So far, I've heard nothing but garbled, kowtowing mush coming out of the mouths of congressional Democrats about Bush's demand for "military tribunals." Meanwhile, the Republicans are trying to ramrod through a bill giving him all the powers the Supreme Court said Congress hadn't given him.
This whole issue could work so well for Democrats, I believe, if only you would get clear on a few simple talking points, such as:
- RESPECT FOR THE LAW
- BUSH BROKE THE LAW
- DEMOCRATS FOR LAW AND MORALITY
America wants to see you putting some brakes on this out of control administration, demonstrating some care and wisdom. Please demand hearings into the best course of action. Our laws and legal system have served us well through 200 years of history. It is not by any means self-evident -- on the contrary far from it -- that the Uniform Code of Military Justice is inadequate or that the president should be given extraordinary new powers.
If you could, just once, not take the bait when they accuse you of wanting to coddle terrorists or being soft on terrorists or whatever smear du jour they have on offer. If you could stick to dignity and stress respect for law and respect for the military for God's sake! The military does not want these tribunals. This is not about the terrorists. It's about who we are as Americans and the American way.
The president BROKE THE LAW. The Repubs like to treat this as a minor thing -- oh, he forgot to get a permission slip, so no big deal; we'll just write him out one. Such contempt for the Supreme Court! This is not a minor thing to be swept under the rug. He BROKE THE LAW by trying to assert power he does not have in this democracy. He BROKE THE LAW. That's what the Supreme Court said. It bears a lot of repeating. His base will foam at the mouth. But your base and many independents and Reagan Democrats will rejoice to hear truth spoken to power.
The detainees aren't going anywhere. THERE IS NO EMERGENCY, no smoking gun, that requires legislation instantly. For the sake of our nation, do your duty and insist on a full debate. We need you to find out how is our current code of military justice inadequate? How does it need to be changed for this situation? Get the JAGs in to testify, PLEASE. Get Hamdi's lawyer. Get the legal scholars. Get West Pointers. Air out the whole Geneva Convention aspect. Find out whether it's true as the administration claims that everybody who is being held is a dangerous terrorist. Find out if we may be holding innocent people and what should be done about that if we are. Find out what authority is actually needed to protect the nation. This is the DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US AND THEM. We are thoughtful, careful to get things right. They are always shooting first, asking questions never with the result that the country is further and further off course. It's time to ask some questions.
If you can do so honestly, I hope you will mention that you are giving this issue prayerful consideration. After all, Christ himself in Hebrews 13:3, instructed us to "Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them." We Democrats who are Christians have a faith-based duty to get this right and there is every reason to say so if we want to win votes from Christians.
Obviously, Democrats haven't the power to make hearings happen without Republican support. Nevetheless, the need for a hearing should be repeatedly stressed, the need to get the facts and behave lawfully and with respect for law and the military. Since Repubs probably won't do a hearing, line up a think tank to hold an all day symposium elsewhere and have a hearing without the Repubs if they choose not to come, although I'll bet some will be there. The media will be all over it if Democratic members attend because they want to responsibly perform their duties and they want the people to "get the facts." (The Republicans will scream this is "just a stunt," but they'll be on defense which is where we want them.)
The Repubs of course want this voted on yesterday. Dems should insist that if they are ever to vote on it, the president must publicly promise that he will not attach any signing statement. He must assure the world, before Democrats vote, that he will obey his oath of office and faithfully execute whatever law Congress passes.
If the Republicans will not permit proper oversight (hearings, etc.) and if the president will not abjure a signing statement, then it's time to draw a line in the sand and bring as much light to bear as possible on the difference between us and them by ABSTAINING FROM VOTING. Let them pass whatever they want, but let no more blood of injustice and illegality be on the hands of our party.
We are so sick, out here in the real world, of Democrats in congress who refuse to fight these thugs. If we are to have a hope of winning back seats in places like the 1st District of Kentucky where I live, we need you to show that DEMOCRATS ARE NOW THE REAL CONSERVATIVES. Democrats are guided by law, tradition, faith, and morality and behave with calm dignity. So stiffen your spines, please, and get on with it!