Leaders of the antiwar group Code Pink, frustrated by the ineffectiveness of Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, yesterday said they are mobilizing a campaign for regime change within the party in the 2008 elections.
The mostly female group - famous for disrupting congressional hearings and its demonstrators clad in pink T-shirts and tiaras - has applied for a new tax status that permits political work for its campaigns against Democrats as well as Republicans, Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin said.
"We felt betrayed by the very people we helped to put into office," Ms. Benjamin told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. "We have a particular break with the leadership of the Democratic Party."
The group also plans to take an active role in the presidential race, likely backing Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois or former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, both Democrats.
Code Pink activists have voiced dissatisfaction with Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and targeted her with demonstrations. Ms. Benjamin credited her group with influencing Mrs. Clinton's opposition to the Iraq war and to possible military action against Iran.
Medea Benjamin, founder of antiwar activist group Code Pink, addresses what kind of a regime change in Congress the group would like to see.
Ms. Benjamin, Code Pink co-founder Gael Murphy and retired Army Col. Ann Wright, an activist with the group, also participated in demonstrations during yesterday's Senate hearing about the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base's detention camp for terrorism suspects.
"We are disgusted with all of them," Ms. Benjamin said of the Democrat-led Congress. "We were in Congress today saying, 'Close Gitmo,' and I changed my sign to say, 'Close Congress.' "
Ms. Benjamin, who has been active in peace and environmental movements since the Vietnam War and helped found Code Pink in 2002, said Democratic leaders abandoned antiwar voters after winning the majority in Congress last year and made a political miscalculation to move to the center on the war issue this year.
"We see that the people who advise the leadership of the Democratic Party have been saying to them, 'Let this be Bush's war. ... Let's keep this going until the presidential elections, and then we'll win the White House and then we'll change things,' " she said.
"We find that totally immoral and we say, 'We are not really interested in who is in the White House and who's taking what seats in Congress,' " Ms. Benjamin said. "We are interested in ending the war."
The group has long criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and other Democrats, including at least a dozen freshmen elected last year on antiwar platforms, for caving in to President Bush and approving $120 billion in war funds this year without a timetable for a U.S. troop-withdrawal from Iraq.
But in a shift of strategy, Code Pink plans to rally its 180,000 members nationwide to make the war a campaign issue and challenge Democratic leaders, who Ms. Benjamin said lack the "fighting spirit" to stop the war.
The activists also were critical of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, who does not face re-election until 2010.
The Code Pink leaders contrasted their upcoming campaign with the strategy employed by MoveOn.org, which spent about $15 million this summer targeting Republican members of Congress to switch their war votes.
"They had virtually no success at all," Ms. Benjamin said, adding that her group's publicity stunts also had failed to end the Iraq war.
© 2007 The Washington Times