TASTELESS, GODLESS, ETC.

Amidst heaping scorn on the American people for neither being persuaded by right-wing prescriptions for keeping us safe nor willing to follow them on faith, Jim Geraghty chooses a strange example

Think about it – the Taliban tried to assassinate Cheney yesterday. Could you imagine if that had occurred in 2002? The snarky too-bad-they-missed comments on Huffington Post would be considered too tasteless for public comment.

Funny thing is, they are considered too tasteless for public comment. That’s why our right-wing friends trolling about for examples of lefties wishing death on Dick were stuck settling for anonymous comments on the HuffingtonPost.

Truth is, wishing death on Dick Cheney isn’t the kind of thing you can do and still be praised by people running for president. Not all Republicans are so lucky – just ask John Paul Stevens.

Advertisements

SIGN OF THE TIMES?

Never in the history of Nebraska’s third congressional district has it been represented by a Democrat. How nervous are Republicans about losing the seat to Scott Kleeb in November?

They’ve sent Dick Cheney to campaign there.

Besides boding well for Democratic electoral fortunes, this news is also comforting because it gets Dick Cheney out of Washington, which should limit the damage he can do for a day. Unless he shoots someone in the face.

CHENEY IS SCARY

Every now and then a news story comes along which, while not momentous in its impact (I can’t say I take this quite as seriously as, say, John Podhoretz), nicely sums up the particular ridiculousness of our historical moment. Like when the Vice President, on one of those plentiful days off it’s in vogue to criticize Europeans for taking, shoots a friend in the neck and face.

All of the trademarks of this administration are there: the needless violence, the unnecessary cover-up, the fallback on macho posturing, the creative use of language, the heaping of blame on a former ally. Highlights: the earnest claims that “we’ve all been peppered like this once or twice” (look for Scott McClellan to start adopting this language to describe our troops in Iraq), and the apparent consensus – which poor Mr. Whittington will no doubt have to join – that it was all his own fault for sneaking up on Cheney.

THE WEEK IN FEARING FEAR ITSELF

Big week on the not-trampling-over-all-of-our-values-and-freedoms-in-the-same-of-security front. I’m skeptical of how much difference the McCain ammendment committing us not to torture will make on the ground, but it’s a good sign that even after sending Dick Cheney out of his undisclosed location and onto Capitol Hill, Bush wasn’t able to keep Congressional Republicans on the reservation (the anti-anti-torture reservation, that is). The ultimate result, in which Bush met McCain much further than halfway from his original “waterboarding is freedom” position, shows him to be a weakened President and puts this nation back on record against willfully inflicting abusive pain on prisoners. The urgency of the issue, and the limitations of legal language like McCain’s in addressing it, are reinforced in Human Rights Watch’s announcement today on pervasive torture in secret US-operated foreign prisons:

Eight detainees now held at Guantánamo described to their attorneys how they were held at a facility near Kabul at various times between 2002 and 2004. The detainees, who called the facility the “dark prison” or “prison of darkness,” said they were chained to walls, deprived of food and drinking water, and kept in total darkness with loud rap, heavy metal music, or other sounds blared for weeks at a time. The detainees offer consistent accounts about the facility, saying that U.S. and Afghan guards were not in uniform and that U.S. interrogators did not wear military attire, which suggests that the prison may have been operated by personnel from the Central Intelligence Agency…Some detainees said they were shackled in a manner that made it impossible to lie down or sleep, with restraints that caused their hands and wrists to swell up or bruise. The detainees said they were deprived of food for days at a time, and given only filthy water to drink. The detainees also said that they were held incommunicado and never visited by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross or other independent officials.

This “dark prison” report follows Friday’s New York Times revelation that President Bush has been authorizing the NSA to spy on Americans without even going through the secret courts designed for the purpose, which should shake any confidence one might have that better laws will fully set this administration straight. Bush apparently believes that he is authorized to personally designate Americans as surveillance targets based on the congressional resolution authorizing him to go to war in Afghanistan.

That Congress showed much less deference on Friday, when Bill Frist could only muster 52 votes for cloture on the Conference Committee’s version of the PATRIOT Act reauthorization, which took out all the civil liberties protections that Russ Feingold and others managed to get into the version passed unanimously by the Senate. In a striking victory for sensible privacy protections over fear-mongering, Feingold, Leahy, and company have kept the Senate from approving the Conference Committee Draft. It’s also a huge victory for Feingold personally, who has gone from being the only Senator to vote against the PATRIOT Act to leading a charge to continue debate on the bill which saw more Republicans cross over to oppose cloture than Democrats crossing over to support it. Looks like the Democratic leadership, rather than marginalizing him, is now trying to pull him into the party establishment, handing him a seat on the Intelligence Commission.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, made the news for her own sorry contribution to the discourse on patriotism and freedom: a proposal to ban flag-burning. Hers is ostensibly a compromise position in that it’s a bill rather than a constitutional amendment, and it only applies on public property or when someone is intimidated. But legitimating speech restrictions based on how uncomfortable the speech makes other people feel makes a mockery of free speech. She should know better.

