When Barack Obama was endorsed by Jay Rockefeller in late February, it was considered a feather in his national security cap because the senator from West Virginia is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Rockefeller, however, as he told the editors of the Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette Monday, has been criticized for taking sides before his state’s May Democratic primary.
“But what is the value of not endorsing someone when you have a close race?” he replied. “You can make a difference.”
His motives may have lain elsewhere. In her Tuesday New York Times piece, “Young Obama Backers Twist Parents’ Arms,” Jan Hoffman wrote: “The daily phone calls. The midnight e-mail. And, when college lets out, those dinner table declamations? Oh, please. Senator Barack Obama’s devotees just won’t give their parents a break.”
In the interview, Rockefeller also said, “My whole family is united [behind a candidate] as never before.” His children are grown, and while, by all accounts, their dad is as devoted and ingratiating as a big, old dog, they might have gotten tired of seeing him disgrace himself and his family as a Bush Dog Democrat.
Rockefeller’s complicitness with the Bush administration was chronicled on AlterNet the same day he spoke with the Gazette editors. Alexander Zaitchik writes: “Rockefeller’s habit of carrying the heaviest buckets of dirty water for the administration began soon after the 9/11 attacks.”
For example, he has since turned against the Iraq War. But, at the time he was such an enthusiastic supporter that even before Bush made his speech to the UN, Rockefeller met with officials in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria, and informed them that since an invasion of Iraq was a done deal, they might as well accept it.
In his most notorious act, Rockefeller worked with Cheney to make warrantless spying safe for the Senate â€“- and the telecoms, by providing them with immunity — in June of last year. But the House repudiated the administration and Rockefeller by passing the FISA bill without the telecom immunity.
That might have been the last straw for his children. In February, Rockefeller endorsed Obama and in Monday’s interview took one step beyond. “McCain was a fighter pilot,” he said, “who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet. He was long gone when they hit. What happened when they [the missiles] get to the ground? He doesn’t know. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues.”
Of course, Rockefeller has since been forced to apologize for those remarks and the Obama campaign has dissociated itself from them. There’s no denying they were intemperate, especially for a man running for reelection. Also, when was the last time you heard any politician this side of Dennis Kucinich voice concern over the effects of killing at a distance?
In the past, Rockefeller got into trouble for doing what the administration wants. This time he got into trouble for doing what his kids want. Obviously he was parroting liberal words of compassion (however, true) that his kids fed him.