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Wither Democrats?


I know they’re the only game in town, but as Glenn Greenwald says, it’s hard to get behind a party when its members refuse to stand for anything.

Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday essentially assured that President Bush’s nominee to head the CIA, Gen. Michael Hayden, would not only be confirmed by the full Senate, but confirmed overwhelmingly. That’s because a majority of the Democratic Committee members (along with, needless to say, all of the Committee Republicans) voted in favor of confirming Gen. Hayden.


There was already ample grounds for attacking the Hayden nomination when it was announced, and then, right in the middle of it, an all new, highly controversial, likely illegal NSA program was revealed for which he was responsible. But that was barely a speed bump in the harmonious, smooth sailing of his confirmation.

For all the talk of the weakened and impotent presidency and the split among Republicans, it is still virtually always the case that the President gets what he wants, and does so without much difficulty. The few times he fails to — Harriet Miers, the Dubai Port deal, anti-torture legislation — is because Republicans, not Democrats, take a stand against the White House.

But by and large, what happened yesterdy with Gen. Hayden’s nomination is exactly what would have happened in 2002 and 2003. Democrats are afraid to challenge the President due to their fear — always due to their fear — that they will be depicted as mean, obstructionist and weak on national security. And so, even with an unbelievable weakened President, and even with regard to the most consequential issues — and can one doubt that installing Gen. Hayden as CIA Director is consequential? — Democrats back away from fights, take no clear position, divide against each other, and stand up for exactly nothing.

I do recognize the danger of bashing Democrats in an election year and reinforcing GOP talking points such that people get turned off of politics completely, but this is just beyond the pale.  If by some miracle we wind up with a Democratic majority in either the Senate or the House this November, it will be because the GOP lost it, not because the Democrats won anything.  

Do those Senators who voted for Hayden — Feinstein, Rockefeller, Levin and Mikulski — really believe that what the President is doing with is uncontrollable appropriation of powers is okay?  Do they really believe Hayden is a fine candidate?  As Glenn says: "

He was, after all, the Director of the NSA at the time it implemented its illegal warrantless eavesdropping program as well as its massive data-collection schemes, and he is a True Believer in the theories of presidential power which hold that the President has the right to violate the law.

Are they just playing to the polls on this issue?  Is this some cynical election ploy?  Or are they just so caught up with having a "tough on terror" image that they’re not willing to stand for anything?

I really don’t know.  But I do know one thing — whatever this is, it isn’t leadership. 

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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