What a wild week it’s been in D.C. You have the Congress taking a firm stand in favor of torture and against the Great Writ. Mostly along party lines, Congress passed legislation that:
- Bars bar terrorism suspects from challenging their detention or treatment through habeas corpus petitions.
- Allows prosecutors to use evidence collected through hearsay or coercion to seek criminal convictions.
- Empowers the executive branch to detain indefinitely anyone the executive branch determines to have “purposefully and materially” supported anti-U.S. hostilities. (While non-citizens are the only ones who can be tried by military tribunals, apparently U.S. citizens can be detained indefinitely under the legislation.)
The way the legislation is written, coupled with the relevant Geneva Conventions, the President is empowered to determine what forms of sexual assault, short of actual penetration, are permissible as interrogation techniques.
Which brings us to Friday of this week when Florida Republican Mark Foley’s hasty resignation from Congress after the “icky e-mails” began to surface. Apparently the e-mails were sexually explicit and directed to a 16 year old male Congressional page. This is particularly egregious since Foley was, among other things, a former co-chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children and one of the most vocal opponents of child pornography. Even more problematic in some ways is the fact that House leaders, including Dennis Hastert and John Boehner, knew of Foley’s e-mails to the House page since at least Spring of this year and did nothing about it.
And, finally, just to add to the mix, Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) said that what is wrong with the Republican Congress these days is that they bow to the “thugs and bullies” who lead the Christian Right.
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey has launched an attack on Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, saying Dobson and his “band of thugsâ€ are “nasty bulliesâ€ and accusing the Republicans of pandering to the Christian right.
He said that the GOP was adrift and rudderless in its commitment to small government. He went on to say:
“The criteria of choice in just about every behavior you see in Congress today is politics. Where in the hell did this Terri Schiavo thing come from? Thereâ€™s not a conservative, Constitution-loving, separation-of-powers guy alive in the world that could have wanted that bill on the floor.
“That was pure, blatant pandering to James Dobson. Thatâ€™s all it was. It was silly, stupid, and irresponsible. Nobody serious about the Constitution would do that. But the question was will this energize our Christian conservative base for the next election.â€
Sager asked why it seems that Christian conservatives are more powerful now than in the 1990s. Armey replied: “To a large extent because Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies. I pray devoutly every day, but being a Christian is no excuse for being stupid. Thereâ€™s a high demagoguery coefficient to issues like prayer in schools. Demagoguery doesnâ€™t work unless itâ€™s dumb . . . These issues are easy for the intellectually lazy and can appeal to a large demographic.â€
Amen, brother. Which is probably why we’re starting to see groups like the First Republicans try to steer the party back to its small government, fiscally conservative, socially tolerant roots.
In effect, regarding the detainee bill, Congress has abdicated it’s own responsibilities, deferring them instead to the increasing power of the Executive. It has also made inroads in the emasculation of American jurisprudence. This bill will ultimately be challenged, but what can be done when two of our three governing bodies agree that individuals have no rights?
Nothing like this has been on the books since WWII, when Japanese-Americans were forced into internment camps during the panic that followed Pearl Harbor. It says something about our national state of mind, that something like this could occur.
There is a lot cowardice reflected in that bill. Unreasoning fear about the level of threat actually presented by non-state actors using terrorist tactics and political fear of what will happen if a legislator stands up for the Constitution and votes against this kind of crap.
Branden Robinson says
I don’t think the Republican Party is going to be able steer itself back in the direction Goldwater had in mind.
The reason is because, while it’s not true that nature abhors a vacuum (the vast majority of the universe is empty space), power certainly does.
I would say that the takeover of the Republican Party was all but inevitable. When a core component of one’s ideology is that government is incompetent, how much competence do you expect from a person with those beliefs when they become the government?
