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Monday, November 05, 2007

Why Democrats Fold

The mainstream media fails us completely -- again. On the news that two critical Democrats caved in and will vote to confirm Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey, CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen had this to say:


CBS News:

[I]n the end the Democrats were unable to force Attorney General-nominee Michael B. Mukasey into publicly declaring that the simulated-death form of interrogation called "waterboarding" falls within the legal definition of torture, and thus is outlawed completely. Good.

Instead of trying to coerce a high-ranking executive branch official into undercutting his own president's power, the legislators ought to instead look inward, toward Capitol Hill, and simply and expressly prohibit "waterboarding" by federal statute.

I can't help but wonder what the quotes are for; it's called waterboarding. It's not slang, it's a real word. I imagine him saying this and making those idiotic quotation marks with his fingers.

But a bigger problem is that his argument is stupid. Following this line of reasoning, Congress would have to go through and specifically outlaw every form of torture some sadist can think up. Otherwise, nothing is torture.

Which, unfortunately, is the position of those critical Democratic votes.

In his statement Friday pledging continued support for Mukasey's nomination, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., offered this significant (and significantly under-reported) nugget. Mukasey, Schumer wrote, "made clear to me [in private] that, were Congress to pass a law banning certain interrogation techniques, we would clearly be acting within our constitutional authority. And he flatly told me that the President would have absolutely no legal authority to ignore such a law, not even under some theory of inherent authority under Article II of the Constitution. He also pledged to enforce such a law and repeated his willingness to leave office rather than participate in a violation of law."

So, once we've specifically outlawed waterboarding, we can move on to the rack, hot needles under the fingernails, strappado, and the cat-o-nine-tails. In fact, since the ways to torture someone are pretty much limitless, Congress can spend from now until forever outlawing specific acts of torture and never actually manage to outlaw torture.

That ought to make George W. Bush very, very happy. The other Democratic cave-in, Dianne Feinstein, holds a similar position.

From Feinstein's op-ed in the L.A. Times:

Congress should go further and explicitly ban waterboarding and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques for all parts of the government. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) has introduced legislation to this effect. This legislation should be passed as quickly as possible. If Judge Mukasey is confirmed, I hope that the Judiciary Committee will ask him back to discuss this issue further.

Great. And what's the next human rights outrage that we'll have to specifically outlaw? This seems to be the narrative arc to this story. Republican Arlen Specter holds pretty much the same position; that Congress should outlaw waterboarding and confirm Mukasey, saying, "the president would have absolutely no legal authority to ignore such a law."

I've got to ask all these Senators where the hell they've been the past 7 years? Not only is Bush more than happy to ignore the damned law, he's got this weird idea that he can write these "signing statements" that interpret the law the way he wants. Bush doesn't give a good goddam about the law. Pretending he does is the same as doing nothing.

We've been hearing a lot about the neocon philosophy and how crazy it is. And we should -- daily. But what we're not hearing a lot about are the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). The DLC is the home to dems with bad ideas. They're the triangulators and compromisers. When you find yourself disappointed in Democrats, you can usually blame the DLC.

There's a lot wrong with the DLC and not the least of it is that they're way too friendly with corporations. But the worst is the idea that Democrats should never, ever fight for anything. Unreasonable people take solid positions, you see. Reasonable people compromise.

And this impulse to compromise is the reason why we've got idiotic things like "don't ask, don't tell." I keep saying it, but when someone's crazy and you meet them halfway, your position is halfway crazy. This idea that Democrats always have to compromise leaves dems in the position of actually standing for nothing. Or against nothing. Like, say, torture for instance.

This is why we're still in Iraq. This is why we're still funding the war. This is why impeachment is off the table. This is why the Democratic party is profoundly broken. Because of compromise and a reactive approach to politics. DLC literally stands for nothing. Where the neocons are the abusers in this relationship, the DLC are the enablers.

When Mukasey winds up in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee again to explain why the White House has done something crazy -- or deny that they have -- Feinstein and Schumer will pretend that no one could possibly have foreseen it. And Republicans will be quick to remind them that they thought confirming Mukasey would be a great idea. Just as they did with Gonzales. We'll have some big, stupid national debate over whether hooking up jumper cables to some guy's balls is torture or whether the president has the right to come over to your house and read your mail and the American character will take one more hit.

Sure, Congress can outlaw it, but -- again -- there's virtually no limit to the abuses government can commit. This new idea that you have to go through every possible abuse, one by one, and make them illegal is a ridiculous argument and a dangerous precedent -- and one that the "new Democrats" of the DLC are happy to make.

Democratic voters need to purge their party of these nuts. And they are nuts. This idea that good politicians only react to what bad politicians do and, worse, that you meet bad politicians halfway is insane. Crazy. Lunacy. George W. Bush couldn't have done half the things he's done if it weren't for those who were willing to "work together" and "forge compromises." Joe Lieberman used to head up the DLC.

So, while Bush is busy doing whatever the hell he wants, Congress can keep busy banning waterboarding, then open-handed slaps, then roundhouse kicks, then starvation, then sleep-deprivation, then electric nippleclamps, then feeding people shoe polish, on and on and on, one by one. Sound "reasonable" to you? It does to DLCers. Which is why I say they're nuts.

There are some things that you don't compromise on. It's amazing to me that anyone would have to point out that torture is one of them. And it's just as amazing to me that so many Democrats don't see that.


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