"You are an abolitionist, ain't you?" [the rough Missourian asked the herb-doctor]
"As to that, I cannot so readily answer. If by abolitionist you mean a zealot, I am none; but if you mean a man, who, being a man, feels for all men, slaves included, and by any lawful act, opposed to nobody's interest, and therefore, rousing nobody's enmity, would willingly abolish suffering (supposing it, in its degree, to exist) from among mankind, irrespective of color, then am I what you say."
"Picked and prudent sentiments. You are the moderate man, the invaluable understrapper of the wicked man. You, the moderate man, may be used for wrong, but are useless for right." - Herman Melville, The Confidence-Man
The Republicans, with the eager cooperation of the punditocracy, are frantically insisting that the Democrats practice "bipartisanship", i.e., go along with Bush's plans to continue the Iraq War indefinitely.
The theme of bipartisanship appeared in the Baker-Hamilton report in the letter that served as a preface, but almost nowhere else. Yet that is getting major play, and seems to have been a central theme for Baker in the cause of saving the Republican Party from the Iraq War disaster. Let's look at a bit of that appeal for the Democrats to pre-emptively surrender and let the Republicans roll over them like they did with the Iraq War Resolution in October 2002:
What we recommend in this report demands a tremendous amount of political will and cooperation by the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government. It demands skillful implementation. It demands unity of effort by government agencies. And its success depends on the unity of the American people in a time of political polarization. Americans can and must enjoy the right of robust debate within a democracy. Yet U.S. foreign policy is doomed to failure — as is any course of action in Iraq — if it is not supported by a broad, sustained consensus. The aim of our report is to move our country toward such a consensus. (my emphasis)
Anytime you see someone like Baker who's a more-than-loyal member of the authoritarian Republican Party, and in this case a prime mover for the Bush dynasty, saying something like this, "Americans can and must enjoy the right of robust debate within a democracy," immediately following by a "but", or in this case "yet", that should trigger the "Constitution in danger" alarm bells for any sentient Democrat.
I was frankly stunned at how easily the Senate Democrats let the Robert Gates nomination sail through. I'd have to say my reaction was very similar to that of Ray McGovern (Constitution Takes a New Hit From Senators at Gates Hearing Truthout.org 12/07/06):
At Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the nomination of Robert Gates to be secretary of defense, I felt as though I were paying last respects to the Constitution of the United States. But there was none of the praise customarily given to the deceased. Rather, the bouquets were fulsomely shared round about among the nominee and the senators - all of the "distinguished," but none more distinguished than the Very Reverend John Warner, the gentleman from Virginia, chairman of the committee and presider at the wake. ...
It was a sorry spectacle Tuesday, as pretentious, patrician manners trumped courage and vitiated the advise-and-consent prerogative carefully honed by the framers of our Constitution for the Senate.
In other news, "A series of particularly brutal attacks across Baghdad Tuesday resulted in at least 54 Iraqis killed and scores wounded," according to the New York Times. The US military announced that three more American soldiers were killed Monday, adding to the 13 killed over the weekend. Ten more US soldiers were killed on Wednesday. And five Marines are expected to be charged today with the killing of 24 Iraqis, many of them women and children, in the village of Haditha in November 2005.
No such bothersome details about this misbegotten war were allowed into evidence yesterday by the stuffed shirts sitting in stuffed seats in a hearing room stuffed with 80 stenographers from our domesticated press. Rather, the hearing room seemed to serve as a kind of funeral parlor for the Constitution.
The Senate Democrats will have plenty of other opportunities to fight for the Constitution over the next two years, whether they like it or not. But I'm afraid the Constitution lost this round.
And in this story, we see theSenate Democratic leaders generously offering Bush a "bipartisanship" that he's never practiced as has no intention of practicing now: Dems find proposals familiar: They say they'll help implement the ideas, which echo their own by Edward Epstein San Francisco Chronicle 12/07/06.
Epstein is a good reporter, and he opens by telling us that Congressional Democrats are "openly scornful of President Bush's Iraq policies". As they should be. But the House members he quotes give me a much better feeling than this, from the incoming Senate majority leader:
"It is up to President Bush to implement this group's recommendations. We're going to be watching very closely after Jan. 1 what the Bush administration does," said incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "On behalf of the American people, I certainly hope President Bush will implement the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group."
Why in the name of Andrew Jackson is Harry Reid talking about the Baker-Hamilton continue-the-war-indefinitely report as though its the new Holy Grail of Iraq war policy? Yeah, the report has some good ideas, as other Democrats quoted in the article say with much more sensible caution.
