Friday, November 09, 2007

If you don't stand for something, you stand for nothing.

Republicans - the party that supports torture.
Democrats - the party whose relative silence gives tacit approval to torture.

That sums it up for me right about now. I guess you can substitute “lawbreakers”, “perjurers”, “corruption”, “pissing on the Constitution”, “endless occupation of Iraq and military conflict in the Middle East” or any number of other issues for the word “torture” above, it doesn’t really matter.

But it is telling.

There are few, if any heroes. Maybe there never were but we just feel like we need one now. We do have “moderately ok on most issues most of the time”, but that’s probably a bit generous lately. Our field of Presidential candidates are definitely better than the republican field. But “better” isn’t “good enough”, and frankly, “good enough” is probably not good enough at this point in time.

Waterboarding has entered the national discussion, and there is no repercussion for engaging in, advocating for or evading a question about when you are being confirmed as the nation’s top attorney. Another $50 billion is probably going to be sunk into the hell of Iraq, despite the fact that pretty much nobody wants this to happen. Impeachment was back on the table, only to have Hoyer and Pelosi try to kill it as quickly as possible – despite the fact that it is a slam dunk.

Our choices for our so-called leaders are almost a choice of “bad” or “worse”. Sure, there are exceptions now and then, and there are examples where this isn’t the case, but where is the strong stand on oversight, torture, retroactive immunity for illegal spying, Iraq and holding people accountable for their actions? Where is the “new Congress” that was in town?

On one hand, I agree with my good friend thereisnospoon when he says that the Democarts are cynical manipulators as opposed to spineless cowards. Which makes this even more disturbing to me. Seems like the conventional wisdom is that 2008 will be huge if a strategy of finger pointing and token gestures is undertaken. Now, in most years or times, that wouldn’t be so horrible. A smart political move, and it would be much better than the alternative.

But this time around, it isn’t just “politics as usual”. There have been wholesale abuses of power – dozens of laws being broken (and the law breaking being flaunted), a radical hijacking and redistribution of wealth, an economy and currency that is on the brink of collapse and aggressively reckless or careless (take your pick) approaches to foreign policy that has set us back in relations and reputation and respect.

A significant portion of this country knows this. And they are calling, crying, nay - screaming for help – something, anything to show real and true leadership. On the economy, Iraq, oversight, radical appointments, abuses of power, accountability, the future or corruption. Hell, on anything, really.

Even the vote on Mukasey – a man that has no business being Attorney General if he has to dance around defining torture – is a perfect example. Most of the Senate Presidential candidates (including Dodd, Obama, Clinton and McCain) were too busy to vote for someone that may very well excuse torture and certainly won’t hold anyone accountable for doing it. The excuse was that they were too busy campaigning. Yet, it would seem that the best thing that you can do to campaign for President if you are a Senator is to show leadership and take bold action in your current position. It’s really the perfect job interview, yet each one of them fell flat on their face with this decision.

Is torture not something that would fall under “extraordinary circumstances”? Have you not learned from the Alito confirmation that symbolic victories are meaningless and, by the way, cause a whole helluva lot of damage down the road. (Note to Edwards supporters – even though he is not currently in the Senate, he shouldn’t be given a pass on these votes). What message does allowing someone that is a known vote suppressor to be on the Federal Election Commission send?

Playing it safe is a whole lot like a tactic in football when one team has a seemingly large and insurmountable lead called the prevent defense. If you haven’t heard about this, then all you need to know is that you want to prevent the other team from getting a big play, and usually the other team ends up scoring relatively quickly. Another and sometimes accurate way to describe the “prevent defense” is that all it does is prevent you from winning.

Right now, we are watching the Democratic Leadership use the prevent defense with respect to their governing, with an eye on the elections. We can’t afford to have this happen, since it is clear that this administration and its supporters will overstep and do whatever it takes to keep power as long as they can – and not just in government. Pretty much all of the popular opinion on major issues goes against the republicans. And many people want, no, need change, starting yesterday.

It is long past time to lead with actions and not high minded and empty rhetoric. The time for action is now. For today’s and tomorrow’s (or even next year’s) leaders, this is your audition. So far, I’d give a grade of D or if I was feeling generous a D+. And you pretty much have my vote anyway. For the 25+% of those who are undecided, you can’t afford for them to think that you failed your audition.

So, what’ll it be?

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