sounds pretty damn extreme to me.