As Robert Anton Wilson pointed out (or William S. Burroughs, if you prefer), hexagram 23 of the I Ching is "breaking apart." Anyone who subscribes to his "23 enigma" theory will note that this is the twenty-third installment of this column. If you throw hexagram 23, the I Ching cautions: "the roof is shattered, the house collapses." I leave you, dear reader, to draw your own conclusions as to how this relates to Democratic politics for this particular week.
But let's start with some good news, first. Very quietly (due to all the scandal-mongering in the media), the Democrats in the House of Representatives have been proving that it's not their House that has been collapsing this week. The biggest and most obvious move was to refuse to give retroactive ex post facto amnesty to telecommunications companies being sued for illegally invading Americans' privacy. This caused the Washington Post to publish the following stunning statement: "Democrats are showing no sign of buckling under the mounting political pressure." Now, this shouldn't be a "stunning" statement, since the Democrats are the majority party in the House, and since President Bush's approval ratings have been in the toilet for so long. But, sadly, that sort of sentence is indeed a rarity. Here is the whole passage from the full article, which is worth a read:
The House's action ensures that Bush will not receive surveillance legislation for several weeks. But some lawmakers from both parties said the impasse is now so deep that the issue may not be resolved until a new president takes office next year.
Bush and Republican lawmakers have shown no desire to move further toward the House Democratic leaders' position, and the Democrats are showing no sign of buckling under the mounting political pressure.
Now that's the sort of thing I look forward to reading more and more of as the final days of the Bush administration wind down!
Glenn Greenwald over at Salon.com has been doing a fantastic job of covering the entire story, so check out his column if you want more nitty-gritty details.
Now, I can't very well give the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to the entire House Democratic delegation who voted for this bill, so I am awarding it this week to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for her herding-cats efforts to hold together her party (including some of the so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats who initially were going to vote against it). There are many deserving Democrats who worked on this legislation behind the scenes, such as House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, who gets a runner-up mention for his strongly worded statement [PDF]. But Nancy Pelosi gets this week's MIDOTW "Golden Backbone" award for keeping the House Democrats together on the issue, and finally (finally!) challenging President Bush on a national security issue, in defense of the Constitution they both are supposedly sworn to uphold. Well done, Speaker Pelosi!
[Congratulate Nancy Pelosi on her Speaker of the House contact page to let her know you appreciate her efforts. And if you'd like to see her in action, basically calling Bush a liar, check her out on YouTube. You're welcome.]
While both Democratic campaigns had strong contenders for this award in the past week (don't pretend you don't know who I'm talking about), there was one man who gave an Oscar-worthy performance as Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. Luckily for me, it was unrelated to the campaigns, so I can't be accused of bias in awarding this week's award to Eliot Spitzer.
Governor Spitzer of New York was a rising star in the Democratic Party, and many had foreseen a possible White House run for him in the near future. That dream has been dashed, as has his political career, by his bedroom adventures with a woman he is not married to. For money.
My initial reaction to the scandal, and all the hyperventilating that followed in the media (as surely as night follows day), was to write a tongue-in-cheek article in defense of hookers everywhere. The Lieutenant Governor even got in a great line about lobbyists in his press conference, in response to being asked if he had ever consorted with prostitutes.
But Spitzer's world-class meltdown didn't just involve paying money for sex, it involved so many other salacious details as well that nobody else really stood a chance of this week's MDDOTW award. It wasn't just paying for sex; it was paying A LOT for sex, it was where the money came from and how it was handled, and it involved crossing state lines (bringing up possible federal Mann Act violations). Spitzer did not just go down in flames, he did the equivalent of going down in flames over the Super Bowl halftime show (ironically enough, Janet Jackson was supposed to be on Saturday Night Live this week, but she has since cancelled).
So there's really no question of awarding the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award this week to anyone else, no matter how stupid their comments may have been out on the campaign trail. For shame, Governor Spitzer!
[Eliot Spitzer is unfortunately unable to be contacted at this point, as he has a few things to work out with his family. We apologize for the lack of contact info.]
OK, enough of that. Onward to this week's Friday Talking Points, provided (as always) as a public service to any Democrats facing interviews in the media this weekend.
Volume 23 (3/14/08)
Beat the Republicans at their own framing game. The GOP has successfully demonized the word "amnesty" (in relation to immigration), so throw it right back in their collective faces. Refuse to talk about "retroactive immunity," and instead talk about "amnesty for corporations." Whenever any other term is used in a question, jump in immediately with some version of the following:
"Let us call it what it is instead of mincing words. We are talking about amnesty for gigantic corporations who may have broken the law, and stand accused of invading the privacy -- not of terrorists -- but of law-abiding American citizens. So please, the correct term is amnesty."
