June 19, 2007
Having a Ball,
Wish They Were Here
By Mary Lyon
First, let me beg your indulgence. I'm liable to wax a little pungent here. 'Cause I want to talk about balls. Balls, in this case, would be the slang reference to that part of the anatomy (behavior-wise, it could apply figuratively to either gender) that connotes guts, cojones, courage, nerve, you get the idea. In politics, it's all about balls - having them, not having them, using them, suggesting them, faking them, strutting them, and yearning for them.
I think this is why, while George W. Bush's latest poll numbers are the worst yet, down in the high 20's, those of Congress in general are even lower. At the moment, it's reasonably and understandably perceived that Congress, specifically the Democratic Congress, has no balls. Let me just say here and now that I am very glad Nancy Pelosi got her "100 Hour Agenda" through, in far less time than that, overall. Increasing the minimum wage, endorsing stem cell research, ethics reform, more affordable student loans, and the like are all good. But their passage in the House has meant squat in the scheme of things so far (hey, how 'bout that great Stem Cell Research bill that's now the law of the land over Bush's veto, 'eh? How 'bout that minimum wage that sailed onto the books with no wheeling, dealing, or compromising, 'eh?). And as I recall, as one of millions who worked our tails off all last year to make sure the Democrats could win enough seats to reclaim the majorities in both Houses, those were not the issues that spurred us onward. Don't misunderstand me. Those bills were nice, appropriate, and much-needed. Even encouraging. But they were like getting a coupon for a small ham from the boss instead of the Christmas bonus you needed in your mid-December paycheck.
What I remember as the key motivating factors in last November's election were two critical basics: 1) STOPPING the WAR; and 2) Canceling the Rubber-Stamps and Holding the Bush administration FULLY ACCOUNTABLE. So far, on both those counts, the cupboard is bare. Perhaps even worse, the war looks to be unstoppable, as do Bush and his law-breaking buddies. As of this writing, NO ONE has been held accountable. Especially those who've testified so far that they take full responsibility for whatever it is - from Karl Rove through Alberto Gonzales through Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling and Paul McNulty and James Comey and Tim Griffin and an ever-expanding list of others. They say they're "taking full responsibility," and.? What happens to them? Nothing. What's happening with the subpoena issued to Contradicta? How many times do she, Stephen Hadley, and the rest of 'em get yet another in a nauseating series of postponements and warnings to come forward or else? Or else WHAT? So far, it's nothing but crickets chirping. What of the attempts to trace any of this back to Rove? Will he actually be forced to testify, under oath, EVER? ARE they going to force the issue, EVER? And what of the Abu Ghraib scandal that's now reared its ugly head again, thanks to Sy Hersh's interview with General Taguba, that short-circuited his career - just for telling the truth? Who knew, how much, how early, and how high up?
The most worrisome part of both these basics is that failure to do something decisive on either only weakens the case against each. As the war is allowed to drag on, more inertia sets in. There are no consequences forced upon those who defy the clear will of the people as voiced last fall. In fact, with everything now postponed until some vaporous rejiggering of the conditions in September (by which time the Pentagon, Defense Department, and White House will have been given wide berth to move the goal posts into some football stadium in a completely different solar system), the war won't even end then. Bank on it. And every warning about every subpoena defied, that falls once again on deaf ears, renders all future subpoenas as toothless as the inhabitants of every Leisure World in the country after lights out.
Which brings me to the proverbial and much-vaunted balls. Sure wish the Democrats had some, and weren't afraid to flaunt them. They had the momentum. They HAD the numbers. They even had the votes - OURS. They had the wind at their backs. And it's not the wind that's blown since then. It's them, and the golden opportunities unrealized.
In politics, balls seem to be all there is. They were evident every time George Bush campaigned with the slogan "you may not agree with me, but you know where I stand." They were absolutely in your face during that infamous "Top Gun" "Mission Accomplished" escapade in May of 2003. Pundits from Chris Matthews to Sean Hannity were slobbering over the size of that flight suit "package." And now that Fred Thompson is hinting about becoming the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan (the previous last word in manly republi-CON package-filling - it certainly wasn't Bush's "wimp factor" daddy), the gushing and swooning begins anew. It does make you wonder what the deal is with so many republic-CON men, and their panting, sighing media disciples, who simply must be presented with balls on parade - or even phonied-up shadows of them. I have heard friends who flocked to Bush in both elections rhapsodize to me about his swaggering alleged-cowboy go-it-alone he-man schtick. Even after his star began to fade with some of them, they still made excuses for supporting him because "well, at least he had balls." That whole poseur-macho thing smacks you in the face yet again, every time GOP presidential hopefuls assemble. If the tough-guy stuff hasn't worked so far, what we need, then, is MORE tough-guy stuff. Maybe it'll finally start working - sometime real soon.
Our Democrats need to start proving that they, too, have balls. And not just pretend ones. It's not good enough to say you can't score on some issue the voters care about and sent you to Capitol Hill to deal with - because you somehow don't think you have the votes. I haven't seen such dictates in any of our founding documents. NOWHERE does it stipulate that the public good must be served, or wrong-doers punished, or laws upheld, or rights safeguarded, or the Constitution preserved, protected, and defended - IF there are enough votes to do so. . If our founders focused only on what was easy, or what was most fleetingly popular, we'd all still be speaking with British accents. And the laws they carefully deliberated and finally set to parchment, if not enforced, will thus be rendered unenforceable.
John F. Kennedy once extolled the virtue of doing things that really mattered - "because they are hard." You win nothing by stooping to grab only what you can reach from the lowest branches. You earn no respect or admiration, and you certainly win no converts if that's all that's worth the bother. In Kennedy's day, the hard thing to do was to send a man to the moon and return him safely to the earth by the end of the decade. In THESE days, OUR days, it's bringing full accountability and respect for the rule of law to a rogue president and an executive branch gone mad
It's PAST time to GO FOR IT. Barbara Boxer recently chastised the whiny, arrogant "sore-loserman" James Inhofe with the committee chair's gavel in her hand (not his), and the admonishment that "elections have consequences" on her lips. I'm afraid that this will be true a year and a half, when the bad guys decide to run as "the party of change," for real, and sucker enough voters yet again, if indeed the caging of many of those voters is not addressed head-on, and stopped - by stopping the perpetrators COLD (and with cold, harsh penalties). Ours will be painted as the party of broken promises and wimps, and the other guys will be back to business as usual, on top of the world, masters of their domain yet again. And it will, unfortunately, be deserved.
It seems to me that what the Democrats need to do is find their collective cojones and swing them like so many wrecking balls. MEAN what they say. DO what they promised. DO it REGARDLESS whether they have the votes. To go for it anyway would telegraph far and wide that, yes, the Democrats ARE the party of guts. Whether they think they can or not, they still go full speed ahead in the name of what they believe and what they know to be noble and ethical and true. Damn the torpedoes. And damn the opposition. And for all those poor souls who reflexively equate might with right and brazenness with blessedness, that just might be all it takes.
Dear Dems, let's not be afraid to face what needs to be faced, and do what needs to be done. Issue the subpoenas AND enforce them. Surely you've seen enough willful and flagrant criminality by now - even fractions of which beg for serious discussion of IMPEACHMENT to begin. People around the country are beginning not just to call for it but to scream for it. If you don't show YOU, TOO have balls, you're liable to be handed your heads.
Then go DO something about it.