Friday, September 29, 2006

Democrats? Hello?

So the horrific torture bill has passed, with some last-minute changes that make it more horrific still. Bush claims a victory, and McCain and Specter get to tout their willingness to stand up the chief executive, yet still give him basically all he asked for. That's how the legislation played out on the coverage I heard and read, anyway. Democrats were absent from the whole debate. I am not the first person, I'm sure, to howl at the continued cowardice of the Dems, as exemplified in this most recent episode. And I'm aware that the Democrats may have held press conferences and issued critical papers that the press I read didn't cover. Out of power in all branches of government, Democrats have few means at their disposal to substantially affect legislation favored by Republicans. So the press may have just ignored their bleatings. But it's more likely that Dems made a conscious choice to lay low, content to let the Republicans fire on one another before eventually arriving at the current bill. How clever, some may have thought--we've avoided taking a position on a bill that could be used to portray us as soft on terrorism. But if that was the thinking, it's completely, disasterously wrong. Democrats won't be taken seriously on national security issues by aping Republican positions in an attempt to appear 'tough.' They will be taken seriously when they start trying to play an active role in shaping national security policy. They may not have the ability to push through their own legislation, but the American people should damn well know that the Democrats *have* legislation they'd like to pass. (They do, don't they?) Holy flurking schnit! This whole torture bill affair was a completely Republican show. Anyone paying attention, whether they favored the bill, didn't favor it, or had no real opinion one way or the other, gained the correct impression that Republicans are running things down in Washington. Fine; it's their mess, let them have it. But media consumers also got the impression that the Democrats simply aren't interested in running things, at least things related to national security. I know that's not a correct impression, but I can't blame anyone for thinking it right. And to those tounge-cluckers who say things like, 'just a few weeks before an important election might not be a good time be perpetuating the idea that Democrats aren't serious about national security,' I would say that now, just a few weeks before an important election, is not a good time to run and hide from debates about critical issues of the moment! For God's sake, stand up in front of some cameras and microphones and at least act LIKE YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO DO SOMETHING FOR THIS COUNTRY!


Rob said...

I'm proud that most Democrats continued to oppose the bill. Nonetheless, far too many jettisoned their moral compass and supported it.

For most of my life I've regarded the two parties thusly: Republicans as the party of evil and Democrats as the party of gutlessness. I typically rationalized that at least the gutless party won't harm me. But as we've seen, a gutless party doesn't stand up either.

They hid behind John McCain because it was easy and 11 Democrats in the Senate proceeded to follow him on this bill out of expediency. While I realize that Bob Menedez of New Jersey for example has a tough race and is generally liberal - torture is not something to compromise about. We are living during a reign of indecency. Fear and malice are embedded in our culture.

The realy disgusting aspect is that 32 Democrats who did the right thing and opposed the bill will pay a political price. Opposing torture makes on politically vulnerable. That is what my country has come to.

Ambivalent_Maybe said...

I guess it's hard to ween a party off of gutlessness, if they've been at it for 20+ years. But man, it's not like they've been *winning* with that strategy.

It will be interesting to see what sort of political price the Democrats who opposed the bill pay. My guess is that they won't be hurt that much, but that whatever price is paid, it will be made worse by the leadership of the party not vigorously opposing the bill. The steady erosion of our constitutional rights seems to me a perfect wedge issue for the Dems. I don't know why they're not running with it.

Rob said...

I think they will pay a price. What saves them is Republicans have nothing else but fear and malice. What has angered me about Democrats is they haven't learned an important fundamental lesson: strength stems from authenticity.

That said, to a large extent our political parties reflect the composition of the voters. Too many people don't vote. Partly because of conservative tactics to suppress turnout. And of those that do, particularly in the gerrymandered districts - fear and malice sell.

But as you noted, it's not as if Democrats have succeeded with mealy mouthed compromising on core values of decency.

I hope Dems get tough about this Mark Foley situation in Florida. The Republican House leadership were knowing protecting a pedofile and putting minors in danger - out of pure political advantage. The party of family values has no moral compass. If I were the Dems I would hit them very, very hard.