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Reid to Antiwar Protesters: "Be Quiet!"

12:05 AM, Jul 18, 2007 • By SONNY BUNCH
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Grim Reaper.JPGProtesting the Dems?

I could hear the chants from the Capitol. Approaching Upper Senate Park as part of the media gaggle surrounding the Democratic congressional leadership on their trek from the steps of the Senate to the grassy area to the north of the Capitol and the west of the Senate office buildings, the words were unmistakable, amplified as they were by dozens of speakers booming the antiwar platitudes of the MoveOn set. Bush misled us into war! We need an up or down vote! No more filibustering!

But when I got a little closer to the crowd it became obvious that sentiment wasn't quite as unanimous as one might have thought. Generously peppered throughout the usual crowd were naysayers. Not Republicans, mind you; these weren't pro-war counter-demonstrators. Rather, they were even further to the left than those on the rostrum preparing to lecture Republicans on the importance of allowing up or down votes on whatever issue they wish. And we're not talking about center left Democrats up on that stage, either. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barbara Mikulski, John Lewis, and other progressive all-stars were all hanging out, having a grand old time.

"Impeach! IMPEACH!" came the cries, steadily growing louder and more numerous. "It was about OIL!" yelled another protestor. Then the chant came: "Impeachment ON the table! Impeachment ON the table!" Finally, Harry Reid had had enough. "Be quiet," the Nevada grandfather of sixteen snapped with the power that only a patriarch of a massive clan can muster. And quiet down they did, at least for a moment (of silence). But when the senators and representatives started trying to talk again, the jeers resumed. Members of the radical feminist group Code Pink were screaming for impeachment. A circle of three to four feet had cleared around a middle aged gentleman airing his grievances with the Democrats; finally a younger man turned around and, sagely, said "peace, brother."

"Tonight is a night to be united, not divided!" implored Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow. "United, not divided!!" "You can't keep interrupting, or we'll leave," warned Frank Lautenberg. This only emboldened one heckler, who invoked his first amendment right to, well, yell at whoever he damn well pleased, wherever he damn well pleased.

I tracked down one of the rabblerousers as he hopped on his bike to ride away. I was curious to know exactly why he felt the urge to come out here and scream at the people who are, essentially, working for the same thing he wants: a rapid exit from Iraq. "It has to do with … the major corporations," said Neil Thomas, on Bush's reasons for war. "I'm not anti-Semitic, but there's a powerful lobby for the state of Israel." What does Israel have to do with the war in Iraq? I asked Thomas. "They're a major cause of discontent by the so-called Islamists." He wants the troops home, immediately, and thinks the legislation and rally by the Democrats is little more than a sham. "This kind of event isn't gonna amount to a hill of beans," he said. At least, it won't until an elected official grows the "balls to stand up to the Israel lobby."