Abercrombie stymied by his own party
HAWAII'S representative for the 1st Congressional District, Neil Abercrombie, is one of Hawaii's most experienced politicians.
After working in the state House, state Senate, Honolulu City Council and now Congress, Abercrombie likes the life of politics. But now he sees a change.
"The atmosphere is much more poisonous than anything I have ever encountered before. There is this apocalyptic denunciation of everything," he worries.
Abercrombie appreciates arguing a point, making a political gesture, lining up the votes and dancing with the media.
WHAT IS driving him nuts today, however, is the politicians whose moral certainty puts them above the political debate.
"I was telling a colleague, what we have are too many theologians and not enough legislators on both sides," Abercrombie recounted last week.
"These are people who not only know how many angels dance on a pin head, they will tell you who those angels are and which one of them is allowed," Abercrombie said.
Known as one of Congress' most liberal lawmakers, Abercrombie has been searching for ways to speed a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
WITH A SLIM majority in Congress, Democrats cannot stage a frontal assault. President Bush would veto any direct pullout order and Congress doesn't have enough Democrats to override. So Abercrombie joined with conservative Rep. John Tanner (D, Tenn.) to draft a bill to require Bush to deliver within two months a plan on how to redeploy troops in Iraq.
Abercrombie was able to get 24 GOP votes in the Armed Services Committee, but then when it went to the floor for a vote, liberal Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected it, saying the bill would give the GOP cover in the debate about the increasingly unpopular war.
"Listen, I'm short, but I'm not slow," Abercrombie said, explaining that he knew he was getting jobbed by his own team.
ABERCROMBIE went to the House floor to get some attention focused on his compromise plan. He started voting with the GOP on motions to adjourn and then made his own motion to adjourn the House.
Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D, Md.) snagged Abercrombie for a brief talk.
"He said words to the effect that he thought there were other ways I could be helpful to him," Abercrombie said to describe the conversation.
At the end of the day, the tiff was so much inside political baseball. The troops are still fighting in Iraq, Congress is in its August recess and Abercrombie sees morale deteriorating.