The Political Mood
Brent Budowsky is guest blogging for Steve Clemons at The Washington Note, and a reader sent me a link to one of his articles, saying "Read this." After reading the whole thing, I’m feeling a lot more energized, and I wanted to share a couple of bits with everyone else. Maybe it’s just that I’ve gotten more than one cup of coffee into my system — but this reads like a manifesto for all of us among the disaffected and disgusted, regardless of party affiliation or philosophical credo.
…It has been said that Karl Rove is "Bush’s Brain". The more important question is: Who is Bush’s conscience? With half of America in a state of total outrage, with independent America turning in 80% numbers against the status quo and with growing unrest among conservatives, what is the Bush-Rove response? Well, its their old standby, lets demonize the gays!…
Think about this: America is engaged in a great battle of ideas against an enemy that murders children in houses of worship and cuts off the heads of the innocent, and our leaders have failed to win this battle even against an enemy so hideously evil.
And what is the response of Bush and Rove? When they are not demonizing the gays, they are waving the flag, preparing to challenge the patriotism of political opponents who prefer supporting those who wear that flag on their shoulder to using the flag as a partisan weapon in the endless political wars that will be the sad legacy of those who never learned that we are, indeed, in this together.
The reason America stands on the brink of an epic election is that this President, his party, and his apologist[s] have let loose dark forces of division and dishonor that have divided our country, alienated much of decent opinion around the world, hurt our military, abused our freedoms in the name of a politics of fear and let loose in the land a kind of politics that violates the cardinal rules of two hundred years of the American family.
In this dark and demeaning vision of political war, anything goes, to win. A heroic Senator who will spend his life in a wheelchair as the price of his heroism is slandered by a guy who never served. A recipient of the bronze and silver stars is smeared because he is in the wrong political party. A Marine Corps hero who is one of strongest supporters of the troops who ever served in Congress is called a coward on the Floor of Congress. A Chief of Staff of the Army is demeaned by ideologues and partisans who were hell bent for a war they knew nothing about.
Six courageous retired Generals speak out with conscience and the editorial page of the Washington Times prints the statute on sedition. The cable talkies run segments with titles such as Hollywood Hates America. When the topic shifts to the atrocity of Haditha one of America’s leading right wing mouthpieces says these things always happen in way and cites, shame, shame, shame, shame and infamy to him, the Marines who took Iwo Jima and the Army heroes who took Normandy with the slander that they too committed acts that were comparable to Haditha. Who in the hell do these bums think they are?
The man who sits where Washington sat, where Jefferson sat, where Lincoln sat, claims he has the unilateral, inherent power to abrogate even the Bill of Rights The man who put his hand on the Bible with the trust that the laws are faithfully executed claims he has the unilateral, inherent power to violate the laws of the land at his personal whim, and at this writing, there are more than 700 laws that he asserts the right to violate today. The man entrusted with the legacy of Founding Fathers who were among the greatest and most timeless visionaries who ever walked the earth, claims he can operate beyond the reach of courts, beyond the reach of Congress, without the knowledge of the American people.
Here is our answer to this litany of outages. The Founding Fathers were right: they knew America, this land we love, this land we share, the land of freedom and democracy was based on timeless truths that were so brilliant and profound because they were so simple and so right.
We Americans are all part of a great family, coming together from different backgrounds, with different viewpoints. Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Franklin and the others knew that in our America, we begin with an attitude of mutual respect, shared patriotism, a willingness to put our little differences aside to stand together for the more important things that constitute our common trust. Then, the Founders created institutions that were built from that attitude of shared Americanism, separation of powers, divided government, a free press based on the right to know and on the judgment that an informed citizenry will ultimately take the right course whatever our differences and debates of the moment.
The partisan extremism, demeaning attitudes, divisive strategies, disrespectful contempt of the cardinal spirit of unity and the cardinal institutions of democracy have led George W. Bush and his vision of one party rule inexorably, inevitably, to a continuing series of catastrophic disasters that will only end, when the cardinal rules of Americanism are restored. That is what the 2006 election is all about. Across the Nation and around the world today, we now know, for whom the bell tolls…
This is a righteous rant for a Sunday morning read. This is a slightly longer excerpt than I usually pull, but this portion of the article flowed so well, it just seemed a shame to try and cut anything. There is much more — and it makes for a good read with your coffee. This is just the sort of kick in the rear that I needed this morning. And I hope it gets your blood flowing as well.
And a note to everyone, whatever their political stripes, be they citizen or media or both or whatever: watch what they do, not the sleight of hand of what they say or the backdrop they choose. You cannot wrap yourself in flag and country while at the same time stomp on Constitution with your actions.
Which brings me back to a portion of the speech that Al Gore gave on Martin Luther King, Jr. day, earlier this year:
A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. They recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution – our system of checks and balances – was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."
An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution – an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."
Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, "On Common Sense" ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America’s alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that, in his phrase, "the law is king."
Vigilant adherence to the rule of law actually strengthens our democracy, of course, and strengthens America. It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint, under the rule of law.
And make no mistake, the rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed, and examined through the normal processes of government that are designed to improve policy, and avoid error. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents over-reaching and checks the accretion to power.
These are not partisan sentiments, to be lightly dismissed — this goes to the heart of who we are, and what we believe as a nation is important to the continuance of liberty and freedom in this nation of ours. The laws apply equally and across the board to everyone, the President included. Because in this country we are not beholden to a monarchy who rules by fiat — or so says our constitution and our system of laws and our entire history…despite what adherents of the unitary executive theory might argue, the Constitution sets up a system of checks and balances, and does not elevate the executive branch far above all others.
This is not divide and conquer politics, but how we do things — or how we ought to do them, in accordance with the laws of our nation. You don’t unite people by appealing to the baser levels of their nature, you merely play divide and conquer politics in a win-at-all-costs game — but wrapping yourself in gay marriage (and someone please explain to me how my marriage is threatened in any way by two people who happen to be gay and in love? Does this somehow change my marriage in the slightest that they wish to have visitation rights in the ICU or to take their kids in for medical treatment or consult with their schools or any of that?) and "flag burning"? THIS is the biggest problem these people see in our nation today — when people can’t afford both their prescriptions and food? What in the hell is going on here?
And, while we’re at it, you never, ever use a flag as an autographing tool. I’ve been saving this picture back for a while — it royally pisses me off, it’s from the 2004 campaign and yes, that is George Bush putting his signature directly on an American flag. The American Legion folks in my town would be having a heart attack if they saw the picture above, and I’m sure that’s true for folks around the country. American values and flag burning amendment, my ass. Political theater and hollow gestures do not mean you are governing — they only mean that you are campaigning, and not very well at that because the American public isn’t buying it any longer. Why trust someone whose acts contradict what he has said?
The true test of character is what you do when you think no one is watching you. With the Rubber Stamp Republican Congress providing so little oversight and accountability, you have to wonder what’s been going on in the shadows the last five years that we haven’t heard about yet, don’t you?
(Photo: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak. UPDATE: You can read more about the flag photo in this Dana Milbank column.)