11 comments December 19th, 2005at 06:09pm Posted by Eli
I’m a bit overwhelmed, really. Torture, murder, indefinite detention without charges or trial, secret prisons, and now eavesdropping on phone conversations without warrants. And all of this is supposedly well within the law and the Constitution, according to the administration and its apologists. There’s one right-wing spin (okay, outright lie) that the FISA statute really does allow the administration to dispense with warrants altogether, and now the administration has moved on to actually claiming that the congressional authorization to use force in Afghanistan and Iraq somehow encompasses warrantless wiretapping and, I suspect that if pressed, they will insist that it somehow “legalizes” torture, murder, and unlawful detentions as well.
But how much longer will the Bushies be able to get away with trashing the law and the Constitution while insisting, “No, we’re buds; it’s totally cool”? The gap between the law and their actions is growing ever larger and more obvious. How long before they start hinting that the law is actually a hindrance in the War On Terror, holding Bush and his Grimly Determined Manly Men back from the dirty tricks that are oh-so-sadly necessary to protect us from Osama and his Scary Vampire Ninjas? Has it started already? Will the Democrats resist? Are there enough principled Republicans or outraged voters for resistance to succeed? Barbara Boxer has made a good start, but she needs backup.
Okay, lookit. Bush isn’t the first awful president we’ve had, and he won’t be the last. Even great presidents make the occasional stupid decision. But no president has ever made such a determined effort to place himself above the law, and above the Constitution and its carefully calibrated balance of power. FDR was close, but he was a good president, fighting an actual, real, declared war. I’m not trying to excuse or overlook FDR putting Japanese-Americans in camps or stacking the judiciary, but rather to point out that untrammelled executive power magnifies presidential incompetence, hubris, and outright evil. And it has been abundantly clear for several years that Bush is just about the last president that should be trusted with untrammelled executive power.
Of course, ultimately, the question is “What can be done?” One of Bush’s biggest advantages throughout his five years of misrule has been a supportive, or at least compliant, press corps. They have underreported or overexcused his myriad failures and outright crimes, and shirked their duty to uncover the facts, or even to remember them. As long as their corporate owners enjoy a symbiotic relationship with Bush and the Republican party, this is unlikely to change. But if enough people realize the extent of their duplicity, their credibility will be sorely damaged, and their effectiveness will be crippled. Right-wing accusations of “liberal media bias” will be laughed off, and their attempts to peddle administration spin will be dismissed as the propaganda it is (“Well, of course Pravda thinks Stalin is a wise and compassionate leader…”). Unfortunately, this is not happening any time soon, if at all. And while the blogosphere is a great alternate source of information, its small audience limits it to the role of a whisper factory, generating a subliminal buzz that occasionally leaps into the zeitgeist – usually by way of the corporate media trying to swaddle itself in borrowed hipness or credibility.
The next big problem is the Congress. Not only do Republican loyalists hold a majority in both houses, but the Congressional Democrats’ opposition is fitful and inconsistent, often sabotaged by their own members (I’m looking at you, Senators Named Joe). They’ve been doing a better job of hammering home the Corrupt-Republicans narrative, which is excellent and extremely apt, but they also need to address Bush’s Constitution-shredding head-on. As I said before, Senator Boxer has made a good start at moving the ball on illegality and impeachability, but there is an additional strategy I would like to see them employ, one which might actually force Bush and the Republicans to do something constructive for a change.
As I observed over the weekend, Bush’s claim that he had to take extraordinary measures to fight terror is at odds with his resolute unwillingness to take ordinary measures against terror. I want to see the Democrats call him on this, and demand to know why, if he’s so dedicated to the war on terror, he’s opposed to legislation that would require ports or chemical or nuclear plants to improve their security. Why he doesn’t want to force freight companies to route trains with hazardous chemicals away from major cities. Why he’s not demanding that Congress stop treating homeland security funds like just another flavor of pork. Why he’s not full-on, hair-on-fire, pedal-to-the-heavy-metal committed to, nay, obsessed with, the effort to secure Russia’s loose nuclear material and warheads. This approach would expose the hypocrisy and incompetence at the heart of Bush’s “War On Terror”, and remind everyone that paranoia does not equal safety. Sure, there will always be diehards who come up with excuses, but this discrepancy would be very hard to explain away. And who knows? It might even shame the Republicans into doing the right thing for a change.
I’ll just touch briefly on my other personal hot-button topic, electoral reform. I still think this is vital and essential to an accountable, and therefore healthy democracy, but if BushCo continues to trample on the Constitution and generally act like power-hungry idiots, they may face a groundswell of voter opposition that voter suppression and Diebold dodginess can’t conceal. Even so, people have short memories, and the Republicans are masters at whipping up their base and scaring everyone else with imaginary menaces like immigrants and gay marriage, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. And the latest revelations about Diebold hackability coming out of Florida make this a very opportune time to step up the fight for paper trails on all electronic voting machines. After all, how can Republicans credibly argue that there’s no real need for them, when the machines can be compromised so easily?
Bush has given the Democrats all kinds of leverage to use against him, and even with all his fuckups, they’re still going to need to use every bit of it if they want to start winning elections with any kind of consistency. Well, that and getting rid of Shrum and Brazile, although I fear they may be harder to kill than Rasputin.