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It's been a bad year for Chris Shays.

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.

So Congressman Shays, in his role as chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee on national security, had a closed meeting last week with Ahmed Chalabi.

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?

Shays said Waxman's request was "totally off-base."

"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:

"The thing I find disturbing is that he [Chalabi] has been a shadowy figure since America entered into this mistaken enterprise," Farrell said. "For Chris [Shays] to have a private meeting with someone under FBI investigation has to leave the public queasy about the sum and substance of the meeting."

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.

"Diane Farrell doesn't know the first thing about what is going on in Iraq. I don't think she has been there or met with Sunni, Shia or Kurds. For her to start expressing an opinion just blows me away," Shays said.

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.

Originally posted to Matthew Gertz on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 09:12 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Time for a change. (none)
    Time to send Chris Shays back to Black Rock to try his luck running for mayor of Bridgeport.

    "I think [Tom Delay]'s been a great majority leader." ~Chris Shays, October 7, 2004.

    by Matthew Gertz on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 09:15:14 AM PST

  •  Say hello to Congresswoman Farrell(D-CT) (none)
    Chris Shays foolish comments of insulting antiwar protesters in a Democratic leaning Congressional District in a Blue State during a time when the War in iraq is nationally unpopular is political suicide. This is due to a fact Shays barely won re-election in 2004 against the same Democrat who is challenging him again in 2006. All Democrats have to do is replay his comments on TV and Radio Ads and he loses re-election by a double digit margins.

    Another Republican member of a Congressional Delegation- Robert Simmons was critical of anti-war critics. All we have to do is defeat Simmons,Shays,and Nancy Johnson- who represents a Democratic Leaning Congressional District in the Waterbury Area.

    We will have a all Democratic Congressional Delegation in the Connecticut

    My advice to Shays and other Republican Congressional members from Purple or Blue Districts Bring it On with the foolish rethoric.

  •  so long, Shays (none)
    You've been barely hanging on in a blue state.  Elitist, GOP-idiotic remarks like this will kick you right out the door.

    And none too soon.  There's no reason why Shay's district shouldn't be represented by a Dem.  

    And Shays has a LOT of explaining to do:  he's been a political bagman for Dubya and Delay for too long.  Hang it around his neck.   Sorry, no Republican gets a pass on that because they're a "moderate"...there are only RELATIVE moderates in a very far rightwing party that can't govern and indulges corruption.

    •  Connecticut republicans.... (none)
      have been hiding behind the moderate label for far to long. Where have they been for the last 5 years? At a time when they could have stood up and taken a stand on their beliefs, they allowed the whole of the Republican party to be dominated by wingnuts and neocons. It's awfully easy to be a moderate when it doesn't matter, but when the chips were down they showed their true colors. They truly don't have beliefs, instead just empty labels designed to sway a liberal constituency.
    •  If you supported and continue to support... (none)
      The war, the massive tax cuts, and the Bush Social Security de-form, you aren't a moderate.

      Simple as that.

      "I think [Tom Delay]'s been a great majority leader." ~Chris Shays, October 7, 2004.

      by Matthew Gertz on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 10:08:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Shays + Lieberman = (none)

    Man-Date for Neo-Connecticut
    •  Yeah, that's rough. (none)
      Going to be tricky for our candidates to run on the war when the Republican in question can say, "Senator Lieberman agrees with me."

      "I think [Tom Delay]'s been a great majority leader." ~Chris Shays, October 7, 2004.

      by Matthew Gertz on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 10:07:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Another "moderate" (none)
    Bushco enabler.

    "If you get an outfit, you can be a cowboy, too..." : The Smothers Brothers.

    by wozzle on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 09:59:23 AM PST

  •  Shays is wrong on Chalabi... (none)
    ...because he will not become PM of Iraq.  He is not on the United Iraqi Front list this time, and his own constituency is miniscule.  Despite what Shays says, Chalabi is not likely to be the compromise candidate for PM.  

    However, I think readers here misunderstand Chalabi and fail to see why he is such a political survivor because they focus only on the US and assume that the Administration is more in charge of Iraqi politics than it really is.  Chalabi was and remains an effective mediator between the Kurds (Barzani and Talabani) and the Shia', including both SCIRI, Dawa' and Sadr, and this is a role the Iraqi parties recognize, not just the Americans.  There is a Kurdish expression:  "Between two millstones comes a very fine flour".  Chalabi mediates between the more inflexible "millstones" of the Kurds and the Shia', and he gains the "flour" of influence and access as a result.  Let's step back for a moment from the fact that he is a crook and recognize that he is effective in this role.  He derives his power not just from the Americans, but from his ability to broker deals between Iraqi leaders.

    Should he face Congress?  Absolutely.  He should be questioned on false intelligence.  Don't expect a truthful answer.  However, don't think for a minute that Chalabi is a fool, or that he is merely an Iranian agent, or that he is merely a US puppet, or that because he is a crook, every other Iraqi leader is too.  Chalabi is a chameleon who has cultivated a capacity to mediate disputes, each time to his own personal benefit.    

    I think that those who have not been to Iraq have a perfect right to express their opinion, loud and clear.  The more the merrier.  I do think that more people who comment on Iraq really should visit, or spend more time with Iraqi refugees in the United States.  Understandably, most opinion here focuses on US politics - but I do sometimes get frustrated with uninformed opinion on Iraqi internal politics, or the diaries that are more purely emotional, or the "sky is falling" tenor of some diaries that assume Iraq will turn into a permanent disaster.  I have been to Iraq ten times since the fall of Baghdad, and I still waver between hope and desperation.  Flame away, but I support indefinite (multilateral) presence in Iraq - if international forces and the UN could take a greater role and if there were a major drawdown of US troops.  I don't support a unilateral, immediate withdrawal of all US forces because a civil war could well be the immediate result.  So give me your zeroes.

  •  Shays is wrong on Farrell (none)
    She wasn't opining about Iraq at all, but how US citizens should feel when their senators have private meetings with convicted embezzlers known to provide US secrets to hostile foreign powers.

    Shats tries to change the subject...
    and succeeds. This is about Chalabi and Shays, not the right to dissent.

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