January 4, 2007
Remember What We Voted For
By Mary Lyon
The new year, the new Congress, the new Senate, and the new Democratic majorities have but one watch-phrase as they take over power: The watch-phrase is REMEMBER WHAT WE VOTED FOR.
I was busy all morning, starting the moment my daughter shut the front door behind her to head off to school for the day. I called my congressman (Waxman). I called my senators (Boxer, Feinstein). And I called other people's congress members and senators. The glow that comes from sitting on a large pile of laurels doesn't last long. Celebrations and victory laps notwithstanding, it's time to get to work. For anyone on the other side who is still trying to ignore the facts, it's high time they were reminded: The Democrats won. The Democrats control both houses of Congress, AND the agendas therein. And it appears as though some Democrats are going to need reminders of that, also. Mainly, they need to be nudged, and frequently so, about WHAT WE VOTED FOR.
I shot across the room to my phone to call Michigan Senator Carl Levin's office as soon as I heard the TV pundits talking about Levin's sending recent signals about the troop surge that George Bush wants to send to Iraq . The incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, an opponent of the war since he voted in 2002 against the use of military force in Iraq . But now, is he capitulating? On TV they talked about how Levin has now indicated he MIGHT support the surge, at least conditionally. I couldn't dial the number fast enough. When I got through to his office, I couldn't express my opinion ardently enough - "NO!!! NO surge!!! NO war! The war must stop NOW!!!" And the clincher: "REMEMBER WHAT WE VOTED FOR!"
I have no shame. I will call republi-CONS as well as Democrats. Mitch McConnell, Chuck Hagel, Gordon Smith and John McCain got a piece of my mind on this morning. Did THEY remember what we voted for? The war? A big fat NO. The surge? Not on your life! The GOP remaining in power? You tell me, now that the Pelosi era has begun. Continuing mindlessly to do Bush's bidding? Hardly. Two more years of republi-CON rubberstamps? I don't think so. That's not why we went to the polls in droves, in numbers that overwhelmed any Rovian attempts to game the system. Clearly, the staffers in these offices didn't want to hear such talk (except for Hagel's - they were surprisingly congenial). Perhaps on an opening day like this one, the reminders were painfully obvious enough, as they watched their colleagues get up and move out of the seats at the heads of all the tables and the House gavel relinquished from republi-CON hands. But a few more nudges can't hurt. In fact, they're essential. Moreso now than ever before.
Same thing for the Democrats. They need reminding that they are where they are because undeniable majorities of voters across the country rejected the six-year status quo. If we'd wanted more of the same, we wouldn't have worked so hard all last year to push the bad guys out of power. If we'd wanted the war to continue, or to escalate, we would have rolled over and gone back to sleep. If we'd wanted the environment, the poor, minimum-wage workers, the uninsured, the sick and elderly, our national security, our overtaxed military (among others) and our ripped-off veterans to be kept on indefinite hold, we wouldn't have bothered on November 7 th . If we'd wanted Bush to continue unchallenged and unquestioned, we would have put our sacred duty as citizens, and the dismal plight of our entire country, on ignore. But we DIDN'T.
We've just come off a year that, never mind the midterm elections, left one overriding impression on its way out: the lack of accountability. We saw it in the last week of 2006 in two ways - with two very imposing "accountability bookends." That week opened with the death of Gerald R. Ford. Even amidst all the funereal pomp and circumstance, few outside the professional eulogizers who are old enough to remember Watergate could even mention his name without adding the phrase ".he pardoned Nixon." Many interviews with Ford found him insisting til the bitter end that he'd helped a nation heal by doing so. But, especially looking through the lens of the Bush administration, many of us can only look back wistfully at the accountability moment for Nixon that got away.
The fear huddling under that wistfulness stems from the precedent that was set in that long-ago moment of letting bygones be bygones and moving forward. That's all well and good when it's an insult delivered over the backyard fence, or somebody borrowed your library book and then forgot who they lent it to, or your teenager puts the first dent in the fender of the family car. Nixon was different, an unindicted co-conspirator who was facing inevitable impeachment proceedings, and perhaps even removal from office for unspinnable high crimes and misdemeanors. The signal I'm sure Ford didn't intend to telegraph was that his pardon allowed Nixon to avoid facing actual harsh consequences for seriously criminal deeds. In effect, the lesson taught was that yes, there are select few more-fortunate-than-thou's in this country who ARE above the law. Will Bush be one of them now, also? Can we doubt that, if he finds himself eventually facing similar circumstances, he won't point to that very template as an excuse to wriggle out of reckoning's way?
The other accountability moment that bookended the back of the week was Saddam Hussein's execution. A horrendous, internationally embarrassing botch-job for all concerned. Hardly what you'd call fair, impartial, or solemn. Saddam's hanging capped a ridiculous farce of a kangaroo trial that, while it did address a vengeful murder spree, completely sidestepped the actual war crimes for which most of the world anxiously wanted him to be held responsible. The rush to judgment had no credibility whatsoever, leaving justice still unserved and the record on atrocities, complicities, and war crimes forever incomplete. Most astonishing of all, Saddam's hurried execution, surrounded by a free-for-all of taunting rowdies and hooded hyenas, actually made him look good, even sympathetic. His permanent silencing leaves the rest of us in perpetual suspicion about the many secrets he took with him to the grave. Now, we'll likely never get to the bottom of how OUR White House and OUR Pentagon once collaborated with him, built him up, armed him to the teeth, and then after using him for whatever purposes, decided he was eminently dispensable. He faced some accountability, but not a lot, and those in cahoots with him have had none.
A bleak, murky, and deeply unsatisfying way to end a year. That makes it all the more critical that the accountability lost as 2006 faded to black be resurrected, and diligently pursued in this new year. The first week of 2007 ends on a far more hopeful note than the one before it did. We're owed. We're owed answers. Lots of them. We're owed reparations, remedies, radical course changes, and fiends brought to justice, not just more slick talk and spin. We're owed an end to the war and the looting of our treasury and the raping of our Constitution and the flagrant violation of our laws and the ruining of our reputation in the eyes of the world. We're owed it, and so are the now three-thousand-plus American soldiers who've died - in vain. They gave their all for it. The rest of us voted for it last November - in unmistakable majorities. And ALL of Capitol Hill, Democrats AND the GOP alike, had better remember that.
Want to remind them? You can call the Capitol Hill switchboard TOLL FREE and ask to be transferred to anyone's office in the House and/or Senate:
1 (877) 851 - 6437
1 (800) 828 - 0498
Then go DO something about it.