Watching the objection to the Ohio Count:

1:20 Whatever the Times said, Dick Cheney sure doesn’t look happy about this.

1:30 Rep. Tubbs Jones (D-OH): “If they are willing to stand for countless hours in the rain, as many did in Ohio, then I should be willing to stand for them in the halls of Congress.”

1:35 Rep. Pryce (R-OH): Just be nice and take it like John Kerry. The election is like so 2004.

1:38 Rep. Pryce (R-OH) and Sen. DeWine (R-OH) simultaneously: Lots of newspapers agree with us. Why don’t you?

1:42 Rep. Conyers (D-MI): “Not a single election official in Ohio has given us an explanation for the massive and widespread irregularities across the state.”

1:45 Rep. Sanders (I-VT): “What today is about is to demand that the federal government begin to move forward to ensure that every voter is country can be confident that every vote is counted accurately and every voter is treated fairly.”

1:46 Rep. Blunt (R-MO): People who were elected shouldn’t attack elections. And if you attack the election process, you don’t support the electoral troops.

1:49 Sen. Durbin (D-IL): “We can and should do better…I will take [Jackson’s amendment] seriously.”

1:51 Rep. Watt (D-NC): “The eyes of the world will be watching how we handle this – we’ll not treat it as frivolous when people are denied the right to vote…If we pretend that this is frivolous, then we are not moving forward.”

1:55 Sen. Stabenow (D-MI): “In Ohio, the provisional ballot was rendered virtually worthless when Ohio’s Secretary of State ruled that the ballot was legitimate only when the ballot was cast in the precinct.”

1:57 Rep. Ney (R-OH): Your standards are too high. Anyway, Republicans get disenfranchised sometimes too.

2:00 Sen. Wyden (D-OR): Ohio has a lot to learn from Oregon. Why is the GOP more concerned about allegations that one dog got to vote than that hundreds of thousands couldn’t?

2:03 Rep. Pelosi (D-CA): “This is their only opportunity to have this debate while the country is listening, and it is appropriate for them to do so…This is not just about what happens in counting votes, but in all three phases: before, during, and after the election…lines of up to ten hours in some areas. You can deny it all you want, but it is a matter of public record that it happened, and that it is wrong.”

2:10 Rep. Reynolds (R-NY): Come on, we already passed a law about this. You guys are like a Japanese soldier who can’t surrender.

2:13 Sen. Clinton (D-NY): Can’t we at least get a hearing? Why do we get better paper trails on lottery tickets?

2:16 Sen. Reid (D-NV): “While the literacy tests and poll taxes of the past are gone, more insidious practices continue to taint our electoral system.”

2:22 Sen. Harkin (D-IA): “Standing in line hours to vote is like throwing acid in the face of democracy…There was an average of 4.9 machines in Bush districts, while there was an average of 3.9 machines in Kerry districts…What we saw was a concerted effort to suppress the right of Americans to cast a vote.”

2:25 Rep. Hayworth (R-AZ): Doesn’t Kerry’s concession speech sound better when you read it with em-pha-sis on every sin-gle sy-lla-ble?

2:27 Rep. Kucinich (D-OH): “They encouraged the use of provisional ballots to make it more difficult for minority voters to vote.”

2:30 Sen. Obama (D-IL): “This is something that we can fix…What we’ve lacked is the political will.”

2:34 Sen. Dodd (D-CT): “The real test will come in the next few days when we have the chance to introduce legislation on this.”

2:36 Sen. Voinovich (R-OH): We know how to count in Ohio. “I am proud of how the election went in Ohio.”

2: 39 Rep. Cummings (D-MD): “What we are addressing is the fundamental right to vote.”

2:40 Rep. McKinney (D-GA): “It is not only our right but our responsibility to demand full democracy at home…This is not about a recount. This is about a blackout.”

2:43 Rep. Dreier (R-CA): Democratic criticism of the functioning of the democratic process in the United States encourages terrorists. Why would anyone want to become a democracy when they see that there can be disputes?

2:47 Rep. Drake (R-VA): Either the President is an idiot, or he’s an evil genius. But not both.

