Wednesday, September 27, 2006

the torture bill sucks, and republicans know it

With the White House-written detain and torture bill tumbling towards a vote this week, it seems that the Bush Administration will get all they want and more out of this legislation. . . and it seems that Republican Senators know this could be a political nightmare. If not, why would I be reading this:

Senate Republican leadership aides said that the floor debate could begin today and that the legislation setting rules for military commissions, as they are known, might be combined with a bill to create a new fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

What do these things have to do with one another? Well, nothing topically, and apparently nothing politically, either. The only reason the Majority would consider messing with and muddying up the vote on “the fence”—something they see as political gold, as in, red meat for their racist, xenophobic base—would be because they fear that letting President Bush’s “top legislative priority” (that would be guaranteeing his right to torture and indefinitely detain anybody, anywhere, anytime) go to a floor debate all by its lonesome would put many in the Party in the uncomfortable position of defending things like court-stripping, indefinite detention, labeling Americans and others “unlawful enemy combatants” at presidential whim, and now, a newly-added provision that allows the DoD to waive any restrictions placed on the government by this bill if they deem it “practicable or consistent with military intelligence activities.”

Now, I say that Republicans know this “could” be a political nightmare, but they also know it won’t be much of one if no one makes too much noise. Lucky for them, most Democrats seem ready to play along.

While some, like Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and maybe Russ Feingold (D-WI), “get it” and are making some noise and/or working to stop this bill from coming to a vote, the Democratic leadership seems to be afraid of its own shadow. When prompted in a recent conference call with some bloggers to come out loud and clear against this torture bill, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that you wouldn’t believe how many calls he gets telling him not to pick a fight.

Who’s making those calls? I want names. Because if you don’t think the laundry list of moral outrages contained in this legislation is worthy of a fight, you’re really not worthy of the label Democrat. I know that sounds a little “circular firing squad,” but some of us actually feel strongly about moral values like human rights and personal dignity. . . and the US Constitution. . . and I’m betting most voters feel the same way (and would admire someone standing up and stating a strong, clear, moral alternative to the Republicans’ craven cowardice).

Harry Reid, a former boxer himself, should know he can’t win this one on points, and he should be a smart enough tactician to spot when his opponent is dropping his guard or telegraphing a punch.

But, if he is, so far, he’s not showing it.

So, let’s help him. The happy recap: Republicans say they welcome a showdown on terrorism issues, and yet, with the Congressional session winding down, going into a crucial midterm election, the leadership of the Republican party is thinking about burying the debate and their vote on this “crucial” piece of terror legislation by merging it with an unrelated bill. Does that sound like welcoming a showdown to you?

Someone needs to tell Senator Reid that it’s time to come off the ropes and start swinging. Someone needs to point out that the Republicans have a glass jaw.

That someone could be you.

Fight the torture bill. Filibuster the torture bill.

Senator Harry Reid (NV)
Phone: 202-224-3542
Fax: 202-224-7327

UPDATE: Matt Stoller at MyDD has recently posted on this fight. He says there might be some difference between the Democrats’ public posture and their behind the scenes work. While I think a strong public opposition to this bill would help define Democrats for the voters—and that would be a positive—I want this bill stopped, and if Democrats get it done behind the scenes, I will applaud (just a little more quietly).

Stoller says:

The Senate is where this bill can be stopped. The key Senators to move are the Maine Republican Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. If we can shift them, we can stop this bill from being passed.

Susan Collins
461 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-2523
Fax: (202) 224-2693

Olympia Snowe
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-5344
Toll Free: (800) 432-1599
Fax: (202) 224-1946

Now, Collins and Snowe are Republicans, so what effect this Democrat from New York will have when he calls, I don’t know. I also don’t know what long-term benefit will accrue the Democratic Party if we get two Republicans to stand as the bulwark against Bush and his torture pals.

But, I reiterate, I want the bill stopped, so, dial away. . . .

(cross-posted over at Daily Kos)


Post a Comment

<< Home