Profiles in Courage

08/07/2007 11:11 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Forty-one House Democrats and sixteen Democratic Senators voted to grant more power to President George W. Bush to spy on Americans without court warrants.

They have betrayed the Constitution, turned their backs on their constituents, and placed crass political maneuvering over their oath of office.

They have made a mockery of their efforts to check the runaway power of the Executive Branch, and have given Bush a vote of confidence in his judgment and in his leadership.

They have granted more power to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at a time when they should be impeaching him.

They have capitulated to the "unitary executive."

They have enabled an unpopular president to run roughshod over our civil liberties, and they have stabbed their party's base in the back.

We are the ones who walk precincts for Democratic candidates. We are the ones who make phone calls late into the night. We are the ones who knock on doors, and get out the vote. We are the ones who convene meetings and hold rallies and donate our hard-earned money. We are the ones who created the groundswell of support to win the Congress in 2006.

And this is how Democratic leaders pay us back? Voting to give even more power to the already power drunk "decider?"

In 2006, Karl Rove's smear tactics failed. Republicans can no longer win elections by scaring the American people and attacking the Democrats for being "soft" on "national security." There was no earthly reason for them to fall in lockstep behind Bush's latest power grab.

Democratic "leaders" like Rahm Emanuel no doubt believe that endorsing Bush's warrantless surveillance -- even without knowing the extent of the existing NSA program -- was a stroke of genius because they think it will take the issue off the table in swing districts and states as lawmakers return home to face their constituents.

But they could not be more wrongheaded. Their collective surrender to Bush causes far more problems for the Democratic Party than it solves.

They have outraged and alienated their base -- the people they will need if they are going to win in 2008.

They have shown that they will always place political expediency over doing what is right and principled. They are duplicitous in trashing the Constitution.

Any attempt now to check the runaway powers of the Executive -- the "signing statements," secret prisons, torture, and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus -- will be seen as nothing more than political theater, posturing for the cameras before the next inevitable surrender.

The next time you see California Senator Diane Feinstein, who voted for the measure, grilling Alberto Gonzales during Judiciary Committee hearings, remember that it's nothing more than a big act, a put on.

This latest Democratic capitulation to the Republican's putative monopoly on patriotism in "wartime" fatally undermines all of the work of Representatives Henry Waxman and Jack Murtha, and Senators Patrick Leahy, Charles Schumer and all of the others who have tried to rein in this rogue president and hold Bush accountable.

In September the stage is now set for General David Petraeus's triumphal return to Washington. He will testify with great media fanfare, surrounded by a phalanx of be-ribboned generals, and tell us that although things are difficult in Iraq measurable progress is being made -- Oh, and by the way, can you give us another $120 billion?

The Democrats will fold and probably appropriate more money for Bush's war than he even asks for.

If they cannot stand up to Bush when he seeks enhanced powers to spy on Americans how will they ever stand up to Bush on the Iraq occupation? 2008 is going to be a very long year.