Fiscal conservatives used to speak of (some, without much evident influence on their fellows, still do) of “starving the beast”. The trouble is that there are entrenched interests who are not at all interested in having their part of the beast get starved. The “warfare” aspect of what anarcho-capitalist Murray N. Rothbard called the “welfare/warfare state” is a prominent case in point. Halliburton, Bechtel, Kellogg, Brown, and Root, Raytheon — all of these are prime examples of big firms with tight links to the Pentagon. There is a constant flow between the civil service and these firms, so their interests will be seen to at all times. Furthermore, to advocate reduction of defense spending in any context is considered political suicide.
The result is that the only area one can get away with “starving the beast” is outside of defense. While the sterner fiscal conservatives don’t bat an eye at the thought of immediately terminating Medicare, Medicaid, AFDC, and other forms of assistance to those who are on fixed incomes or are poor, they hold that “the free market” will rectify all the problems of poverty…while forgetting, either due to ignorance or willful blindness, that there as a massive engine of market distortion in D.C. that continues to pump billions into defense contractors. And thanks to “black budgets”, those really are untold billions.
So, as far as sources of aid to the least fortunate members of society goes, the Republicans have stricken off the government, refusing to countenance a “welfare state”. The free market is stricken off as well, because there isn’t one — to create one would require the liquidation of the defense-contracting apparatchik aristocracy. And that sounds shockingly like some sort of socialist enterprise, so it will never be done. (In any event, critics of capitalism would argue that a new aristocracy would swiftly arise — the same old problem with new faces. In my view, this is likely correct, and we need only look at the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its subsequent problems with “free market” oligarchs for a contemporary example.)
What’s left, if anything systematic is to be done to aid the poor and unfortunate? NGOs remain. But, thanks to decades of suppression of labor unions and other secular organizations focused on the working poor, because it was more important to suppress socialism than help people, all that is really left are churches. For political purposes, big churches that can make grandiose gestures and accompany their acts of charity with much sound and fury, and far preferable to small, quiet ones that simply go about doing as Jesus preached without trumpeting their own virtue. Hence megachurches and the ostentatious evangelism that goes along with them.
I believe the degeneration of Goldwater conservatism into the status quo of the GOP was all but inevitable, due to the several masters the Republican Party felt it had to serve. Ideology was only one factor; an opposition to socialism — the very concept of it, not just the egregious and murderous practices of self-styled communist states — were allowed to override our basic commitments to free speech, free thought, and free association, and the bedrock principles of our nation were undermined in the name of their preservation. Just as we do today in the name of anti-terrorism, indifferent to the innocents we mulch.
But probably the most lethal flaw of the modern GOP has been its cowardice. Goldwater himself, while anti-racist, was unwilling to integrate that attitude into his theory of governance. Thus the “Party of Lincoln” became the party of the Dixiecrats, who returned to the political mainstream — on the other side.
Seldom discussed, though, is the cowardice that manifested itself in Republican economic policy. Apart from the problem of defense contractors mentioned above, is the GOP’s capitulation to market cartels of every stripe. From pharmaceutical companies to Big Media to banking to insurance, the so-called conservatives that run the Republican Party have never met a corporate welfare bill they didn’t like. They routinely create and expand massive subsidies and tax abatements to huge corporations that have already succeeded in the marketplace, robbing them of any incentive to remain competitive. Harshly critical of “wealth transfers” to the poor, these same so-called conservatives vigorously back wealth transfers in the form of economic rents that V.I. Lenin could scarcely have dreamed of.
The First Republicans have their work cut out for them — I doubt they are up to challenge, as the Libertarian Party, which is ideologically similar and has nothing to lose, has failed to demonstrate any courage or stood firm on any meaningful critique of the Republican Party. The message of the LP boils down to, “Vote for me, but if you don’t vote for me, at least don’t vote for the Democrat.”
I doubt the First Republicans will come up with anything more substantive.
