On Nader, Democrats, Mukasey, and doing the right thing

by Jay Stevens

The Notorious Mark T, as have I, has long been a critic of the corporate-friendly and conservative wing of the Democratic party, which seems to predominate in Washington DC. But our varying approaches to politics manifest itself over any discussion involving Ralph Nader. Mark T thinks there’s little or no substantive difference between the parties; I think the difference that does exist is important and worth fighting for. (Mark T is also frustrated by the two-party system; seeing as we’re stuck with it, I believe we need to exert some force on it to change it, or at least, to make it more representative.)

Mark argues that if Kerry had won in 2004, we’d still be in Iraq. He could be right: Democrats are too often cowed by rightwing hawks into bad foreign policy decisions. Truman watched McArthur cross the 38th parallel in Korea, Kennedy intervened in Vietnam, Johnson escalated, and just about every significant “establishment” Democrat gave Bush the go ahead to invade Iraq. Still it’s easy to imagine Kerry standing up to torture, the politicization of federal agencies – like the Department of Justice – domestic spying, contractors in Iraq, the war profiteering in Iraq by Bush buddies, etc. In short, while our current system would likely have continued unchanged, it’s likely that the mistakes and maliciousness of our federal government would have been reduced, mismanaged money better spent, some lives saved. To me that’s a significant difference.

Of course, sometimes it’s hard to argue with Mark, when sh*t like this happens: Schumer and Feinstein signaling their approval of Bush’s Attorney General nominee, Michael Mukasey, who apparently is willing to go along with the administration’s torture policy.

Nora Ephron:

And then there are the Democrats in the Congress. What a bunch of losers, hiding behind the fact that it takes 60 votes to shut down debate and 67 to override a presidential veto. So what? So pass a law and make Bush veto it. Make him veto something every single day. Drive the guy crazy. What have you got to lose? And meanwhile what have you done? You’ve voted for the surge, you’ve voted to authorize a war against Iran, and you’re about to vote in favor of an attorney general-designate who refuses to call waterboarding torture.

Of course Mark was there to remind us of the Democrats’ failing:

The standard response to this kind of behavior is to accuse Democrats of lacking a spine. In fact, these two senators will face intense criticism for their act. It takes courage to act against your friends, for your enemies. It’s not a matter of having or lacking a spine.

It’s more basic. The Democratic Party is a catch basin for dissent. In 1968 protesters outside the convention hall in Chicago were clubbed by police as liberals inside nominated Hubert Humphrey, Vietnam War supporter. The Democratic Party has an institutional function – it corrals dissent, and then hoses it and then clubs it to death. The party leadership is made up of enablers for Republicans. To support Democrats is to invite indignity on one’s self – we now must crawl back in our holes as Bush wins yet again.

IMHO, I think that’s giving the Democratic leadership too much credit. The acceptance of Mukaskey probably has more to do with Democrats’ nervousness with the polls showing Congress with an even lower approval rating than the President. And with a major election headed our way, Schumer doesn’t want to rock the boat, create any controversy in the one area where Republicans are competitive with Democrats in the voters’ minds: how they deal with terrorism.

Still, that’s a failing. Again, Nora E:

But here’s what they should do instead:
Reject Mukasey.
Make Bush send up another nominee.
Reject that nominee if he won’t take a position on waterboarding.
And just keep on doing it.
Because it’s the right thing to do. Because waterboarding is torture. Because we are torturing people and it has to stop, and it will never stop unless the Democrats make it stop.
And forget about the Justice Department. No one will fix the Justice Department until there’s a new president.

Too often Democrats have compromised on the “right thing.” Compromising basic principles ensures that they’re no longer principles. We’re not asking for much here. Stop torture. Deny Mukaskey his appointment.


  1. Steve Wells

    I have to disagree with you Jay about this:
    “And with a major election headed our way, Schumer doesn’t want to rock the boat, create any controversy in the one area where Republicans are competitive with Democrats in the voters’ minds: how they deal with terrorism.”

    I think Schumer is backing Mukaskey for two main reasons. Number one is he personally walked Mukaskey into the Senate Chamber to introduce and champion him to the committe. This is the guy that Schumer helped pick for the job. So his personal pride and reputation is on the line here.

    Secondly, Schumer doesn’t much care about torture.

    From buzzflash:

    Here’s what Schumer, himself, had to say in a 2004 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with then Attorney General John Ashcroft:

    [blockquote]So it’s easy to sit back in the armchair and say that torture can never be used. But when you’re in the foxhole, it’s a very different deal.

    And I respect — I think we all respect the fact that the president’s in the foxhole every day. So he can hardly be blamed for asking you or his White House counsel or the Department of Defense to figure out when it comes to torture, what the law allows and when the law allows it and what there is permission to do. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A25211-2004Jun8.html
    Of course, the problem is that Bush picks people who will interpret to the law to allow him to torture, which the law does not allow him to do (nor does it allow him to outsource the torture to other nations). In fact, it is a war crime.

    Chuck Schumer knows all this.

    more at:
    http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/analysis/230 [/blockquote]

  2. As Bernies Sanders reminds us, the Democrats are a centrist party. It is only by default that they include liberals, and that only to avoid a third party movement in this country. So as the Republicans move right, so too do the Democrats, and the liberals are left as we are now, wondering what we have to do to impact policy. It seems we have no voice.

    The two major parties both fear third parties, and will unite on that issue, among others. Ross Perot made a meaningful challenge, and as a result, the parties wrested control of the debates from the League of Women Voters, and structured them thereafter so that a third party would never again be included.

    Both parties are financed by the same people. They naturally function as their financiers would have them function. So Democrats will always move away from their liberals, and towards the people who pay their bills. That is institutional structure – not conspiracy, and newly elected liberals do not change that structure. Eventually, they blend.

    Note how Hillary is now the largest recipient of health care and defense industry dollars. What changes will she make? Can we expect disappointment form her too? Of course!

  3. Jim Lang

    Dianne Feinstein – ugh. This is just the latest in a career-long string of wrong decisions. What a shame that she is representing California. Hopefully they can primary her out next time.

  4. I think Republicans often choose to run as Democrats in states that tend to elect Democrats – Feinstein, Lieberman, Baucus (Montana used to be Democratic) come to mind. And it is possible to finagle a somewhat liberal voting record by choosing your issues and counting votes carefully.

  5. Kilgore

    I agree with you Steve. I disagree that we do not need an Attorney General or that we should obstruct at all costs. That’s just silly. I believe Mukasey’s reasons for not making a statement on legality. He said he is not in favor of this policy and I believe him. There are still some moderate Republicans too, but they are dwindling in number. Still, even though I’m pretty left, I don’t think there is anything wrong with being a moderate. For starters we’d have nothing to write about.

  1. 1 Boxers and (News) Briefs « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] On Nader, Democrats, Mukasey, and doing the right thing […]




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