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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

 
Charlie Brown Politics

by digby


Glenn Greenwald has a depressing post up about the Democratic retreat on Michael Hayden:


But by and large, what happened yesterday with Gen. Hayden's nomination is exactly what would have happened in 2002 and 2003. Democrats are afraid to challenge the President due to their fear -- always due to their fear -- that they will be depicted as mean, obstructionist and weak on national security. And so, even with an unbelievable weakened President, and even with regard to the most consequential issues -- and can one doubt that installing Gen. Hayden as CIA Director is consequential? -- Democrats back away from fights, take no clear position, divide against each other, and stand up for exactly nothing.
cimply
It is quite possible that Democrats would not have been able to stop Gen. Hayden's nomination. It is true that they are still in the minority and thus are limited in what they can achieve legislatively. But that's really irrelevant. Gen. Hayden is a symbol and one of the chief instruments and advocates of the administration's lawlessness. He refused to say in his testimony even whether he would even comply with the law. Opposing his nomination is both compelled by a principled belief in the rule of law as well as justified by the important political opportunity to highlight this administration's lawbreaking. Sen. Feingold, as usual, shows how this works:


The Democrats who voted against the nomination were Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Evan Bayh of Indiana. Each cited concerns about General Hayden's role in a controversial domestic surveillance program he ran while head of the National Security Agency.

"I am not convinced that the nominee respects the rule of law and Congress's oversight responsibilities," Mr. Feingold said.


In other words, there are serious questions about whether Gen. Hayden will comply with the law and whether he believes in the rule of law, so perhaps it's not a good idea to install him as CIA Director. Is there some reason Democrats were afraid to make that clear, straightforward, critically important point?


Glenn answered that question in his first paragraph. National security has the Democrats so spooked they are paralyzed and for some reason they don't seem to understand that every time they retreat they look like they are frightened of their shadows --- and thus appear to the American people to be incapable of protecting the country. And what's depressing is that their primary political concern can be rather easily alleviated by doing the right thing and standing up for their principles. George Bush has no credibility. Perhaps some people don't grasp the significance of the illegal wiretapping per se, but they are certainly open to argument if someone would care to make one. It's not as if they trust this president to make good decisions.

More importantly, for electoral purposes, the Democrats simply have to show that they are willing to fight this weakened unpopular president or people will see no point in kicking the bums out --- and certainly will not believe that the Dems are capable of taking on someone of real strength. As bad as it was in 2002 and 2003, how pathetic is it that the the Democrats rubber stamping Bush when he's at 29%? How unpopular do his policies have to get before Democrats take the side of the majority?

Glenn goes on to speculate about the future and sees that there is not likely to be a whole lot of action on these matters going forward, even if we win. And that is my great fear, too. The Democrats have the GOP snake by the neck but I'm pretty sure they don't have the nerve to kill it. And that is a huge mistake as has been demonstrated over and over again for the last 30 years.

Here's Robert Parry discussing the last time we had a chance to follow up and knock off the criminal element:

My book, Secrecy & Privilege, opens with a scene in spring 1994 when a guest at a White House social event asks Bill Clinton why his administration didn’t pursue unresolved scandals from the Reagan-Bush era, such as the Iraqgate secret support for Saddam Hussein’s government and clandestine arms shipments to Iran.

Clinton responds to the questions from the guest, documentary filmmaker Stuart Sender, by saying, in effect, that those historical questions had to take a back seat to Clinton’s domestic agenda and his desire for greater bipartisanship with the Republicans.

Clinton “didn’t feel that it was a good idea to pursue these investigations because he was going to have to work with these people,” Sender told me in an interview. “He was going to try to work with these guys, compromise, build working relationships.”

Clinton’s relatively low regard for the value of truth and accountability is relevant again today because other centrist Democrats are urging their party to give George W. Bush’s administration a similar pass if the Democrats win one or both houses of Congress.

Reporting about a booklet issued by the Progressive Policy Institute, a think tank of the Democratic Leadership Council, the Washington Post wrote, “these centrist Democrats … warned against calls to launch investigations into past administration decisions if Democrats gain control of the House or Senate in the November elections.”

These Democrats also called on the party to reject its “non-interventionist left” wing, which opposed the Iraq War and which wants Bush held accountable for the deceptions that surrounded it.

“Many of us are disturbed by the calls for investigations or even impeachment as the defining vision for our party for what we would do if we get back into office,” said pollster Jeremy Rosner, calling such an approach backward-looking. [Washington Post, May 10, 2006]


I urge you to read the whole article. It shows just what a massive failure it was on the part of Democrats and Clinton not to follow through. Unsurprisingly, the Republicans didn't see this "let bygones be bygones" attitude as anything but weakness. Clinton was rewarded with a partisan impeachment for his trouble.

This issue perfectly defines the real argument between the netroots and the establishment. We want to engage the opposition head on and they simply refuse. It is not about policy, although there is plenty to discuss on that count. It is about enabling criminal, radical, undemocratic politics to go unchecked in the name of some sort of bipartisan comity that only Joe Lieberman and his friends at the Democratic Leadership Council believe still exists. It's about not letting Lucy pull the football away again.

It's true that we are a vanguard at the moment, but this new media technology makes it far easier for a vanguard to become a movement than it used to and we have the momentum. What is happening in Connecticut is the canary in the coal mine if these establishment types care to actually see it instead of flailing about incoherently that leftists are ruining their party like it's 1968 and we're all on acid.

Glenn thinks that here in our blogospheric bubble it appears that things are changing when they aren't. I have to disagree a bit with that. It's true that the blogospheric bubble often gives the false impression that there is more momentum on our side than there actually is. I suspect that true inside any movement or campaign where you spend most of your time with fellow travellers. But that doesn't mean things aren't changing. We are now a factor. They may hate us, fear us and dismiss us, but we're here and we aren't going anywhere. (Say it loud, I'm blog and I'm proud!)

Rick Perlstein noted in the discussion of "Before The Storm" and the conservative movement last week-end at Firedoglake that history is complicated, it moves like a battleship. Things aren't going to turn around overnight. But we are beginning to affect the way the media sees itself and we are putting political pressure on the party. This is how change is made. We'll ride all their asses like Zorro until they get the message. We're in for the long haul.



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