 The point stands even though the USSR was nominally a socialist/communist state, not a capitalist one — because as any laissez-faire capitalist will tell you, neither the US nor the USSR have ever had a perfectly free market. Both had and have governments that interfered heavily in the market — in the U.S.’s case, even back in the Gilded Age much heralded by some capitalists. Market interference is one of the original sins of the U.S. republic, dating back at least to the era of canal-building in the early 1800s, and well-entrenched when the time came to subsidize the transcontinental rail system.
 Because the focus of Doug’s article is the conduct of the Republican Party, I will not dwell here on the cowardice of the Democratic Party. It, too, has serious problems on this front, but Democratic Party activists are already engaged in guerilla warfare against the upper echelons of the Party on exactly this front, and moreover, that Democrats are cowards in a theme harped upon incessantly by Republicans. What is more interesting, educational, and sobering, particularly in the current political cotext, is to explore the cowardice and hypocrisy of the Republican Party.
I read carefully through Branden’s excellent commentary on historical american government trends, and it was interesting especially to me since I started out as a Barry Goldwater worshipper at 22 in college and have gradually morphed into a left-wing socialist as I enter my
dotage years.How did I go down that path? Now I have some fodder for thought.
One very striking point above remains with me: That churches are all we have left to help the poor and the needy. Let Alqaida and the Taliban show us the way. Both of these ‘organizations’ have refused to lay down their arms,but have also started massive efforts to help the poor,using their ill-begotten fortunes to rebuild bombed out areas and minister basic needs
to desperate peoples,who have no other sources of aid.Government has failed,but religion is there. It’s an eerie but good insight to an emergencing pattern that Branden alluded to above.
Branden Robinson says
I think you’ve got it right. I don’t know how good Al-Quaeda and the Taliban are on the social welfare front, but Hizbollah is apparently outstanding. This wins them a great deal of support from even Lebanese who don’t share their religious ideology, and makes them far more difficult to uproot politically.
I suppose we can pick our poison:
* welfare state
* religious militias
* uphold the misanthropic sociopath as the human ideal
Republicans, conservatives, and the Libertarian Party certainly don’t want the first. I guess they get to duke it out over which of the latter two is preferable.
Without the existence of a frontier into which the “rugged individualist” types can expand, we will find people of the last category among us, to occasionally grim effect.
Sometimes I am just disgusted. Former Representative Foley the chairperson for exploited children on the hill wrote these disgusting emails to not one but several pages asking them to “measure” their, well enough said.
I am a father of a daughter was molested by another family member and this type of behavior no matter who it comes from is perversion. However in this case the person who was writing the legislation to protect children was the same person producing the emails in order to take advantage of these pages. Of course I would want to say why someone in that position due such horrific and unethical acts and be allowed to get away with it. Then I find out that this was known throughout the capital building and not acted upon by any other members of Congress.
I know there is no evidence of Mr. Foley engaging in a sexual act with anyone of the individuals but asking them to measure their, well enough said, is a form of a sexual harassment. When the family member molested my daughter, it took everything in me not to take revenge on this person, and several individuals holding me back physically. Now the Congress is asking for a full investigation into this matter for people who knew and when did they know. This would be the only full investigation that they have allowed since they took control of Congress. I don’t believe that they are going to cooperate fully in this investigation.
Last comment, Actions are always louder then words and this so-called party of Moral Values has let this individual prey on 16 and 17 years olds for years covering this up and sweeping it under rug. Is that the Moral Values they want Americanâ€™s to have?
Hopefully all of us will think about what ‘moral values’ means. Anything sexual is easily exploited by some and easily excused by others.But one thing is sure: acts can and often should be judged, but judging people by category as a group is a tenet of fascism. Nothing more need be said.
Judging is a powerful word in which indicates evidence that is weighed in the balance and found guilty or not guilty of what they are being accused. I like the word accused. When a group of individuals purposely overlook discretions of an individual then that whole group of individuals are responsible for the actions of that one individual. Cover up in not the hope of one it has the help of many. If individuals were informed and did nothing to prevent the crime from happening then they are contributing factors of that crime.
People in high positions are granted powers to protect those who are under them not exploit them.