Friday, July 18, 2008

A capsule summary of a sorry record and a question

I noticed that Richard at American Leftist provided his readers a service by highlighting a list of the actions (provided by Glen Greenwald) taken by the Democrat-led Congress since the current Congressional session started. It's not a pretty picture:

  • Repeatedly funded -- at the White House's insistence -- the Iraq War without conditions;

  • Defeated -- at the White House's insistence -- Jim Webb's bill to increase the intervals between deployments for U.S. troops;

  • Defeated -- at the White House's insistence -- a bill to restore habeas corpus, which had been abolished by the Military Commissions Act, enacted before the 2006 election with substantial Democratic and virtually unanimous GOP support;

  • Enacted -- at the White House's insistence and with substantial Democratic and virtually unanimous Republican support
  • -- the so-called Protect America Act, vesting the President with extreme new warrantless eavesdropping powers;

  • Overwhelmingly approved the Senate's Kyl-Lieberman Resolution, to declare parts of the Iranian Government a "terrorist organization," an extremely belligerent resolution modeled after those which made "regime change" the official U.S. Government position towards Iraq;
  • Deleted from a pending bill -- at the direction of the House Democratic leadership and at the insistence of the White House -- a provision merely to require Congressional approval before the Bush administration can attack Iran;

  • Overwhelmingly enacted -- at the White House's insistence, and with substantial Democratic and virtually unanimous GOP support -- the "FISA Amendments Act of 2008," to vest the President with broad new warrantless eavesdropping powers and to immunize lawbreaking telecoms, all but putting an end to any chance for a real investigation and judicial adjudication of the Bush administration's illegal NSA spying program;

  • Confirmed, with the indispensable support of two key Democratic Senators, Bush's nominee for Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, despite his support for radical Bush theories of executive power and his refusal to oppose torture;

  • Stood by passively and impotently while Bush officials flagrantly ignored their Subpoenas and refused to comply with their investigations.
  • That's not to mention the continued and persistent refusal by Congress to consider impeachment, even when there is plenty of good reason to do so. I guess there's always that faint hope of a post-term impeachment, but I wouldn't exactly bet the ranch on that either.

    The question Richard poses is one that Greenwald would likely never consider:
    Through these actions, the Democrats have been approving and financing neoconservative policies, thus raising the question, does the term neoconservative have any meaning, beyond its historic context? After all, if the President and the Congress are walking together on these issues, what use, if any, does it have for enhancing our understanding of the way by which this country is governed?


    By continuing to use the term as a way of explaining US foreign policy, are we accidentally deceiving people into believing that our policies in Iraq, the Middle East and elsewhere are the consequences of the influence of a small, influential, entrenched group, when, in fact, there is general unanimity through the US social and political elite?
    I didn't have particularly high hopes in the immediate aftermath of the November 2006 elections. As I was saying at the time, the Dems won that one by default, by being "less bad" than the GOP. Even before the votes were cast, the soon-to-be-Speaker Pelosi was already taking impeachment "off the table." That statement then was enough of a foreshadowing of what was to come. As I try to come to grips with the legacy of the 110th session, I would even question whether it was truly "less bad" than the 109th, which at that point struck me as the absolute worst Congressional session of my lifetime. As it stands now, the 109th has some pretty stiff competition, and I'm not terribly optimistic about the 111th session that starts next January. I hold on to the faint hope that if the "progressive" wet dream comes true and the Dems manage to capture the White House and expand majorities in the House and Senate, the resulting status quo will finally disabuse us all of the notion that the Dems are an opposition party or a force for defending civil liberties and human rights.

    Past behavior is a good, if imperfect, predictor of future behavior - at least good enough to suggest having low expectations for next year's crop of Democrats. You will not be getting "more and better" Democrats, rather you will be getting more of the same. What remains to be seen is if those among the blogging punditry and elsewhere who were passionately against torture, mass civilian casualties, and erosion of civil rights and liberties when they could still plausibly lay the blame on the GOP will hold their favored party's leaders to the same standard. From what I've already observed on the gated community blogs with regards to the pathetic performance of Pelosi et al, I'm expecting to see a lot of excuse making in the years ahead.

    This is all a very long-winded way of saying that the neocon term is rapidly losing whatever meaning it may once have had, and once more asserting that the elites within both parties are basically on the same page. There may or may not be a dime's worth of difference between the Dems and the Rethugs, but that difference is so miniscule as to be practically meaningless. America's governing elites are becoming more brazenly authoritarian; the question remains is whether there is a sufficient disconnect between the elites and the rest of us to finally spark some resistance.

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