Not Learning Their Lines and Bumping into the Furniture

Democrats have never had much trouble from Republicans. Their Achilles heel has always been other Democrats.

Democrats have never had much trouble from Republicans. Their Achilles heel has always been other Democrats.
Nancy Pelosi looks at recent Republican success and thinks that
party discipline is the answer and so she has become the scold of the
House leadership. Harry Reid mistakes it as a numbers game and minority
Republicans in the Senate regularly eat his lunch, because he has no
talent for inspired leadership and thus no followership.

Weisman, Washington Post Staff Writer) A growing clamor among
rank-and-file Democrats to halt President Bush’s most controversial
tactics in the fight against terrorism has exposed deep divisions
within the party, with many Democrats angry that they cannot defeat
even a weakened president on issues that they believe should be front
and center.

The Democrats’ failure to rein in wiretapping
without warrants, close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay or
restore basic legal rights such as habeas corpus for terrorism suspects
has opened the party’s leaders to fierce criticism from some of their
staunchest allies — on Capitol Hill, among liberal bloggers and at
interest groups.

That’s another Washington conceit, seeing everything through the prism of Capitol Hill, bloggers and interest groups. There is
an interest group out there that those within the beltway continue to
ignore—the 300 million ‘fellow Americans’ to whom the president and
other legislators give lip-service and ignorance.
You and I and the guy across the street have long since ceased to be
‘fellow Americans’ in the purview of Washington. If we were, we would
not be treated as we have been;

  • our rights constrained,
  • our shoes removed,
  • our reputation trashed,
  • our fears made politically advantageous
  • our children, fathers and mothers killed in the service of a false war

If we were truly fellow Americans in the sense of sharing space on
the deck of our Ship of State, we would be privy to Dick Cheney’s
meetings with the energy sector, we wouldsee New Orleans restored when
Katrina struck and our families would be sent to fight those who
threaten us instead of to settle an administration’s old scores. There
would be no need to lie to us, because we would be trusted as
fellows—American fellows.

Rep. Rush D. Holt
(D-N.J.), who leads a newly created House select intelligence oversight
panel, lamented, “Democrats have been slow to recognize they are in the
majority now and can go back to really examine the fundamentals of what
we should be doing to protect democracy.”

That’s an absolutely stunning admission. Go back to really examine the fundamentals. Mr. Holt, that is the job of the minority in all cases, not something that can be gone back to when you finally find your majority and your courage. Examining the fundamentals might have kept us from this war.
Has no one taught you even the fundamental precepts of representative government? And you—with no more idea of governing than that—have
been elected to chair the Intelligence Oversight Panel? Incredible in
other times, par for the course in this Democrat Congress.

and Pelosi promised last week that they would at least confront the
president next month over his wiretapping program, with Pelosi taking
an uncompromising stand in a private conference call with House
Democrats. When lawmakers return in September, Democrats will also push
legislation to restore habeas corpus rights for terrorism suspects and
may resume an effort to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

At least confront. Well, I would say that is the very least. How brave and inspiring.

conservative Democrats and some party leaders continue to worry that
taking on those issues would expose them to Republican charges that
they are weak on terrorism. And advocates of a strong push on the
terrorism issues are increasingly skeptical that they can prevail.

Spencer Tracy famously answered a question about his remarkable acting abilities by advising, “learn your lines and don’t bump into the furniture.” The present Democratic leadership (if it dare be called that) in the House and Senate would do well to take Tracy’s advice.
Unfortunately, Pelosi and Reid Democrats have taken their cue from
the lines of fear-mongering and those lines have always been most
effectively spoken by Bush Republicans at center-stage. So the faint
Democratic complaint comes haltingly from the wings, in muttered tones.
As for the furniture, it would be hard to crash more devastatingly
into each terrorist sofa and nuclear table if one were in a strange,
plunged into complete darkness.
This has become a strange and darkened house for Democrats. They may
not be up to the task of turning on lights and straightening the moral
furniture. Because that is the task at hand—to turn light on
what has been contrived, fed to us and accepted in darkness. The
administration’s position that lighting up the very workings of freedom
and democracy is somehow a threat to the national security of America
is without precedent.
We are, our president tells us, in a decades-long war, a continual war against the dark threat of terrorist attack.

–James Madison, April 20, 1795– “Of
all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be
dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.

is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes. And
armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the
many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary
power of the Executive is extended. Its influence in dealing out
offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of
seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force of the

“The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be
traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud,
growing out of a state of war…and in the degeneracy of manners and
morals, engendered by both.

“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

are the issues that should be paraded before us at Center Stage, the
footlights up, the cast in angry chorus. But Democrats are tongue-tied.
They are afraid—fearful, actually scared shitless and silenced. Not by
the huge responsibility set upon their shoulders to uphold and repair
the freedoms of this great country, but by the accusation they are not doing all they might to protect us from a bogey-man.
Like children, the Democratic Congress has been huddled under the
bed, fearing the scary stories and things that go (or might go) bump in
the night.
James Madison, and men like him, raised themselves in rebellion
against the greatest power the world knew in their day, Imperial
England. They did so as wealthy men with everything personally at risk,
doomed to be drawn and quartered in London if they lost, their wealth
The odds were heavily against them to lose.
Today, our nation and our representatives in government (that same
government Madison gambled his life to give us) tremble before the
threat of an insurgency that might do us harm.

political fear still hovers over any legislation that touches on the
fight against terrorism, which, for Democrats, may be the new third
rail of politics.

“We can do this, but you have to keep in mind Republicans care
more about catching Democrats than catching terrorists,” said Rep. Rahm
Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

I am ashamed that Rahm Emanuel would mention Democrats being caught and see that as a reason to be kept in mind. Emanuel should proudly stand and dare
the world to watch him fulfill his responsibilities to the nation. I am
equally ashamed that we as a nation have so concerned ourselves with
being saved from terror that we have entirely lost touch with what makes us a society worth saving.
Were he alive, Spencer Tracy might agree.
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