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Political Animal

Sporked Off

By Brian Morton | Posted 10/3/2007

Quite often I wind up repeating to myself that old Will Rogers aphorism: "I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat." This usually comes after some debacle where my party does something unbelievably stupid in response to a Republican tactic that should rightly be laughed off.

I'm still angry about all the times the Dems were cowed by the Bush administration over the last six years--remember all the "terror alerts" right before the 2004 elections? How about the disgusting Military Commissions Act, the law that pretty much ended habeas corpus as it has been known in this country since its founding, which should have been filibustered into a shallow grave? And of course the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reauthorization, which the Bushies got the Dems to sign onto before the August recess. In that instance, once again the administration dangled all sorts of "hints" that there was an increased threat of a terrorist attack, and if the Democrats didn't go along, they'd be blamed for it later.

Daily Kos blog founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga probably puts it best: "Republicans always bring a howitzer to a gunfight, while Democrats don't even bother bringing a knife--they bring a spork."

Ever since the conservatives' authoritarian wing railroaded the USA PATRIOT Act through Congress (where only Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold had the stones to vote against it) after Sept. 11, the Republicans have realized that the Achilles heel of the Democratic Party is, in some ways, simple cowardice on the issue of national security. Every year the right-wing machine makes enough noise about how the next terrorist act on U.S. soil will be the Democrats' fault if they don't do fill-in-the-blank, and the next thing you know, some bill or another passes that either hands more power to the executive branch or eliminates yet another freedom.

From the viewpoint of a citizen, there's a galling irony (that apparently goes unseen by George W. Bush) every time the president goes abroad and has the nerve to lecture other nations about "freedom" and "liberty," considering what he's done to the actual meaning of those words. Conservatives always get platitudinous about the flag and the Constitution, but when it comes to the ideals embodied within them, well, those little bothersome concepts best be ignored.

For example, something the administration has always tried to deny and then minimalize is its domestic wiretapping operation, the existence of which was originally revealed by The New York Times. After the comical "We never did it, and we won't be doing it anymore" response the administration put forward, the GOP (with the help of some Democrats, like Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California) is trying to legislate retroactive immunity for the telecom companies that participated in the illegal scheme.

What in the wide world of sports is going on here? For the past six years, the administration has been getting away with anything and everything it can think of in the name of executive power--why would the opposition party then try and abet the administration in attempting to sanction and legitimize those efforts? Years ago, when I worked for Rep. Kweisi Mfume when he led the Congressional Black Caucus, we were on the way to an event, and I asked him about his opposition to the line-item veto. He told me that it was yet another instance of Congress giving away its power under the Constitution. "It's been my experience that whenever Congress gives away its power to the executive," he said, "the executive rarely gives it back."

Here we have Congress not only giving away power but also telling the executive that there was no problem with the power he illegally usurped in the first place? Why bother being in opposition?

Last week also saw the Democrats lining up to condemn MoveOn.org's New York Times advertisement where it referred to Gen. David Petraeus as "General BetrayUs" (the "betray us" terminology originally having been coined by Rush Limbaugh). Now, right-wing mouthpieces, from Limbaugh to Ann Coulter to Michelle Malkin to Glenn Beck and others of their ilk, have had no problem using the harshest terminology possible when referring to soldiers who disagree with their positions--we saw that when seven on-the-ground soldiers wrote an op-ed for the Times disagreeing with the way the war was being prosecuted. So it's not a stretch to think they'd be up in arms about someone taking on a general who has had no problem in the past carrying political water for this president and his administration.

But when Limbaugh, just a few days later after the MoveOn.org ad, slams "phony soldiers," where are the Democrats who will speak up? Will senators Cardin and Mikulski step up to condemn this on the floor of the Senate the same way they cast their votes to put down MoveOn.org?

I really want to believe in the party that I think holds out the best hopes for our country. But it's hard to do so when I'm defending myself against tank weaponry and my leaders have handed me a bag of sporks.

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The Fix (8/4/2010)

Police State (7/7/2010)

Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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