Last night I attended a fundraiser organized by several veterans groups on behalf of one of their own, retired Air Force officer Charlie Brown, who is taking a second run at the very corrupt John Doolittle in the 4th CD of California.
I met Charlie at the first Fighting Dems event in DC last cycle, and found him not only passionate about veterans' and military issues, but concerned and curious about a wide range of other issues, including education. The interest in education is perhaps a natural, given that he actually holds a California teaching certificate, although he's never served in a classroom. We have spent time together at both Yearlykos conventions, and stayed in contact via email. Charlie is a good guy, who came within a whisker of beating Doolittle last time despite lacking resources, and his, like Eric Massa's in NY-29, is becoming a targeted race this time, and he is getting much more help.
Come along below the fold as I describe last night's event, and consider possibly adding his campaign to your list of those to support.
The event was held in a townhouse on Ivy Street that is an overflow site for the National Democratic Club. One of the vets organizing the event is an active member, and it was a congenial site for a small group of people. Several other members of the California delegation also attended, including netroots favorite Jerry McNerney from the 11th District, and Mike Honda from the 15th. California delegation chair Zoe Lofgren had laryngitis, and was unable to attend, although she was represented by a staffer.
One of the hosts was someone I knew from our joint support of Jim Webb, retired Navy Capt. Ralph Parrott, who was there with his wife Betty. In the informal discussion before the event formally got going Ralph strongly made the point that many of the problems of getting appropriate treatment being faced by those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are the fault of military officers p the chain of command who are not speaking out on behalf of their men and women. There was also discussion of how the VA in some cases meets its formal requirements by scheduling appointments within the required window but then canceling the original appointment and rescheduling for well in the future. But in the meantime the VA unit can calim 100% compliance when they fill out their paperwork. It was good to see that veterans of an earlier conflict, Vietnam, are so passionate about insuring that those serving in this conflict are properly cared for, and get meaningful GI benefits. And I might note that I heard the expression "those neo-con chickenhawks who never served a day" more than once.
The first word that comes to mind when I think of Mike Honda is "ebullient." He is full of positive energy, and seizes the world around him. This was the first time I had met him, although I have been aware of his passion for education for quite some time - not surprising given my own. I get the sense he would welcome the opportunity to address on some larger scale if he had the chance. And when I asked whom in his office I should contact about educational policy he gave me his private email because it is an issue on which his involvement is personal.
The three principal hosts who were veterans talked about why they wanted Charlie's voice in the Congress. It is interesting to note that even with the addition of those veterans elected last time, men like Jim Webb, Pat Murphy and Joe Sestak, the proportion of those in Congress who have themselves served is still quite low. IT is important to these veterans and their organizations that there be people in Congress who have military experience, and/or who have personal understanding of the needs of those in service or who have completed their service. They acknowledged McNerney as the family members of one who served, and thus part of a category also underrepresented in the 110th Congress. Charlie would increase numbers in both categories - his son arrives home today from his 4th tour as a C-130 pilot, and as Jan, his wife (and herself a former military nurse) noted, this will be the first Christmas they have shared with their son in a umber of years because of his service in Iraq.
The event was lowkey, with plenty of opportunity for those attending to talk with Charlie and Jan. The two other Congressmen present were also accessible, and their genuine warmth towards Charlie was quite evident. I believe it was Mike Honda who said to the assembled group, while urging them to get their friends to support Charlie, that if someone complained that it was not their district, to remind them that a Congressman votes on many issues that affect the nation, and thus support of Charlie is support for a positive vote on issues we all care about.
I am a schoolteacher. While well-paid as compared to some of my compatriot educators around the nation, I am far from well-off, and limited in what I can do financially. Still, I had no hesitation in writing a hundred dollar check to Charlie Brown, and will do more when I can. I am myself a veteran, and while I do not view prior military service as a requirement for Congressional service, I do think we need more people who understand the needs of our service men and women and our veterans, and I believe that had we more in Congress who had seen war the would be more willingness to stand up to this or any other administration that is too reckless in its application of military force. Thus I supported Pat Murphy and Joe Sestak from Penna last cycle, and am again supporting Charlie and Eric Massa this time. And of course I was proud to support Jim Webb.
I spoke with Charlie shortly before I had to leave (I have a faculty meeting this morning, and already am behind on correcting papers for the end of this quarter), I apologized for not being able to donate more. He reminded me I had a voice, and he would welcome whatever i could to with that voice. This diary is the result of that reminder.
This is far from my most stimulating offering. But if I can get you to learn about Charlie Brown, then I am sure you will want to help him, even if like me you are limited in your financial resources. Were a thousand people to each give 100 dollars, that would be the same 100,000 raised by asking 50 people to each give 2,000. And when you give to Charlie, there is a significant difference, and it is Charlie's Promises Kept Veterans Charity Challenge, about which his website informs you:
Throughout the 2008 campaign, Brown for Congress will allocate 5% of every dollar raised to our Veterans Charity Challenge. We will identify both local and national organizations meeting critical veterans aftercare needs, and will describe their work on our website. We will then ask the public to learn more about them, and vote for their favorite. Funds will be distributed on an ongoing basis, and recipients will be listed on this page.
To get a sense of Charlie Brown, you need do no more than read his announcement speech. In it he talks about his vaues, what he has learned from his own national security experience, why he opposes Iraq, how he would address immigration. Let me further explain why I ask you to support him by quoting from a different part of the speech, one that matters a great deal to me, and I know will to most of you here:
Finally, I took an oath to protect and defend our nation and our Constitution.
To me that means more than simply protecting our shores from attack. It means protecting our basic rights, like freedom of thought, speech and individuality. That's why I'll fight in Congress to keep our government out of our personal business. I don't want the government to tell me what to do with my guns and I don't want the government to tell my daughter or any woman that she can't make decisions about her own body.
The politicians should keep busy defending our freedoms - not trying to undermine them right here at home.
I want elected officials who will stand up for our freedoms. That includes ALL of our freedoms. Back when the Flag Amendment was pending before the Senate I asked all of those I was supporting last cycle where they stood on the issue. I remember Jim Webb making a public statement - when he was still behind in the polls - about why such an amendment was totally unwarranted. And I remember Charlie Brown sending me a thoughtful email explaining why as a decorated combat veteran he thought a flag amendment entirely missed the point, and why he would oppose it.
I will not agree with Charlie on every issue, any more than I did with Jim Webb. But I can pay Charlie no higher compliment than to say that he - like Eric Massa - has the same kind of integrity as Webb. It is, like Webb and Massa, combined with a fierce love for and dedication to what is best in this nation, a love and dedication visible through their long service to the nation, both within and without the military. Let me end by quoting the end of Charlie's announcement speech, in which he places patriotism in a proper context:
I will take an oath to serve you - not a political party - not a campaign donor - not whatever whim happens to be politically popular - but you.
I guess it is old fashioned. But I'm not afraid to say I love this country. I love the freedom it stands for. That's why I wasn't afraid to defend our country in battle.
I know the difference between patriotism and partisanship. The difference is results. The difference is accountability. The difference is having the courage to make the tough choices. The difference is all of us coming together to forge solutions.
I know that if we put patriotism before politics - we will prevail in the very real battles ahead. There's no stopping America - when America is true to itself.
Thank you all for coming, and thank you for your support. Now let's take our country back.
I hope you will join me in helping Charlie do just that, take back our country.