Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Dems on the way ... but not there yet

Tonight's PBS Newshour featured a good example of the authoritarian swamp in which the Republican Party has mired itself - and an example of how the Democrats let them get away with it.

It was an interview with Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who's a good guy, and Republcian Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who's a Party hack:
President's Nominee Acknowledges Need for New Iraq Solution 01/30/07.

They were talking about the Iraq War. Cornyn basically did nothing but recite the Party talking points of the day like a zombie: Democrats are hypocrites, Democrats don't have alternatives, yadda, yadda. But one of the Reps' talking points of the day is this, in Cornyn's robotic version:

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), Texas: Well, I've been here in Congress in the Senate the last four years, and we've had a lot of debate about Iraq. But clearly, as we all know, what we have been doing has not been working, particularly with the rise of insurgent violence, but I don't think these resolutions, nonbinding resolutions are going to accomplish anything.

As a matter of fact, I think the only thing they are going to accomplish has already been accomplished, and that is to send a negative message to the folks who are out there on the front line, on the mission that we've asked them to do, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And I think it's demoralizing.
Now, the ordinary TV viewer will hear this for what it is, a sleazy slur that critics of Dear Leader Bush's war policies are traitors. This has been amazingly common the last couple of weeks - it's the Party line of the moment - and some Democrats, and even Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, have done a decent job of tossing that back in their faces.

Just to be clear - it's not just "rightwing" Republicans who have been floating this. Even "moderates" like Sen. Richard Lugar have gone along with this sleaze. That's assuming there's any meaningful distinction left between "rightwing" and "moderate" Republicans, which I seriously doubt.

Cornyn kept it up:

GWEN IFILL: Would you go as far as Secretary Gates did last week, when he said that this kind of debate is emboldening the enemy?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN: Well, that's what General Petraeus, of course, the new commander who was confirmed unanimously on Friday, has said during his confirmation hearing, as well. And it's ironic, Gwen, to say we're going to confirm the commander who's the architect of this plan, and we're going to send him over there, you know, but we're going to undercut them, in terms of their ability to accomplish the mission.

I just think it's a mixed message, a bad message. And I wish we'd reconsider.
Now, Durbin seems to be a decent guy and even a nice guy, from what I can tell. Here was his response immediately following:

SEN. DICK DURBIN: Not at all. First, let's make it clear: We stand behind these troops. They've done everything we've asked them to do. They've risked their lives and continue to do it, while we debate this in the safety of the Capitol.

But the simple fact of the matter is that the policy of this country needs to be decided. That decision is made by the government, by the Congress and by the president.

This kind of deliberation and debate is what America and democracy are all about. And those who want to quiet this debate and want us all to march in silent lock-step don't understand the noise of democracy as something that we shouldn't either ignore or criticize. For our troops in the field, we'll stand by them.
Now, this was a decent response. The problem is, Cornyn's slur wasn't decent, it was sleazy as all hell. He was bullying Durbin. And I'm guessing to most viewers it came across like it came across to me, that Durbin was letting Cornyn verbally push him around with the cheapest sort of sleaze.

But when a sleazy Republican practically calls you a traitor in front of a nationwide TV audience while sitting there right beside you, that's an in-you-face comment. And it deserves and in-your-face response. It's not enough to say what any normal citizen knows, "This kind of deliberation and debate is what America and democracy are all about."

Dick, the problem isn't that Cornyn doesn't understand "the noise of democracy". The problem is he's calling you a traitor to your face!

Durbin should have at least called him specifically on "slinging sleaze" or "using poisonous language" or something. Even better, he could have waved his finger in his face and said something along the lines of, "I'm pretty damned tired of the President's supporters trying to intimidate the people's elected representatives into not criticizing his failed policies when three-quarters of the American public are fed up with them!"

The Democrats are off to a good start in their new Congressional majority. Hey, I hear that Barack Obama has offered a plan for Congress to require all American troops to be out of Iraq in a year or so. I haven't heard the details, but it sounds like he's on the right track.

But they still have to constantly point out how low the Republicans have sunk in their accusations and sleaze-slinging. They won't stop until our side makes them stop.

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