Congressman Eric Massa: The Street Fighter
Democratic Congressman Eric Massa has been in office less than a year. He represents a district, the 29th in upstate New York, with a Republican voting pattern, and he won his seat by a mere 5,000 votes. You could therefore assume that Congressman Massa would be lumped in with the cluster of blue dog Democrats who quake and quiver whenever they might have to take a stance or place a vote that would put them in danger of winning re-election.
But Eric Massa has never been a man to quake and quiver and that’s not going to change just because he is now a member of Congress. He was born a fighter and has been one all his life and, in his short time in office, he has put on the gloves and gone after any and all he thinks are placing this country on the wrong track, whether they are members of his own party or the we-march-as-one Republicans.
And Eric Massa is one of the few in Congress who can back up his words with the actions of his life. He is the son of a career Navy officer and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1981. He served the Navy for 24 years, rising through the ranks and ending his career as an aide to General Wesley Clark when Clark was NATO Supreme Allied Commander. Massa didn’t leave by choice. He left because he was told he was going to die.
While still in the Navy, Massa was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and was told the chances for a cure were slim. He left the Navy, took the fight to cancer and beat it into remission. He was a Republican in those days but turned his back on that party after the decision to go to war with Iraq; instead, he went to work in New Hampshire to campaign for his former boss, Wesley Clark, during his failed bid for the presidency.
Now, as a member of Congress, Massa has become a popular target for right-wing radio and the Republican attack machine. He is opposed to the war in Afghanistan, calling it, “a fool’s errand.” He claims, ”We will never create a Jeffersonian democracy in that country and the members of our military should not be sent to fight and die simply to secure an election.” He sees the job of our soliders in these troubled times as a simple one. “Our mission is to kill or capture terrorists,” he has said. “It does not call for an occupation of any foreign nation.” He also was less than pleased that the massive costs of both wars were funded off-budget.
Massa is in favor of health care reform, though he prefers a single-payer system. He called Senator Charles Grassley’s comments comparing the proposed end-of-life care to the government wanting to kill our grandmothers “an act of treason.” He has also challenged former Vice-President Dick Cheney to debate him on the merits of the war on terror. “I’ll go on his home turf, Fox, and go head to head with him,” Massa has said. “He stands on quicksand when it comes to matters of national security.”
To add weight to his argument, Congressman Massa notes that it was Cheney who is personally responsible for the release of the terrorists who planned the Christmas Day underwear bomb attack on Northwest flight 253, sent out of Gitmo in 2007. That it was Cheney who dropped the ball in early August, 2001, leading to the deadly attack of September 11. That it was Cheney who argued that the war front be in Iraq, distracting our aim from the terrorist target.
”I’m sick and tired of Cheney taking shots not only against this administration but, by implication, any man or woman who served their country,” Massa said. ”He needs to go away.”
He has also rebuked Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina for holding up the much-needed vote to name Erroll Southers as head of the TSA out of fear Southers might allow his workers to join a union. “This is not about Democrats, progressives, liberals, conservatives or Republicans,” Massa said. “This is an issue for Americans. We have some tremendous problems to solve in this country. Guys like him need to get out of the way so we can get to them.”
As to those on the right so quick to attack President Obama for taking 72 hours before his response to the Christmas Day attempted plane bombing, Massa had this to say: “The President took the time to gather the facts before he spoke. Bush didn’t say a word for seven days after the shoe bomber attempted his attack. Seven days.”
I would love to see a debate between Rep. Massa and Dick Cheney. Especially when the main issue would be fighting terror and wars and putting our young men and women in harm’s way. Those are issues Massa has experienced first hand. The only action Cheney has seen involves hiding in a bluff waiting, as Vince Vaughn said, forced to hunt in “The Wedding Crashers,” “for the big bad quail to come out and get him.”
If you can beat cancer, as Eric Massa has done, bringing down a man who has always let others do the fighting for him–from Vietnam dodging to Scooter Libby–should be a cakewalk.
We need more elected officials like Eric Massa in the halls of Congress. Not afraid to disagree with the sitting President of his party, a man who argues with facts and logic, who looks out for the men and women in uniform with more than mere words and flag waving but with concern for their well-being and safety. A representative who votes on issues because they are good for this country, not for his wallet, and knows some of the calls that are made could well cost him votes come the next election cycle.
I don’t know if Rep. Massa is right on all the issues. But I do know he gives weight and thought to his every decision, educates himself about the issues he confronts, and always tries to remember that every vote he casts has an impact on a man who has just lost a job in his district or a woman who cannot afford medical care for her child or a soldier sitting in a sand pit in the dead of night, fighting an an enemy he cannot see.
These are serious times and we need serious people at the helm.
We need real fighters, not ones who have made careers pretending they were.
We have a President to lead us now and not through movie tough guy talk or buy jumping off a fighter plane declaring an end to a war still being fought. We need him to lead by making decisive moves at the right time and under the right circumstances and against the right target. And we need him to listen to voices of calm.
If President Obama is as smart as I believe he is, one of those voices will belong to Congressman Eric Massa.
Retired US Naval Officer and cancer survivor.
A fighter in every way.