George W. Bush has an approval rating of 29%. Only 17% of the country thinks we are headed in the right direction. The Democratic candidate for President is beating his opponent 2 to 1 in fundraising. We just won three Congressional seats long held by Republicans, one by a former Speaker.
And yet the Congressional Democratic Leadership caves in to Bush on every issue: War Funding, FISA, TELCOM immunity. What is going on?
To compromise from a position of strength is capitulation
If you kick a dog every time it tries to get up, it will just lie there even when you stop kicking it. The Democratic Congress spent six years in the wilderness, cowed into submission by a belligerent administration. They only put up token opposition when the Republicans in charge gave away many of our basic rights. Allowing the Government to listen in on us, giving up even the right to challenge in Court an illegal abductions.
What can you do if your Guard Dog won't get off its ass and do its job of protecting you? Get a new dog. Or kick the one you have until it gets up.
The Congress we elected in 2006 is a disappointment to us. We have come to expect little of the Bush/Cheny/McCain Republicans. But Peolosi/Reid/Hoyer should know better. We gave them power thinking they will stand up for us. Instead they think their jobs depend on kowtowing to Bush and AT&T. Such a shame. It looks like we will have to turn on them next, in the same way we had to turn on Sen. Clinton for supporting the Iraq war.
To have any say in Washington you must win elections. That is basic. Without control of at least one of the Houses of Congress, nobody will pay any attention to you. But that is not enough. You cannot win elections promising to fix grave problems, and then cut deals with the very people who created those problems. If you do that, you will feed cynicism about the system of Government. If the Democrats in Congress will not stand up to protect our Constitutional Rights, who will? We have a system of checks and balances. But it relies on the People's Representatives doing their jobs. It assumes that the House, the chamber that is closest to the people, will vote in the interests of the people. No system can succeed if the Representatives are cowards. If they cannot take the heat of a few Right Wing Nuts calling them names, they shouldn't be in politics. Give up your jibs to someone more competent and go work full-time as lobbyists and corporate toadies. Don't sit in that Chamber claiming to represent the people and deal away our most basic Rights.
They already traded away the Writ of Habeas Corpus. The Writ, as old as the Magna Carta, requires the Government to show cause why it has taken someone away. (Show the body). Suppose the Government declares that you, Mr. Joe Citizen is an enemy combatant and whisks you away to Guantanamo or one of the many secret torture chambers it runs around the world. What can you do? You may think you have the right as a citizen not to be disappeared. After all, Bush and Giuliani have assured us that only terrorists and non-citizens at that will be treated that way. Oh Really. You want to put your personal well being in the hands of Bush and his henchmen. After all they have not been wrong before on who is a threat to the country. Without the ability to petition the Courts, who are you going to tell that you are a citizen? That you are not a terrorist? Some shadowy figure in the bowels of the Justice Department, possibly a Gonzalez appointee and graduate of Liberty University (an Orwellian name if there ever was one) can sign a piece of paper that condemns you to a hell on Earth. Your family and friends will never know what happened to you. Without that great Writ, there is nothing they can do on your behalf.
It is scary that almost every Check and Balance in the Constitution failed us on Habeas Corpus. The administration hacks, as the perpetrators of this crime against the people, should have been held to account by the House. They were not. By the Senate. Many August Senators were more interested in getting low interest mortgages than looking into why Bush wanted to incarcerate people in an enemy country indefinitely.
It came down to one vote in the Supreme Court. One Vote. Justice Anthony Kennedy of all people is the one that saved that most fundamental of rights.
Bush and Cheney went after their opponents right after 9/11. They identified targets and unleashed a fury of shock and awe. And they were amazingly effective. Not against the Al Queda. Not even against Saddam Hussein. Against their domestic opponents. They accused anyone who does not stand with them of being a terrorist sympathizer. It worked domestically although their strategy failed against the enemies of the country.
What happened to the Dixie Chicks and Bill Maher is only part of the story. The entire Washington-New York-Los Angeles establishment caved in to Bush and Cheney. Judith Miller might have been the worst, but Thomas Friedman, David Broder, the Editorial Board of the NYTimes, all collaborated with Bush. Jonathan Alter wrote a column entitled Time to Think About Torture. Even Liberals were sucking up to the administration back then. Shock and Awe worked on a country still terrified after 9/11.
But most of us recovered. We found our voices. A State Senator from Illinois who had the gumption to call the Iraq war a dumb war is our new star. We took control of Congress. And yet so much remains the same. We still have a Congressional Leadership that thinks like it is 2001. They are still terrified of the administration which shows no shame in using patriotism as a bludgeon.
There are a few inspiring voices. Sen. Feingold is always there to remind us not every one in Washington is spineless. There is Rep. Boyda, from Kansas of all places, who can stand up against the FISA compromise. Rep. Wexler is becoming a strong voice in this issue. These are the future leaders of the Democratic Party. (What happened to Sen. Dodd?) The appeasers in the House Leadership now will be remembered. They may think their seats are secure, but remember that Hillary Clinton once had the lock on the Presidential nomination. We will remember who stood with us, to protect us from a runaway administration, and who caved.
Politics is not static. New technologies can alter even the most fundamental rules of the game. In the future, Congressional Politics will also be funded by the masses and not by a few fat cats in the pay of AT&T and the like. Obama may not be causing these changes, but he is the beneficiary of them now, as Hillary Clinton was the loser. This storm is coming your way, Pelosi and Hoyer. You may think the secure thing is to cut deals that will protect the TELCOs. But time is on the side of the people. We will remember. We are getting stronger. If this Congress caves, we will have another in the future that will take its job seriously.
A revolution is under way. It started in 2006, is gathering momentum now. It will continue into 2010 and beyond. The challenge in 2006 was to elect a Democratic Congress. The challenge this year is to elect a Democratic President. If we succeed, the target for 2010 will be the Democratic Leadership in Congress. If Pelosi/Reid/Hoyer will not do their jobs, we must find others who will. Perhaps some backbenchers with backbone will come forward. Perhaps we will find new people like Rep. Donna Edwards. We need a real Congressional Majority. One that is willing to act on behalf of the people.
Much depends on one man. Sen. Obama is the beacon of hope to millions newly brought into the political process. Will he show the same courage he showed in 2002 and stand up to the Bush administration? Will he use his new political clout? Or will he look the other way as our basic rights are traded away? If there is one person who can prevent the capitulation of Congress, it is Senator Barak Obama. Does he still believe what he said in January?
I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill.
Ever since 9/11, this Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.
The FISA court works. The separation of power works. We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight, and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend.
No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people - not the President of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program. We have to make clear the lines that cannot be crossed.
That is why I am co-sponsoring Senator Dodd's amendment to remove the immunity provision. Secrecy must not trump accountability. We must show our citizens – and set an example to the world – that laws cannot be ignored when it is inconvenient.
A grassroots movement of Americans has pushed this issue to the forefront. You have come together across this country. You have called upon our leaders to adhere to the Constitution. You have sent a message to the halls of power that the American people will not permit the abuse of power – and demanded that we reclaim our core values by restoring the rule of law.
It's time for Washington to hear your voices, and to act. I share your commitment to this cause, and will stand with you in the fights to come. And when I am President, the American people will once again be able to trust that their government will stand for justice, and will defend the liberties that we hold so dear as vigorously as we defend our security.
Senator Obama, remember that this is our time. This is the fierce urgency of now that you speak of. Here is a change that you can make. Obama does not have executive authority yet. But he has moral authority. Lead the way. Isn't the deal all but signed? Can we still scuttle it?
Yes we can.
If Obama stands up for us.