2:50 Rep. Jackson (D-IL): “At present, voting in the United States is a state right, not a citizen’s right…All separate, all unequal…Our voting system is built on the sand of states’ rights…We need to build our democracy on the fundamental individual guarantee in the constitution of the right to vote.”

2:53 Rep. Lewis (D-GA): “Our electoral system is broken, and it must be fixed once for all…How can get over it when people died for the right to vote?”

2:54 Rep. Jindal (R-LA): I am really excited about getting elected, and you guys are ruining it. Next thing you know the Palestinians will sue when they lose elections.

2:57 Rep. Tiberi (R-OH): You’re hurting the feelings of election workers by criticizing things that happened during the election.

3:00 Rep. Woolsey (D-CA): “If we don’t [change], why would any American bother to vote?”

3:02 Rep. Owns (D-NY): “Our mission for democracy in Iraq would be totally shattered if we insisted that that country be split in thirty or fifty divisions, each with its own rules, each with its own standards.”

3:05 Rep. Kingston (R-GA): Dead people voting is a bigger problem than systematic disenfranchisement. If these Democrats loved America as much as my blind father, they wouldn’t mind waiting in lines.

3:07 Rep. Keller (R-FL): Michael Moore has used voodoo on Barbara Boxer.

3:13 Rep. Waters (D-CA): “There is no justification for denying the vote of someone voting in the right county but the wrong precinct. The voter’s intent is clear.”

3:16 Rep. Boehner (R-OH): You’ve disrupted my healing process. “If we really want to have a debate about how elections are run, that debate ought to happen in each of the fifty state legislatures.”

3:25 Rep. Portman (R-OH): If there was a conspiracy to disenfranchise people, I would have known about it.

3:31 Delegate Holmes Norton (D-DC): “If we are the democracy we say we are, we must show it today.”

3:41 Rep. DeLay (R-TX): The Democrats are blowing a great chance to declare support for all of Bush’s plans for the country. Me, I love the New Deal and Civil Rights. I would love to see more like that from them.

Saturday I was back in Pennsylvania talking to voters, this time in a more conservative suburban part of Plymouth Meeting. My most interesting encounter was with a 76 year-old Democrat who declined at first to mention any particular issue she concerned about but volunteered that she and her husband would vote for Kerry. Then as I was leaving, she asked if she could get my opinion on something “as a young person.” I watched her visibly struggle to describe the incident that had struck her – Kerry’s mention of Mary Cheney in the debate – and finally explain it as his reference to her being “I forget the word…um, a girl who has a girlfriend, if you know what I mean.” She was clearly troubled by the concept, and I braced myself for a difficult debate about it.

Figuring it was best to answer the question she’d explicitly asked – what I thought when Kerry mentioned her, I responded with something like, “Well, I don’t think it’s particularly necessary or gracious to bring up an opponent’s family member if they haven’t already. And I don’t think it was necessary to make his point, which itself was a good one. But I think the Cheneys complaints about it seem incredibly shallow given that they didn’t seem to have a problem when the Presidential candidate on their ticket tried to write an ammendment directed against their daughter into the constitution.”

She nodded as if carefully considering what I was saying, and it was clear that she agreed with one part and disagreed with another. And then she said something that blindsided me: “It seemed to me like he really cared about her. It seemed like he really was concerned about what she’s going through and he was trying to understand. And that really impressed me.”

Coming from a woman who couldn’t bring herself the use the word lesbian, they were very moving words to hear. I don’t know what they mean for the struggle for the White House. But in the struggle for legal equality in this country, it’s hard to see them as anything but a good sign which speaks to the desire even among many of the Americans who can’t yet reconcile themselves to other lifestyles to see leaders who respect and understand those who practice them. That is, if we’re swaying the 76 year-old white Pennsylvanian women, we’re on the right track.

More debate errata:

No surprise that Cheney’s relationship with the truth is about as close as his relationship with, say, Nelson Mandela. But while there’ve been plenty of more significant lies from him and his campaign, one is particularly easy to shoot down with one pic:

Speaking of which, it takes a special kind of chutzpah for someone on a ticket with George Bush to use the term AWOL to describe his opponent’s attendance Senate record rather than, say, his running mate’s attendance at one of those institutions which contextualize the expression AWOL (no, not Yale).

And speaking of strange imagery, who thought it would be a good idea to trot out Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) to announce that Cheney took Edwards behind a wood shed. Bizarre sexual imagery aside, is that really the Republican message to America? Now back to the bizarre sexual imagery…

Very good: “They value wealth. We value work.” I’ve always wished the Democrats would make more of the moral sinkhole behind having the government take a larger chunk of the money you make working than the money you make investing. That, and that they’d come up with better catch phrases. That one’s a keeper.