Do Dems Have a Death-Wish?
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
January 17, 2006
"Shallow Throat" joined me at a mostly-deserted park in Virginia, bursting
with anger. I didn't even have to ask a question before the rage exploded
"I can't believe your Democrat friends are blowing it once again! The
Bushies are imploding in one scandal after another, it's dictator-time,
the Republicans are tarred by the Abramoff corruption brush, more attacks
on Mideast countries are coming soon, Bush ordered spying on Americans
with no court permission, impeachment momentum is in the air -- and the
Dems have let the President off the hook once again! How many times are
you going to push that boulder up the steep hill to the top and then let
it roll back down again? Do you liberals really have a death-wish?"
Normally, I have to contact the secretive GOP mole high up in the Bush
Administration, but this time Shallow Throat came looking for me. To vent,
to explode, to dish.
"Whoa there," I said, as we walked double-time down a tree-lined path.
"Slow down and tell me what's wrong. And, by the way, I'm not a Democratic
consultant, I just play one on the internet. I presume you're talking
about Alito escaping the Judiciary Committee noose in his hearing?"
"No, no, you're missing the point. Your Dem friends -- MoveOn.org,
Democrat pols, liberal pundits -- always miss the point. They're great
when they finally decide to hone in on something, usually minor, but they
constantly fail to see the big picture, and rarely have a world-view, a
philosophy, even a sense of what their political enemies are trying to do
to them. No wonder you guys lose elections -- wait, before you call me on
that last one, I'll admit: balloting fraud helps, too."
"So what is the 'big picture' here? What did the Democrats ignore?"
THE UNITARY DICTATORSHIP
"The reality they're missing is that Bush&Co. long ago declared war on our
democratic institutions, and the liberals pretend that it never really
happened. Bush&Co. have set themselves up as a dictatorship, where, under
an extreme interpretation of 'the unitary executive' theory, the president
can violate whatever laws he wishes whenever he wishes, totally negating
the Legislative Branch's lawmaking and oversight powers, and the
Judiciary's right to interpret what they're doing in light of the
Constitution. Bush&Co. have been doing this in secret for years -- using
the 'national security' dodge when carrying out and condoning torture,
domestic spying on citizens' emails and phone calls and so on -- and now,
thanks only to some whistleblower friends of mine inside the
Administration, the whole rotten, stinking pile is out in the open.
"The issue is joined, and yet the Dems simply can't face that they're
going to have to really fight for freedom and power, not just mouth the
words. The Alito hearings were the perfect platform to make their points
openly, and they dropped the ball."
"But they did ask Alito plenty of questions about presidential overreach,"
I responded. "It's not like they ignored the issue."
"Yeah, they asked some questions, a well-rehearsed Alito bobbed and weaved
with platitudes, and then the Dems moved on to another line of
questioning, as if each issue were equal and a perfectly normal difference
"What you and your friends are failing to grasp is that this is THE issue
of our time -- the amassing of total political and military power in the
hands of a few dangerous, power-crazed officials down in a fantasy bunker.
The result of this liberal denial has led to a withering away of other
countervailing powers in our society, in the Judiciary, the Press, the
Legislative branch. It happened in Germany in the '30s, and it is starting
to happen here. If we don't stop them now, we may never have another good
opportunity to do so."
"But you still haven't told me what the Dems -- who are the minority
party, remember, with little or no power -- could have done in the Alito
hearings other than to press the issue with the nominee," I said.
TAKE DISSENT TO THE NEXT LEVEL
"Think creatively!" shouted Shallow Throat. "If the Democrats truly and
sincerely believe America and the Constitution are in imminent danger from
this wild, power-hungry crew in the White House, they can't keep behaving
in a normal manner. Al Gore in his great speech demonstrated that he
realizes there is no 'normal' anymore in this desperate struggle for
freedom, but, believe me, you guys have seen only the tip of the iceberg
for how bad it really is.
"For the Alito hearings, the Senate Democrats could have reined in their
individual egos, organized themselves and, in effect, held an educational
sit-in, using their media face-time to lay out the facts of Bush's
cockamamie theory underlying his assumption of total power. They could
have met elsewhere in the Capitol and held their own hearings, a la John
Conyers in the House, about what Bush has done. They could have said they
would be unable to vote for Alito as long as he avoided telling the
country his philosophical views -- not how he might rule on particular
cases -- on the key issues. As a united body of senators, they could have
indicated their support for an impeachment inquiry based on the usurpation
of total authority (tieing Alito to this RightWing power-grab), domestic
spying, torture, corruption, massive lies, etc.
"Instead, they just lobbed a few easy-to-deflect questions at Alito and
moved on. If Alito is confirmed to the Supreme Court (joining Roberts,
also a supporter of expanded 'unitary' executive power during 'wartime'),
the likelihood of more police-state tactics and shredding of more
Constitutional protections and more spying on ordinary citizens will move
us further along toward an authoritarian, one-party state. Although the
Dems' questions seemed to recognize this, their disorganized, noncholant
approach suggested that they don't really care to try to stop this
movement toward an American type of fascism."
"You, a traditional Republican conservative, think America is heading into
fascism?" I asked, somewhat shocked.
