Bill Nelson sold us out. So much for the Democratic majority. It doesn't mean much when you have "conservative" Democrats who are consistently willing to make deals with the Bush administration to allow them to continue their hideous practices.
The Democrats are in the majority in the Senate Intelligence Committee and all they needed was all of their party members on the committee to vote the right way to end torture by the US government. But Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) wouldn't have it. He likes torture too much. I'm sorry, let me use the Orwellian language they use - he found value in the enhanced interrogation techniques used against detainees in the war on terror.
As conservative blogger, Andrew Sullivan pointed out recently, "enhanced interrogation" is literally what the Gestapo called torture in 1937 Germany. But even they didn't approve of waterboarding. I'm not kidding. They thought it was too cruel. But Senator Bill Nelson thought it was just a-okay. To be fair to Senator Nelson, the Gestapo later changed their mind and agreed that further torture was necessary.
Since "Democratic" Senator Bill Nelson wouldn't agree to cut off funding for torture, the committee had to approved a watered down version of the report instead (waterboarding pun not intended, but enjoyed once realized).
Let me pause here to say that the original proposal co-sponsored by Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said that funding would be cut off if the US government didn't abide by the Army field manual on detainee treatment. Not a human rights manual. Not a hippie, tree-hugger manual. The Army field manual!
Apparently, the Army field manual is not tough enough for Senator Bill Nelson and all of the Republicans on the committee. Not enough torture in there. But to go out of their way, the original Democratic proposal even had a provision that allowed the president to authorize torture under "dire emergencies." I think that's absolutely ridiculous, but even that wasn't good enough for Nelson. He had to have torture, all of it. Not just in emergencies, but at all times. One can't have enough torture.
Now, let me give credit to the other Democrats on the committee. This issue would have never even brought up under a Republican reign in Congress. How do I know? They had five years and they didn't bring it up at all. Case closed. But in case we were confused on where they stood on the issue, the Republicans made it clearer by all voting for torture in this instance as well (the famous maverick Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is on the Intelligence Committee and once again, for the two hundreth time in a row, voted with the administration here and allowed torture to continue).
I have been critical of Senator Feinstein in the past because she seems to lean a little too close to the Bush administration on some "defense" issues, but credit where credit is due, she came through here by co-sponsoring this proposal.
And Sheldon Whitehouse is a walking testament to why you have to throw all of the so-called moderate Republicans out of Congress. Some people made the case that it was better to have Lincoln Chafee challenging the Republican Party from the inside instead of another Democrat in the Senate. Ridiculous. Senator Whitehouse has been a smart, effective and moral leader in the Senate since he took office and he has blocked the Republicans from rubberstamping all of the administrations hideous programs with their majority in the Senate.
Look at what so-called moderate Republicans do, they always vote to cover for Bush. Always! Even for horrific programs like torture that sully the good name of the United States of America.
We fight against torture because we love America, we believe in America. These senators betray our faith with their callous political calculations and their gross moral indifference.
Some make the argument that it is better to have people like Senator Bill Nelson in office serving as a Democrat then to have a Republican in there instead. So, we have to put up with their occasional votes for torture and senseless wars against countries that didn't attack us.
Senator Nelson won his re-election campaign by 22 points. If we had run a real moderate with moral convictions instead of the conservative Democrat Nelson what would have happened? We would have beat Katherine Harris by only 12 points?
Senators like Bill Nelson are not a necessary evil. They need to be challenged in primaries. If they have no concern about a challenge from the left or the center, they will only appease the right more. If they think they only have to worry about a challenge from the right, they will only lean in that direction to guard against that challenge. At the very least, challenges from the left help to balance these representatives and make them actually represent the interest of the majority of their electorate.
In the end, what we got instead in this case was a report that says Congress will evaluate whether the benefits of torture (the CIA claims they stopped terrorist plots by torturing people, they have never shown any proof of this and I don't believe it for a second) outweigh the negative consequences. Great, evaluate away.
By the way, three Republicans even voted against evaluating the program. They don't even want to know what we do with our prisoners. See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil. As long as we don't know what horrible things our government is doing, then we're okay. That's real responsible. Remember when the Republican Party claimed to be the party of personal responsibility?
So, this final proposal that the Democrats pushed through is definitely slightly better than what the Republicans would have done. But I'm so tired of slightly better than these Republicans. Slightly better than the guys who support Dick Cheney lock-step.
Frankly, I don't care about the Democrats. The fact that someone who calls himself a Democrat wins is of no consequence to me. I care about results. I care about policy. If they lead us away from the disaster of the Bush administration, I am ecstatic. If they move to appease them, mollify them and meet them halfway or often times let them get their way completely, then I am not interested.
You don't have to waste your breath telling me about the consequences of opposing Democrats who do terrible things. What if the Republicans win instead?! I know how bad they are and I know that democracy is often a choice between the lesser of two evils. But it doesn't always have to be. That's why there are primaries.
Conservative challengers to Republicans in Congress are usually slightly to the right of Atilla the Hun. Progressive challengers to Democrats in Congress these days are the most reasonable people I have ever met. I used to be a Republican and the average Democratic incumbent is way to the right of me. This country has tilted so far to the right we have no idea where the center is anymore.
In the short term, it is imperative to remove all of these rubberstamping, pro-torture, pro-war Republicans. In the long term, the Democrats have to clear their own house.
The fact that Senator Bill Nelson calls himself a Democrat is useless if he doesn't vote that way. A vote for torture is a dark stain that should mark the legislative career of any politician who ever casts it. I hope it haunts Senator Nelson for the rest of his career. If he is going to smear the name of our country by endorsing torture, then at least his name should be smeared, too.
Follow Cenk Uygur on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CenkUygur