"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ignoring that Face In the Mirror

As the nation's media has become increasingly distracted by the "She Said, He Said" Pelosi/CIA foodfight, I have one question: When did what she knew become more important than what was done? Lost in this diversionary storyline is the fundamental fact: America has endorsed torture. When a democracy allows its government to embrace the tools of tyrants and despots and holds no one accountable, we risk becoming that which we claim to detest.

The way I see it, our nation faces a fundamental question about who we are as a society. How do we reconcile the use of torture in our names?

Do we choose, as our president seems inclined to do, to move forward by turning the page without another glance? Politically, it's the easiest option. From the White House perspective, stirring up partisan rancor is to be avoided at all costs as the administration works to solve the recession, reform healthcare and address climate change. Focusing on the past will only undermine the agenda of change, or so the argument goes.

I see it quite differently. It is less a question of looking backwards than a matter of looking honestly in a mirror. Any path to health (whether as an individual, a family, or a society) requires this step of self-awareness. Its the fundamental first step of any recovery. If you view what happened as torture (as the Red Cross does), it's unconscionable to simply shrug our shoulders and say, "what's done is done."

If we choose expedience we willingly forfeit our moral standing internationally. It is outrageous that as Americans we are actually debating torture as a viable policy. A democratic society cannot survive if we embrace the tactics of tyrants and despots. By sweeping our sins under the rug, how can we ever hope to relight the beacon of hope that America once represented to the world's masses?

I'll use vocabulary the Right understands.

Torture is evil.

Evil is never justified.

Torture violates domestic and international law. What's so difficult to understand?

Failing to acknowledge these crimes committed in our names could rank as one of the biggest mistakes any administration has ever made. I make this statement fully understanding America's original sin of slavery, our deliberate genocide of the indigenous population of this continent and the long tradition of civil liberty infringements throughout American history during times of war and conflict.

We must understand this: the immediacy and scope of global communications changes the stakes. Failing to address this sin quickly will forever stain us in the eyes of a much more attentive world. The eyes of the world are on Obama. I expect his global admirers are going to be much more disappointed in this inaction than the "angry liberal bloggers."

As for Democrats who fret about the risk of taking our eyes off the ball and derailing the domestic agenda, I simply do not believe this administration is incapable of addressing the economy, healthcare reform and education while torture investigations are underway. This president's team is a hive of multitasking overachievers. Besides, the White House would not be the locus nor the focus of the investigation.

Might it threaten to alienate Republicans we need to enact meaningful reform? Perhaps, but a far different outcome may emerge as investigations proceed. We only need one or two Senators to move the agenda forward. And, I firmly believe there are a handful of Republicans here in DC who do have a conscience and are likely to become extremely squeamish in defending torture once those currently hidden pictures became public.

And why? Because it's becoming increasingly clear that torture wasn't used to keep Americans safe, as Cheney keeps claiming. It was used as part of a desperate search to validate the invasion of Iraq.

That sounds like tyranny.

Take Me To Your Leader

Rasmussen is polling Republican voters about who they view as the leader of the rapidly shrinking GOP. Compared to Rasmussen's March 2009 numbers, the search for a new leader reveals a roster of golden oldies emerging to fill the power vacuum. Who has stepped forward to become the leading Goposaur?
John McCain5%18%
Michael Steele5%14%
Sarah Palin1%10%
Mitt RomneyN/A8%
Rush Limbaugh2%6%
Dick CheneyN/A4%
No Clear Leader68%37%
Not Sure17%

Earlier this month, Rasmussen reported deep dissatisfaction among the Republican faithful regarding their congressional leadership, with 69% saying they have lost touch with their base nationally.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Big Oil Extracts First Blood

David Hayes, Obama's pick to be number two at Interior, became the Party of No's first victim, as his nomination was defeated simply to send a message to the Obama administration on behalf of the oil and gas interests who underwrite the campaigns of some powerful Western Republicans. Proving once again they are unwilling to acknowledge their 2008 defeat, the empty rhetoric of last year's GOP campaign chant, "Drill, Baby, Drill!" echoes across the barren wasteland that is the Republican Party.

Can We Afford to Look Away?

Over at DailyKos is one of the better posts, This is Us, I've read about Obama's decision to prevent the torture photos public release. I understand the fear of igniting the tinderbox that is Pakistan at this critical point, but preventing a long, hard look at what has been done in our names (and by default allowing Dick Cheney to frame a debate on the ethics and efficacy of torture) is a tragic mistake.

If karma does indeed exist, then America's got serious worries.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Scars That Won't Heal?

Despite President Obama's Team of Rivals embrace of his vanquished primary foe, former surrogates are trying to stir up the old intraparty rivalry in this year's most critical Democratic primary - the Virginia gubernatorial race. The Clinton's uber-fundraiser and former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe is using his high-profile relationships to raise oodles of money. His path to vicotry depends on using that money to increase voter turnout beyond the traditional primary electorate. The off-off-off year elections in Virginia typically attract only the most committed partisans. Brian Moran, on the other hand, is hoping to claim Obama's message of change and motivate the liberal activists to carry him to victory.

Despite the apparent unwillingness of Obama to engage in this skirmish, it's fascinating to see whether activists and the grassroots still cling to old loyalties. Will a McAuliffe victory be viewed by Hillary allies as a restoration of the old Democratic order? Will some see a Moran triumph as a final Clinton smackdown? What would a Creigh Deeds victory mean?

A Failure to Communicate

Perhaps this explains why Democratic leaders have put Cap & Trade legislation on the back burner. From Rasmussen:

Given a choice of three options, just 24% of voters can correctly identify the cap-and-trade proposal as something that deals with environmental issues. A slightly higher number (29%) believe the proposal has something to do with regulating Wall Street while 17% think the term applies to health care reform. A plurality (30%) have no idea.

According to this poll, Democrats are less likely to accurately describe Cap & Trade as proposal to address climate change than their Republican or independent cohorts. What does this say about Democratic leadership's messaging efforts if they're own supporters are clueless on one of their top priorities?

Gregg's Judgment Day

If Judd Gregg – a man we know to not be a man of his word – listens to his colleagues entrities and decides to “unretire” next year and run for his New Hampshire Senate it could cause heartburn for the Republican Senate leadership. Democrats, who are currently eyeing Gregg’s open seat as a likely pick-up opportunity will still view the Granite State seat as competitive even with Gregg defending in the race.

But if Gregg does manage to retain the seat CQ Politics tells us it could scramble committee assignments among the GOPosaurs in the US Senate. The handshake deals between senior Republicans Chuck Grassley and Jeff Sessions could be in jeopardy if Gregg sticks around and asserts his seniority. While I'd rather see Gregg shuffle off to an early retirement in favor of a New Hampshire Democrat, it might be entertaining to watch the GOP feathers fly.