MANY IN G.O.P. FEAR BIG-BROTHER GOVT.
"It's not just me. There are so many distressed traditional Republican
conservatives out there, always opposed to Big-Brother government, who
think likewise. Even Barron's, that establishment business magazine, is of
a similar mind, along with lots of military and intelligence types still
inside the administration, but scared to death of saying anything. I'm
nervous just being here with you, Bernie. God help me if anybody sees me."
"I think this place is far enough from the D.C. beltway, and you're
wearing a wig and dark glasses," I replied. "But what I'm interested in
finding out is: Do you think it's too late, is it all a lost cause?"
"Almost, but maybe there still are ways to stop this reckless bunch of
ideologues. First of all, the Democrats have to stay united, push off the
vote a week or so, and filibuster the hell out of the Alito nomination.
And they have to work on prying a few of the Republican moderates to
pledge to support the filibuster, based on the clear indication by Alito
that he's willing to re-open the Roe decision, and that he'd judicially
support Bush's assumption of sweeping powers over citizens' privacy.
"The hearings may have been a predictable dance, but they did get Alito to
reveal several things: First, that he's willing to lie to get what he
wants. He lied to somebody about being a member of the bigoted Concerned
Alumni of Princeton; either he lied to Reagan officials to get a job when
he asserted that he had been a member, or he lied to the Senators to get a
job when he claimed he couldn't remember if he was a member. (Akin to: I
wracked my brain and I just can't remember if I was a member of the Klan.
ROE A GONER, BUSH POWER-GRAB OKd
"Second, Alito believes many other key issues are 'settled law'
precedents, but on executive power and abortion, clearly he's ready to
vote to tear away at Roe and to support Bush in his assumption of more and
more power, with little oversight. Some of the moderate GOP senators are
greatly concerned about the Legislative Branch being stripped of its
power, throwing the checks-and-balances system totally out of whack, so
they might be peeled away here. Folks like Collins and Snowe and Chafee
and maybe even Warner and McCain (who is pissed at the way Bush humiliated
him on his torture amendment, saying he wouldn't necessarily honor it).
"Third, key Democratic Senators and House members should be willing to
risk arrest for civil disobedience by joining a sit-in outside the White
House gates, along with tens of thousands of ordinary citizens, protesting
Bush's breaking of laws passed by Congress and claiming he can and will do
it again and again, whenever he wants.
"We need men and women of courage to drive this issue into the mainstream
media's front page and TV screens, day after day; imagine the impact if,
say, Senators Boxer, Byrd and Leahy were to put their bodies where their
mouths are on the war in Iraq and on Bush's in-your-face executive
power-grabbing. If the Dems are serious about confronting Bush where he's
weakest, on breaking laws with impunity, then they've got to up the ante
and take some calculated risks. Doing so automatically will move the
impeachment ball forward.
"Fourth, it's not too late for the Dem senators to start holding hearings
on their own -- or talking about Alito and over-reaching executive power
during a filibuster on his nomination -- even if the GOP won't initiate
official probes on Bush's having violated the law. (By the way, it was
easy for Alito to say that even a President has to remain within the law,
because, if he gets onto the Supreme Court, he'll help redefine 'the law'
so that Bush always will be seen to be 'inside' it.) Witnesses could be
called at such hearings, from inside and outside the government, to
explain how Bush is a serial lawbreaker and needs to be reined in, either
electorally at the mid-term balloting later this year or through the
"Finally, don't forget that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald may drop a
Rove-indictment bomb any day now on the White House. Bush and Cheney might
be forced to testify in such a case -- or Bush might feel constrained to
issue a pardon in advance of Rove going to court, which obvious coverup
ploy would add another charge to the impeachment list."
DEMS MUST STEP OUT COURAGEOUSLY
I had to ask the next question: "Do you really believe the Democrats have
enough sense, and courage, to do at least some of what you're suggesting?"
"No," ST said, "but they're slowly coming to realize that unless they do
something dramatic to save the republic from the worst of Bush&Co.'s
recklessness and power-amassment, their own days and their authority to
get things done are numbered, and with more wars of choice in the offing.
The Dems can see that they might never get back in power again unless
Bush&Co. are brought down politically, through impeachment.
"We can't count on Bush & Cheney resigning on their own volition, on
Fitzgerald doing it for them, on unsupervised voting-machine tallies (by
the Republican-supporting computer-voting companies who control the
counting of ballot) giving them earned victories. In short, the Dems and
their moderate GOP allies are going to have to force the issue themselves.
"The Dem base -- and a lot of angry traditional Republican conservatives
and military officers at the Pentagon and intelligence officers at the CIA
and elsewhere -- are ready for courageous action from their elected
officials. But those leaders have to be willing to step out, take a deep
breath and make the moves that need to be made to get rid of this corrupt,
incompetent, vicious, power-mad crew. If they don't, we're all liable to
go down with them. There are no more chances. This is it."
Shallow Throat turned off my tape-recorder and, before jogging out of the
park, said: "Get this conversation published!" Since I also love my
country, I'm happy to oblige.
Copyright 2006, by Bernard Weiner