Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Going the Distance

This is the message the American people delivered to Congress on Nov. 7, 2006, and this is the message we must send to President Bush.
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to the AP, on getting out of of Iraq, published March 14, 2007

Can things really be coming around on Iraq? Senate Republicans finally ended their procedural games preventing debate on a Democratic bill calling for all troops to be pulled out of Iraq by March 2008. I heavily doubt Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) read my thoughts from last Thursday in this space, but it is nice to see that the Democrats are starting to get the message, nonetheless. Bush will undoubtedly veto any such bill, but putting the Republicans on the record as supporters of this sinking-ship of a war is very valuable.

The American people are like an out-of-shape former heavyweight boxing champion: They do not have much interest in fighting, but if they do get mad, you better watch out. Americans can be amazingly apathetic, but when critical mass on an issue is reached, no politician is safe. Just ask the Republican Congressional incumbents voted out of office in November. I fully believe the weight of the American people is behind getting the U.S. out of Iraq. I think that the perception now is, except in the most partisan, Ann Coulter-infested corners of the culture, that the war was, at best, a huge mistake and, at worst, one of the biggest frauds perpetrated on the American people since Bobby Ewing stepped out of the shower and revealed that an entire season of Dallas was a dream.

So, I should be happy, right? Not quite. Iraq is one symptom of a greater disease: The wholesale lack of respect for democracy, the constitution and American values that an arrogant, single-minded, simple-minded presidential administration has imposed on the American people. That's right, I am aiming the right wing buzzwords "American values" right at its co-opters. Decency tells us that even if for some misguided reason someone sees same-sex marriage as threatening to the American way of life, disregarding the basic tenets of democracy, constitutional law and a responsive, representative government has to be acknowledged as a greater threat.

As I have written before, the administration was allowed to run wild for one and only one reason: The American people let them. I mean, if your neighbor sends his dog into your yard every day to do his business, is it the dog's fault?

It seems as though the American people have woken up on Iraq, but I am waiting for them to wake up and realize that Iraq is just one of a series of messes this administration has gotten us into. As a result, I am looking very carefully at how the current Justice Department saga plays out, with Bush's longtime right-hand man, Alberto Gonzales, smack in the middle of it.

In short, the Attorney General of the United States, despite earlier assurances to Congress, systematically set out to evaluate and, in some cases fire, U.S. Attorneys across the country based on how loyal they were to the President's policies. That is, the evaluations and decisions were based on politics. How much further this policy goes up the ladder is unclear. But, it is nearly universally accepted that no other administration, Democratic or Republican, has ever politicized the justice department in this way. Political gain was put ahead of the rule of law. I got nauseated just typing that line.

An encroachment on our freedom (again, using one of the right wing's favorite words against them) is an affront to what it means (or, at least, has meant) to be an American. Sen. Charles Schumer has called for Gonzales to resign. Every Democrat (and Republican, for that matter) in the Senate should follow Schumer's lead.

Bush was quoted today in a AP story as saying he was "troubled" by the Justice Department's misleading explanations about why the U.S. Attorneys were fired. I smiled when I read that. Just like he said that he would be angry with anyone who was responsible for the Joseph Wilson/Valerie Plame leak, as if he had nothing to do with it. Even if he didn't, he must have gotten over his anger, seeing as he defended Scooter Libby after he was convicted for lying about it.

So, you will forgive me for not trusting Bush's claim that he is "troubled." Okay, Mr. President, show us you are troubled: Either demand Gonzales's resignation or fire him. Prove to the American people that you understand the magnitude (and mangle-tude) of what has happened. Anything less mocks the idea of America being a place of freedom and democracy. It is doubtful Bush will sack Gonzales unless he thinks Gonzales can be a Scooter Libby scapegoat. That is why the Democrats have a responsibility to not only go after Gonzales, but to dig deeper and see how far up in the administration this behavior went.

The American people landed a hay maker in November. I would love to see them follow it up with a barrage of rights and lefts that knock this administration through the ropes, out of the ring and onto the first row of big-money spectators (I'm guessing they would be Halliburton executives). It can happen, but it will take the Democrats standing in the American people's corner and yelling out, in their best Mickey voice, "You can do it, Rock!" The Democrats should work fast, though. After tonight, the American people have five days off from their real priority, watching American Idol.