"On behalf of the American people, I certainly hope President Bush will implement the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group"??? Harry, how about implementing the mandate the voters just gave your party to start fighting this administration's war policy and start getting American troops out of Iraq and the United States out of this disaster of a war? Nobody elected this group of rabid Republican partisans and defanged Democratic old guys that made up the Baker commission. And, sure, they had some good things to say and some good suggestions.
But their basic policy of continuing the war indefinitely is a bad idea! It's a bad idea, and the Democrats need to be fighting against it, not acting like its their job to enforce it on behalf of Bush family fixer James Baker.
What are these Senators thinking? I'm so alarmed at seeing how the Senate Democrats are acting it almost makes me wish that Lieberman would vote with the Republicans and not put the Senate Democratic leadership out there right now as a big part of the Party's public face. But, if the Senate leadership can't fight effectively, it's better for us to know it now, not find out in 2009 when we (hopefully) have a Fighting Dem taking office as President and needing a strong leadership in both Houses of Congress.
In this report, Sandra Day O'Connor, Vernon Jordan Discuss Responses to Iraq Report PBS Newshour 12/07/06, two of the commission members put on their best "bipartisan" face and mealy-mouth about the realities of the Iraq War. Vernon Jordan was an adviser to President Bill Clinton, and Sandra Day O'Conner is a retired Supreme Court Justice, a Republican who was one of the Scalia Five who installed Dick Cheney and George Bush in the Executive Branch in 2000.
Bush the Decider has sent strong signals that he's going to blow off the commission's recommendations. But here is the pleasant, moderate exchange that occurred on the Newshour about Bush's demand for "victory":
[MARGARET WARNER:] Justice O'Connor, beginning with you, today in his first public assessment of your Iraq Study Group report, the president said, right at the outset, victory is important. And another point he said, "I believe we will prevail." Does that language strike you as in step with the very sober assessment you all came to about the prospects in Iraq?
SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR, Iraq Study Group: Well, it depends, of course, on what you mean by "victory." The report that the study group put out stated as the goal, using language of the president, something about the stability of the government in Iraq and making it able to defend itself, and support itself, and not be a threat to its neighbors or itself.
MARGARET WARNER: And, Mr. Jordan, your view on that. I mean, is victory a word? You didn't use it much in your report. Is that a word that applies to the prospects here?
VERNON JORDAN, Iraq Study Group: Yes, I don't think we ought to get caught up on the president's rhetoric. I think we ought to get caught up on the actions that he's going to take in response to this study group report.
And I would not get caught up, Margaret, onwhether he said "victory" or "get the job done." I think we ought to just see what his reaction is going to be.
I feel very good about his reaction as he spoke with us. And yesterday, he was open; he was receptive; he congratulated us on our work. And I think he is deserving of some time to read it carefully, to think about it, to consult with his advisers, and then speak to the nation.
How civilized. How moderate. How misleading. How ineffective.
Vernon Jordan preaches the "bipartisan" gospel to a Democratic Party that faces an authoritarian Republican Party headed by an administration that literally claims the right to disregard any law or Constitutional provision on their own authority. We mustn't be strident or shrill in that fight:
And what is important about that, Margaret, is that, when each of us, five Democrats, five Republicans, went to every one of the study group's meetings, we checked partisanship at the door, and we were not Republicans and Democrats. We were responsible American citizens dealing with a very serious problem. ...
But in that room, we were preparing together ideas and recommendations, not just for the president, but also for this Congress. And it is my hope that the civility that prevailed in the Iraq Study Group will now take a front seat, both in the administration and in the Congress of the United States.
Since Jordan experienced first-hand the rabid partisanship of the Republicans during the impeachment battle of the Clinton administration, you might think he wouldn't have quite such a Pollyannish position on this. Since the Republicans are far more rabidly partisan today than they were then. But I suppose that assumption would be wrong.
Then there was this exchange with O'Conner, who showed her nonpartisan dedication to the Republic by voting with the Scalia Five to install Bush as President after he lost the 2000 election:
MARGARET WARNER: And, Justice O'Connor, do you think that's realistic when we'll be talking about people who are in office?
SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR: I absolutely do. I thought that this was a good illustration of how it is possible for people of goodwill and integrity to work together toward a consensus. And that's possible in the halls of Congress, as well as outside.
There was also this bizarre comment from Scalia Five member O'Conner, discussing diplomacy:
We might go all the way back to World War II, where the United States continued to have discussions with Stalin. He was the enemy, not our friend, but we continued to have discussions. And I think we pretty much have to do the same here.
We - presumably meaning the United States - were fighting Stalin and the Soviet Union in the Second World War? Man, the Republican Party line on that piece of history changed more drastically than I had realized! Did Osama bin Laden plot the attack on Pearl Harbor, too? Jeez, talk about alternative history. What the [Cheney] was she trying to say?