Ex post facto
Likewise, don't let interviewers slip away from this crucial issue (one that is simply not being discussed and which needs a spotlight) -- the Constitution forbids Congress from passing any law of this type.
"I believe in the Constitution of the United States of America. Enshrined within that document is the phrase 'Congress shall pass no ex post facto law.' For those of you who aren't lawyers, 'ex post facto' simply means 'after the fact.' Our Founding Fathers were wise enough to absolutely forbid passing any law after the fact and making it retroactive. This isn't the first time the Republicans have done this (or tried to), and my position is that any law of this type is guaranteed to be found unconstitutional by the courts. So why waste time passing such laws -- laws which fly in the face of the text of the Constitution -- when the courts are ultimately going to strike them down?"
The rule of law
Here's another fun Republican political-hay-making phrase to toss back in their faces while discussing the issue: the rule of law.
"You know, it wasn't that long ago that Republicans were lecturing the country about how they would throw down their very lives to defend the sacred principle of 'the rule of law.' How times have changed! Now, President Bush and his Republican enablers in Congress are refusing to pass laws which they have called vitally important to our national security. Bush even threatened to veto such a law if passed. The only problem is, this time they are standing their ground in order to grant special favors to special interests who may have broken the law. If these changes are as important to our national security as Bush and the Republicans claim, then they shouldn't be standing in the way just to grant amnesty to a few of their corporate buddies. They can't have it both ways. Either this is vitally important to America's security, or it's just not as important as they claim it is -- as they have shown by their actions."
The "Bush Bubble" is alive and well
Admiral William J. "Fox" Fallon resigned this week. Apparently, he and President Bush didn't see eye to eye on the advisability of attacking Iran. This one (sadly) writes itself.
"President Bush has told the American people time and time again that he listens to his 'commanders on the ground' for war advice, but this week's resignation of Admiral Fallon just goes to show that the infamous 'Bush Bubble' is still intact. We've seen over and over that any officer who doesn't tell President Bush exactly what he wants to hear is forced out. So much for taking their advice, Mr. President."
Bush vetoes CIA torture restrictions
This was expected, but is still revolting. Congress actually passed a bill which would have restricted the CIA's ability to use interrogation methods to only those outlined in the Army Field Manual. Even more disgustingly, Senator John McCain, who was himself tortured, voted against the bill.
Democrats should frame this using the words "moral" and "wrong" as often as possible.
"President Bush, aided by House Republicans, just vetoed a bill which would have plainly outlawed torture when the CIA interrogates prisoners. This is wrong. This is immoral. America should be believed around the world when we state that 'we do not torture.' We look forward to the day when a Democrat is in the White House and we begin to live up to our word again. Because it's not just an issue of following international law. It's not just an issue of following what the entire planet considers civilized behavior. To me, it's a moral issue. Some things are right, and some are wrong. I denounce the moral relativism which allows Republicans to say things are only right or wrong 'sometimes' -- apparently at the whim of the president. Make no mistake about it -- torture is morally wrong. Always. America should renounce it completely."
Tough times, indeed
President Bush admitted today that the economy "obviously is going through a tough time." Maybe he finally realized that gas is going to cost four bucks a gallon this summer. But he went on to warn:
[Bush] compared what he characterized as overly aggressive government action at this point to driving a car "in a rough patch" because it is easy to overcompensate. "It's important not to overcorrect because when you overcorrect, you end up in a ditch."
Hoo boy. This one is fun and easy!
"President Bush today warned us how not to send the economy 'into a ditch.' While it is obvious that his expertise in driving the economy into a ditch is likely the best of any man alive, I think this time around the American people would prefer someone else's hands on the steering wheel."
But that wasn't the only whopper from President Bush this week. He recently made a stunningly moronic (even for him) statement when talking to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. From the Reuters article:
"I must say, I'm a little envious," Bush said. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."
"It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks," Bush said.
Oh, really? This one's teed up and ready to smack down the fairway for any Democrat who wishes:
"If President Bush thinks it's so 'romantic' to 'be on the front lines' in a war, one wonders why he passed up the chance when he was young enough to do so. Instead of protecting the skies of Texas as a young man, he could have been participating in the equally 'romantic' Vietnam War."
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
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