Belaboring the Obvious

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pussies. And Dumb Ones, to Boot.

That's right. Every Democrat voting for this execrable piece of shit bill on torture, detainment and denial of habeas corpus is a pussy. A skeerdy-cat. A wimp. Not to mention stupid. Jack Balkin at Balkinization puts it this way:

The Democrats may think that if they let this pass, they are guaranteed to pick up more seats in the House and Senate. But they will actually win less seats this way. For they will have proved to the American people that they are spineless and opportunistic-- that, when faced with a genuine choice and a genuine challenge, they can keep neither our country nor our values safe.

Moreover, the Democrats are being hustled, in what, by now, should be a very apparent and shopworn manner. Over and over again, the Dems let some "compromise" be hammered out by the so-called authorities on national security (Warner? a clueless cold-war hawk with a third-rate intellect, Graham? a first-class conniver and Bush-enabling weasel, McCain? well, let's just say that he'll do anything to be President). Then, they sit on the sidelines and watch as the White House legal flacks go about amending the draft to get what they wanted, anyway. Jack Balkin, again:

The current bill, if passed, will give the Executive far more dictatorial powers to detain, prosecute, judge and punish than it ever enjoyed before. Over the last 48 hours, it has been modified in a hundred different ways to increase executive power at the expense of judicial review, due process, and oversight. And what is more, the bill's most outrageous provisions on torture, definition of enemy combatants, secret procedures, and habeas stripping, are completely unnecessary to keep Americans safe. Rather, they are the work of an Executive branch that has proven itself as untrustworthy as it is greedy: always pushing the legal and constitutional envelope, always seeking more power and less accountability.

Not a soul in the Democratic leadership (apart from Nancy Pelosi today declaring that the bill "does violence to the Constitution"), and virtually none of the rank-and-file, has even suggested the obvious--that the bill is intended to protect the current occupants of the White House from prosecution (retroactive provisions back to 1997), that the bill is intended to end-run judicial interpretation on Constitutional grounds (denial of judicial review), that it will endorse and protect physical and psychological torture (leaving the interpretation of GC Common Article III to the President), and finally, that it is entirely unnecessary on the very national security grounds on which it is being promoted.

But, the real under-the-radar provision is that the proposed legislation leaves the determination of an unlawful combatant to the President or the Secretary of Defense, and the latitude of definition is so broad and vague that it could include almost anyone, citizen or not. If restrictions on judicial review make it impossible for the courts to strike down the law on that basis, then we are all well and truly fucked, because an arbitrary decision by an Executive branch official can strip rights of habeas corpus from anyone, in arbitrary fashion. For an indication of what that might mean, Glenn Greenwald might be offering a clue:

It really is odd and disturbing, as well as potentially quite dangerous, that the declassified NIE on the "Trends on Global Terrorism" focuses exclusively on Islamic terrorists -- except for the last section which conspicuously identifies "leftist" groups which use the Internet as a serious terrorist threat. Odder still, it makes no mention at all of right-wing, anti-government movements (such as, say, the one that spawned Timothy McVeigh, an actual terrorist).

Let's say that Rummy, Military Commissions Act of 2006 in hand, decides that anti-war groups are providing material aid and comfort to terrorists (a stretch, but not an impossible one under the language of the bill). Under the provisions of the Act, members of such groups could be arrested, detained incommunicado for an indeterminate length of time in military custody--and could not avail themselves of the Constitutional right to appear in civil court to hear charges and evidence against them, and would be subject to military tribunals in which evidence can be withheld on some very tenuous grounds and appeal can be ignored in summary fashion. (I'm not the only one worried by those provisions and the imprecision of definitions.)

So, why aren't Democrats--every last one of them--fighting this tooth and nail? Showing the public that they are different from authoritarian Republicans bent on providing the Executive Branch with almost unlimited power? That they stand for our rights? Why aren't they all making it plain, every day, in every possible way, that giving an idiot like Bush these powers is a prescription for further disaster, rather than a solution to a problem?

Beats me. It gets harder and harder to defend Democrats against charges these days that they're just mirror images of Republicans. But, one thing, for sure: Democrats aren't standing on principle here. They're weighing this bill on its political and electoral implications. That's why I say they've been hustled, that they're stupid. The Repugs have done this to them time and time again--on the Iraq AUMF vote, in the 2004 election, on the USA PATRIOT Act, on the 2004 Intelligence Reform Act--and they're behaving like hicks on their first day in the city who've never seen this game of three-card monte before.

Here's a hint, guys and girls--if the Administration is pushing for this bill to be passed in a matter of days, and you haven't read the bill and haven't subjected it to intense legal staff scrutiny, it means you are being hustled. Don't play the game, because it's rigged. Don't vote for a bill of which you know little to nothing.

Because if you think acting like a rube gets you electoral points, think again. It just makes you look stupid and gullible. The voters will think that if a mean-spirited, unpopular and devious idiot like Bush can outwit you, you're waaaay too goddamned stupid to represent them. You can take that to the bank.


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