Itís About Power
The events of the last week have showed us that in the end, when it comes to the Republican Party, everything--everything--is about power. Itís not about responsible governing or American safety or freedom; itís about power.
During the just-ending 109th Congress, just two of the 13 spending bills, the bare minimum of what needs to be done every year, were passed. Congress was in session less than 100 days this year. And scandal after scandal after scandal has plagued the GOP, from the leadership to the backbenchers.
Want a list? Former House majority leader Tom DeLay is now a private citizen after being driven from office by an indictment on campaign finance charges. California Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham is in jail after pleading guilty to conspiring to accept $2.4 million in bribe money. Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy, and Ohio Congressman Bob Ney got $32,000 of Abramoff money and a ticket out of Congress after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a chief aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, is currently on trial for perjury after administration officials leaked the name of an undercover CIA agent.
Now Florida Rep. Mark Foley, ironically the chairman of the House Missing and Exploited Childrenís Caucus (as Dave Barry often says, "Iím not making this up"), has resigned in disgrace after ABC Newsí investigative reporter Brian Ross discovered sexually explicit e-mails the congressman had been sending to underage male pages going back three years or more.†
Now think of what these Republicans and George W. Bush have and havenít done: New Orleans is still in a shambles. The prescription drug program the GOP arm-twisted through Congress is an unmitigated disaster. Billions of dollars have disappeared down Halliburtonís bottomless Iraq rabbit hole. At times the price of gasoline has been triple what it was at the end of the Clinton administration. And more than 2,700 Americans have died in the misbegotten overseas lie that is the war in Iraq.
Itís hard to believe that 10 years ago Republicans were holding hearings on whether or not the Clintons used their Christmas-card mailing list to find campaign donors. As Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute think tank recently told the McClatchy news service, "There were [more than] 100 hours of oversight hearings on alleged misuse of the Clinton Christmas card list, and 12 hours of hearings on Abu Ghraib. This tells you all you need to know."
And now, as the Star Wars "Imperial March" plays in the background of our collective consciousness, the final hours of the 109th Congress brought us the George W. Bush America Tortures for Freedom Act. The wording of the new law makes a mockery of American jurisprudence and turns the president into the equivalent of any run-of-the-mill Third World dictator. As Bruce Ackerman, professor of law and political science at Yale, wrote recently for the Los Angeles Times:†
[This legislation ] authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.
This dangerous compromise not only authorizes the president to seize and hold terrorists who have fought against our troops "during an armed conflict," it also allows him to seize anybody who has "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." This grants the president enormous power over citizens and legal residents. They can be designated as enemy combatants if they have contributed money to a Middle Eastern charity, and they can be held indefinitely in a military prison.
Read that carefully--anyone, even any random American the president says is a terrorist or terrorist supporter, can now be deprived of his or her freedoms under the Bill of Rights. Think of how often Republicans and their shills in the right-wing media tossed around charges of "treason" during the buildup to and aftermath of the Iraq war. Think of how Canadian citizen Maher Arar was deported to Syria by U.S. authorities to be tortured after being stopped at JFK International Airport in New York by our federal officials. Now imagine that any political opponent for whom the president can find trumped-up evidence can be "disappeared" like Argentine dissidents in the 1970s.
And for this, the Republicans of the 109th Congress, and the feckless Democrats who enabled them, are proud. And itís so those Republicans can stay in power.
Say it with me, "So this is how liberty dies--with thunderous applause."
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