Thinking again about Brian Baird


In our little corner of America ("our" meaning, Jew-obsessed Jews like you), we tend unfortunately — if necessarily — to view lawmakers through a narrow "good for the Jews" prism, and too often, this translates even more narrowly into "good for Israel," or more precisely what the establishment has agreed is good for Israel.

So no one in the established community breathed too hard, I’d imagine, when U.S. Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) announced earlier this year that he would be giving up his seat.

Baird was one of two congressmen who traveled to the Gaza Strip in the immediate aftermath of last winter’s war. And unlike the other congressman, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Baird has not been so careful about framing his criticism of Israel’s actions with an acknowledgment of Israel’s right to hit back at a barrage of terrorist rocket attacks.

Baird managed to piss off a bipartisan slate of House members during last month’s debate on the resolution condemning the Goldstone report on the Gaza war, questioning whether they even knew what they were talking about — which earned a sharp rebuke from his party leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — and displaying massive photos of dead Palestinian children.

So, yes, arrogant, in love with his own goodness, and not exactly cognizant of boundaries.

But John Fortier, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, makes the case in today’s Politico that the firebrand liberal is more interesting than a single issue. He credits him for bucking party doctrine on the surge in Iraq; more substantively, Fortier says Baird alone has had the foresight to push Congress to enact laws to replace itself in the event that most of its members are wiped out in a disastrous attack. Despite Baird’s best efforts, Congress has barely addressed this issue since it nearly became a reality on Sept. 11 2001, Fortier says:

What was needed in the case of a catastrophic attack on Congress was a constitutional amendment that allowed for the immediate appointment of temporary replacements for vacant House seats so that the eviscerated House could quickly function as representatives of the whole country.

Baird spent years prodding his colleagues and introducing variants of his amendment.

In the end, Congress chose to make a few quick fixes that do not address the core problem. Congress has passed a law and the House has changed its rules to speed up special elections and to allow the House to operate with a quorum as small as one member. The upshot is that Baird’s nightmare scenario is still with us.

Maybe Baird deserves a little better than the "don’t let the door hit your butt" farewell.

Interestingly, Fortier does not count Baird’s Gaza activism in his "buck the establishment" column — although the accompanying photo is of Baird in Gaza.

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