Karl Rove has resigned with the intention of “spending more time with his family.” And there is a certain kind of politician who needs to quit their political life in the interests of family — specifically, the disgraced kind.
Like any paranoid liberal, I found myself wondering “uh oh, NOW what’s he up to?” But irrespective of Rove’s future political life, I think a pause in the interests of healthy reflection would be appropriate.
For all of Rove’s talk about a “permanent Republican majority,” he managed to accomplish exactly the opposite of what he had intended. The Rovian modus operendi, carried out by Bush, Cheney, Hastert, DeLay, Frist and others was to strive to acheive a 51% legislative majority by any means necessary, then execute the law like a battering ram on the strength of “political capital.” And when I am completely honest with myself, I think - in the wake of 9/11 and the Democratic swing of the 1990’s - they would have been highly successful with their policy aims if they had not been such bullies about it.
So as a progressive, maybe I should send them each a “thank-you” note…
So to future elected officials, please take home a clear lesson: Nobody wants to be goverened this way. This style of governance only empowers your adversaries. Comporomise is part of healthy government. This does not mean “compromise your principles,” but “keep your enemies close” — and above all, try to find common ground.
The last six years have politically been a nightmare. I feel like I’ve had a concussion. But I can’t help but be an optimist. I am excited for the future. But we must be vigilant.
I expect we’ll be seeing a bit more of Karl in the future - and maybe from the wrong end of a subpoena. But till then, let’s keep slogging. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a-comin’!
Last weekend Congress passed the Protect America Act (does somebody get paid for thinking up Orwellian names for anticonstitutuional laws?) and by doing so abdicated its responsibility as a coequal branch of government. I’ve labeled those who voted in favor The Tyranny Caucus because that is what they are. By giving in to the administration on this they have proved to be either demagogues or unforgivably timid, and either way they are not worthy of the office they hold.
I’ve heard various reports this week about why it happened the way that it did. For example, Republicans wanted it passed so they could rally behind the President for something and “score” a legislative victory that divided Democrats. Or that Democrats were promised one thing in talks with the Director of National Intelligence and he ended up publicly favoring something else, at which point it was too late to chage. I’ve read about how different proposals were put on different tracks with different timelines, how some might have defied convention to switch things up on the floor, and so on. At this point I’m not the least bit interested in conspiracy theories or tales of palace intrigue; we should be only concerned with the results of what they do. It’s Occam’s razor, baby - the simplest explanation is the most likely. You don’t need to know anything about how Congress works because it’s safe to assume the outcome is what they wanted - increased, unaccountable spying. They wrote it, passed it and sent it to the President knowing he’d sign it. I’ll write it again, and if I was an all caps kind of guy I’d do that here: Congress is in favor of warrentless surveillance of American citizens. We went down this road in the seventies when people were shocked at the Church Committee’s findings. Do we need to be shocked again? Do we have to find out the hard way again that targeted but unsupervised authority inevitably metastasizes? As a country we’re saying “no thanks on learning history - we’ll just repeat it.”
Their vote over the weekend is by itself sufficient to justify their ouster at the polls. As a group I think the following can easily be said: They are unable to address the confrontation George W. Bush has imposed on them and have announced by their actions that they will not behave as a coequal branch of government. We need to write them off and start thinking about what happens after them. A few thoughts in that direction:
The FISA law deserves to remain front and center. The secretive nature of the spying on American citizens means those of us who are victims of it won’t know it. The Supreme Court’s recent infatuation with standing means we’re set up for the following: In order to sue you must have standing. However, since the wiretapping is secret the people who have standing aren’t aware of it (and certainly have no way to establish it). Therefore no one has a valid legal claim against it. Bottom line: They spy on you if they want and you just have to accept it. As long as this law is in place we may assume that every day Americans are being surveilled by the government with no oversight or paper trail. That is (should be) news every single day.
Since there is a six month sunset provision it’s theoretically possible that this outrage will go away in February. I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that based on the Spoiled Milk Principle: If you pull out some milk from your fridge, pour yourself a glass and find that it’s gone sour do you put it back in the fridge for six months and see if it gets any better? In February we’ll have the same people running the executive and legislative branches - why exactly do we expect the debate or the votes to be any different then?
Most importantly we can’t spend half a year waiting around for the legislature to get around to reaffiming it. We should take for granted that it will become permanent and start looking for people to replace the Tyranny Caucus. We should first try to identify primary challengers who will pledge complete and immediate repeal and give them all the support we can. We should look for them in both parties to give us the best chance of sending a liberty-affirming representative to Washington. The FISA changes are news and should remain ongoing news because of their continuing (unseen) damage to the constitutional balance of powers. The people who brought it to us deserve to be thrown out of office by robust, unblinking challenges in the party primary or failing that the general election.
Get ‘em out.
Below are links to the House representatives voting “yes” last night along with links to their home pages; let them know if you have any feedback on their votes. I’m checking the links now so let me know if you find a bad one and I’ll correct it. I think the great majority are good so I wanted them up as quickly as possible.
UPDATE: As for the Senate, the closest I could find was a comically opaque “dear valued customer” page that basically says don’t hold your breath. They don’t appear to be in any hurry to advertise their handiwork.
Just as an added note to Dan’s piece, I would like to remind people that impeachment is NOT the legislative equivalent of a nuclear weapon. It is a part of the constitutional process.
Congress was designed to be slow and clunky on purpose. And the Senate was designed to be slower and clunkier than the House. The business of creating law needs to be a calm and deliberative process. Congresspeople can aften be loud and obnoxious, but Congress as a whole steers like a cow - and again that is intentional.
We as a country need a strong and nimble executive, which is why the executive check on Congress - the veto - is a strong and decisive act. And when you think about it, the veto is an amazingly powerful thing.
Likewise, the constitutional check on the executive branch (and judicial branch for that matter) works in a slow and clunky legislative way. But it does NOT constitute a crisis of government, it is part of the process.
It’s no secret that I don’t care for Cheney. Or Gonzalez. Or Bush. But you know what? I respect the fact that they were fairly elected to their offices. The IMPORTANT thing is that our executive leaders follow the law. An impeachment would be a tough fight - but if Cheney and Gonzalez would start submitting to Congressional oversight and otherwise following the Constitution, there is no way that that impeachment would stand.
And that’s really what I want. Not to be punitive, but to restore order and dignity (and above all - executive restraint) to our government.
So don’t fear the “i” word. It’s part of the process!