Saturday, November 29, 2008

What Republicans Taught Me

During early voting, my wife described having the feeling that after eight, long years, the country's fever was beginning to break. But that's not the same as being healthy and whole again.

I've been following the discussions about what Obama and the Dems should do (or not do) about prosecuting people involved in the Bush torture program, and I realize that getting control of our country back is not the same as America being back. There is a lot to repair. Bush/Cheney is determined never to be held accountable, and they have good reason to believe they won't be.
Holding The Country Hostage

by digby

Jack Goldsmith tells us that if there are any prosecutions or further investigations into the torture regime the lawyers who give president's legal advice in the future will feel constrained and we'll all be killed in our beds. This is, of course, the same thing we were told about the warrantless wiretapping: we have to allow these telcom industries to have amnesty or they won't cooperate in the future and we'll all be killed in our beds. Or, as Goldsmith reiterates at some length, we have to let the CIA be immunized for torture and kidnapping because if we don't they'll be afraid to be "aggressive" and the terrorists will kill us all in our beds. Again and again, we are told that the only way to keep us "safe" is for the government to be allowed to "take the gloves off" and break the law with impunity. This is blackmail. Allow us to do whatever we want or the country gets it.

. . .

I do not accept this idea that in order to keep the country safe we have to allow all these people to break the law and suffer no consequences. It's a complete inversion of the entire system. The reason we have a constitution and a bill of rights in the first place is to keep the citizens safe --- from the government. If you can throw it out because some nutcase blows up a building it's very hard to see why the police can't throw it out when they are dealing with gang members or drug lords or common murderers. After all, their job is to "keep us safe" too. Why is that any different?
I see similar behavior even inside the Democratic Party, with those habituated to wielding power thinking they can get the rest to back down on command: Let us do what we want, or the Party gets it. Democrats have to do more than re-learn how to win. They have to re-learn how to fight for what's right when there may be a political cost. "All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing." -- Edmund Burke
Why can't we hold torturers accountable and still find out the truth?
By Dahlia Lithwick

And that's the crazy-making bit in all the talk of bygones and goodwill. Nobody is suggesting that those who authorized torture and wiretapping were sadists or brutes. But they did a lot worse than mix stripes and plaids. They broke the law. They violated domestic and international laws, and they committed war crimes. They did so deliberately and with the "cover" of cynically bad legal memoranda. And those who have been entrusted as the nation's top law enforcers now claim that public disapproval is punishment enough.
Digby again:
Torture Zombie

by digby

There is absolutely no reason to believe that the next time a Republican is elected to the presidency he or she won't pick right up where they left off. That is the story of the last 40 years and until there is some price to pay they will keep right on doing it, escalating each time. For all the Colin Powell's who have come over from the Dark Side, there a many more who were trained in this worldview during this long conservative era. At some point they will try to keep power permanently. All it would take is just the right kind of crisis for them to justify it. After all, the precedents are all lined up --- normalized and legalized each step of the way by Democrats who didn't want to spend their political capital to stop it.
And that's what I keep coming across now that it looks like Obama may be more bipartisan than transformational - the desire (in online progressive circles, anyway) for Democrats to stop being spineless, to stop going along to get along and stand up to these guys, to stop doing the smart, political thing and start doing the right thing again.

One thing I've learned from the last dozen years of watching Republicans is that they respect power and scorn weakness. Because Democrats tend to avoid conflict, the GOP sees them as weak and exploitable, featherweights who can't take a punch. Once you throw in the towel, you're their bitch.

The most miserable example of this was in 2005 when they got Sen. Dick Durbin to cry and apologize on the floor of the Senate for comments about prisoner treatment at Guantanamo. The right had gone into full torches-and-pitchforks mode over Durbin's comments. The point of the right's outrage was to get Durbin (and the Democrats) to roll over on their backs and pee in the air. With Durbin, they succeeded. And as long as they get away with it, they'll keep doing it, as Pres. Bill Clinton observed in 2004. It's about establishing dominance - a game of chicken - and they think Democrats will always blink first.

Jonathan Turley alluded to this behavior while on the Rachel Maddow Show discussing whether or not Democrats will pursue Bush officials over the torture program (emphasis mine):
TURLEY: No. I don't believe that anyone seriously believes in the administration that what they did was legal. This is not a close legal question. Waterboarding is torture. It has been defined as a war crime by U.S. courts and foreign courts. There's no ambiguity in it. That's exactly why they have repeatedly tried to stop any court from reviewing any of this. And so what's really happening here is a rather clever move at this intersection of law and politics, that what the administration is doing is they know that the people that want him to pardon our torture program is primarily the Democrats, not the Republicans. Democratic leadership would love to have a pardon so they could go to their supporters and say, "Look, there's really nothing we could do. We're just going to have this truth commission. We'll get the truth out but there really can't be indictments now." Well, the Bush administration is calling their bluff. They know that the Democratic leadership will not allow criminal investigations or indictments. And in that way the Democrats will actually repair Bush's legacy because he'll be able to say there's nothing stopping indictments or prosecutions but a Democratic Congress and a Democratic White House didn't think there was any basis for it.
Democrats have shown little stomach for prosecuting the Bushies, in part because Nancy Pelosi (and others) probably wears a scarlet "A" for Accessory underneath her business suit. They want this issue to just go away. Democrats want to play nice, all bipartisan and non-confrontational. The GOP knows this. And they've learned that by puffing and thumping their chests, they can get Democrats to roll over - for the good of the country, or whatever - should Democrats begin to grow spines.

The electoral smackdown earlier this month hasn't killed the zombie. It just stunned it. It has to be put down. That will take Democrats not just growing spines, but deciding that some issues are important enough that they stop acting like politicians and do the right thing. That's change America can believe in.
TURLEY: You know, Rachel, there has never been a brighter line. This has always been a crime. It's always been a war crime. It's always been immoral. The question is not whether the act is immoral, but whether moral people will stand forward and say, "We're not going to act like politicians for once. We're going to act like statesmen and we're going to stand by principle and we're going to say, 'Yes, let's investigate.' And if there are crimes here, let's prosecute."

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Coming Down

Post-election, I don't come down from running on coffee, chocolate and little sleep until mid-November. I spent Friday afternoon and yesterday in bed trying to shake off the traditional post-election cold. My wife says, with Obama's election, it feels as if the country's long fever has finally broken.

But not completely. Stephen Towe's piece this morning in the Asheville Citizen-Times (sorry, no link) reminded me of what Bill Maher said Friday: "The hard core Republican base is like a stalker. Rejection just makes them crazier." Towe's probably out stockpiling guns.

Honestly, based on rhetoric I heard in the last weeks before Election Day - thoughtfully reprised by Mr. Towe - if Obama won, walls would bleed, closets would eat children, rivers would turn to blood, and we'd all spew pea soup. Well, none of those Election Night events were reported by the press. Leave it to an MSM in the tank for Obama to suppress the truth.

It's the GOP's turn to do some soul searching, if it still has one to search. Commenting on the Special Prosecutors and "trumped up" investigations of the Clinton years, Maher said, "If Republicans really want to look into something for the next four years, my suggestion, try a mirror."