Friday, January 22, 2010

Timidity Is No Virtue

Pundits and analysts are still spilling ink and electrons about the Democrats loss of Ted Kennedy's "safe" seat in Massachusetts and Democrats are still pointing fingers in all directions about the election. Coakley was a terrible candidate who ran a lackadaisical campaign. The president didn't get involved until it was too late. Key Democratic voters sat at home rather than engage in the electoral process, foolishly assuming a victory. There's probably a little truth in all the blame shoveling, but I think the real reason the seat was lost was that the public is profoundly disappointed in the government and the way it has handled the various crises facing the nation the past year.

Congressional Democrats and the White House, after promising bold and innovative change, didn't deliver even half a loaf to the people who needed it most. Instead, banks and Wall Street firms were bailed out for their failures while hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their jobs each month. The "stimulus package" didn't even tickle, much less stimulate. Health care reform turned out to be a way to give insurance and pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars more and average Americans less.

The Democratic leadership, right up to the White House, was more concerned with a squishy concept of "bipartisanship" and "making nice" so that something, anything, would pass and the party could pat itself on the back and still keep its financial sponsors happy.

Change? It is to laugh.

What is even more infuriating is that the lack of change, the lack of courage to do what needs to be done extends even to constitutional guarantees that have been the central jewels in our claim to exceptionalism. The White House now believes, as did its predecessor, that certain rights do not extend to everyone. Due process should not be accorded to those we have deemed "dangerous."

From the NY Times:

The Obama administration has decided to continue to imprison without trials nearly 50 detainees at the Guantánamo Bay military prison in Cuba because a high-level task force has concluded that they are too difficult to prosecute but too dangerous to release, an administration official said on Thursday.

However, the administration has decided that nearly 40 other detainees should be prosecuted for terrorism or related war crimes. And the remaining prisoners, about 110 men, should be repatriated or transferred to other countries for possible release, the official said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the numbers.
[Emphasis added]

The fifty detainees can't be given even a military commission trial because the evidence against them was obtained in clearly illegal fashion: by torture or by hearsay evidence from those the government can't/won't be produced at trial because either because that information was obtained illegally or because it is highly suspicious and doesn't rise to the level of acceptable evidence.

The government screwed up.

So now these men cannot be accorded the right to a trial on the charges against them . They can only be imprisoned, presumably for life, without ever having the claim that they engaged in a crime tested in a court of law. That's the American concept of justice? Of the rule of law rather than the rule of men?

I cannot accept that Americans are so cowardly that they cannot face those 50 alleged terrorists or hundreds more. If I'm wrong, and we are so terrified that we are willing to trash the Constitution, then we really have become a third-rate nation, one like the Soviets of the gulag era.

If the White House and the congressional Democrats had indeed desired change, both would have boldly asserted that these basic rights can never be forgotten, much less dissolved by fiat. They would have urged Americans to remember the nation's heritage. They would have en-couraged the nation. They would have actually led the nation the way they promised they would and the way they swore to do when taking their oaths of office. Perhaps then the electorate would have been more willing to back the leadership they elected rather than "de-elect" them by staying home on Tuesday.

I doubt, however, that the Democrats have any intention to learn this lesson from Tuesday's special election. All signs point to a further backing down, a more timid approach to the work that must be done if we are to get through these times. And that means the November elections are going to be disastrous for that party.

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Anonymous Jamie said...

It's no that hard to figure out. The Unemployment Rate is over 10% and Coakley is or was with the party in power.

7:28 AM  
Blogger James said...

While I agree with you generally, I disagree with the Americans not being easily spooked part. It's definitely one of our dominant characteristics.

7:26 AM  

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