The deliberative nature of the legislative process has slowed the Democrats' momentum after winning the elections last November. The "100 hours" are long over, and if the Democrats have any chance of extricating our nation from the icy grip of President George W. Bush and his unindicted co-conspirators they will have to become far more aggressive.
I wouldn't be surprised if the centrist Democratic leaders in Washington, like Rahm Emanuel and Steny Hoyer, are dissuading their colleagues from putting the nation through another "Watergate-type" trauma out of fear that it might backfire on them politically. If so, the Democrats once again have proven that they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
The "Bushies," (as they like to call themselves), on the other hand, have shown they are geniuses at covering their tracks, destroying incriminating evidence, disavowing close ties with identified perps, and having fits of selective amnesia. Even when there is overwhelming evidence of fraud, false statements, and stealing they have been largely successful in stonewalling Congress.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a serial liar, is allowed to duck Congressional subpoenas as if she were a member of the Saprano family. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is given a free ride to cover up the fact that the D.o.J. under his leadership became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party.
Dennis Kucinich is on the right track by bringing forth articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney, but Democratic Party leaders are not backing him. The milquetoasts in the leadership are too scared of the political risks in addressing the Constitutional crisis that the Bush-Cheney team has dropped in their laps.
The political effects of playing nice with Bush and his cronies are threefold:
- It demoralizes the Democrats' base that was instrumental in putting the Congress in the hands of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid;
- It emboldens the Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans to stonewall, and energizes their supporters by showing they have the guts to stand and fight; and
- It shifts the focus from what the Bush regime has wrought these past six years -- a ghastly record the GOP wants swept under the rug -- and gets people thinking about the elections of 2008, instead of the malfeasance we should be attacking right now.
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In March 1968, when Robert F. Kennedy began his run for the presidency to try to stop another unpopular war, he traveled to the South where he had been vilified by a large portion of the white population for his efforts as Attorney General to racially integrate the schools and universities there. "I have come here because I seek to join with you in building a better country and a united country. And I come to Alabama because I need your help," Kennedy said. "This election will mean nothing if it leaves us, after it is all over, as divided as we were when it began. We have to begin to put our country together again. So I believe that any who seek high office this year must go before all Americans: Not just those who agree with them, but also those who disagree; recognizing that it is not just our supporters, not just those who vote for us, but all Americans, who we must lead in the difficult years ahead. And this is why I have come, at the outset of my campaign, not to New York or Chicago or Boston, but here to Alabama."
The Democrats can learn from Kennedy's 1968 campaign because, like 1968, if this country remains as divided as it is now after the election of 2008, that election too will "mean nothing." Kennedy was not advocating watering down his principles to the point where Richard Nixon and the Republicans would accept them. But instead he took a stand on the Democrats' core values and beliefs to try to move the nation in his direction. Last November, it became evident that the American people were moving the Democrats' way. Progressives must continue to shove them along.
Meanwhile, Bush seems to be following another script taken from 1968, that of President Lyndon B. Johnson: kick the disastrous, unpopular war to the next administration to deal with.
The Democrats can regain their momentum only by getting tough on Iraq and aggressively investigating the pervasive corruption of the Bush Administration. If witnesses take Condi Rice's path and duck subpoenas, the committee chairs must slap contempt of Congress charges on them and begin convening grand juries.
The House Judiciary Committee should immediately draw up articles of impeachment against Alberto Gonzales; we've listened to his lies long enough. Gonzales and Rice are the low hanging fruit for the Democrats. Gonzales should be impeached for lying to Congress and implementing Karl Rove's partisan project at the Justice Department. Condi Rice should be impeached for lying to Congress about the intelligence that led this nation on its catastrophic course in Iraq. Only a full on Constitutional showdown this summer can begin to heal the wounds George Bush has inflicted on our republic.
Joseph A. Palermo is the author of In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, (Columbia, 2001), email@example.com.