Friday, September 29, 2006

Apparently Calculating

The Howler will probably be on this later, but the New York Times is mind-reading again:
WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 — The Democratic vote in the Senate on Thursday against legislation governing the treatment of terrorism suspects showed that party leaders believe that President Bush’s power to wield national security as a political issue is seriously diminished.

The most vivid example of the Democratic assessment came from the party’s many presidential hopefuls in the Senate. All of them voted against the bill, apparently calculating that Mr. Bush’s handling of Iraq has undercut the traditional Republican strength on national security and will insulate them from what are certain to be strong attacks from Republicans not only this year but also in 2008.

Democratic opponents of the legislation said their political position was driven by a substantive determination that the bill, which creates rules for interrogating and trying terrorism suspects, is fundamentally flawed and a dangerous departure from founding American principles.

Hmm. Here's what the New York Times's own editorial page had to say yesterday about why this frigging bill should have been stopped:
These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

Hmm, tossing aside habeas corpus protections and the Geneva Conventions, redefining torture and the rules of evidence, giving ridiculous new powers to an administration that has shown itself to be, at best, tragically incompetent and, at worst, shamelessly mendacious—yeah, I'd call that "fundamentally flawed and a dangerous departure from founding American principles." D'ya think it's at least possible that the 34 senators who voted against this abomination were "apparently calculating" not about the upcoming election but about whether they could still look at themselves in the mirror if they signed off on legislation that trashes some of the foundational principles of a free society? Sigh. At least the Times had the decency to call that mind-reading crap above "news analysis."

The most depressing thing, for me? Both of my senators voted for "S. 3930 As Amended"—including Democrat Bill Nelson. I hate to sound "apparently calculating," but jeez, Bill—you have a "comfortable lead" over Katherine Harris. Were you worried that too many people would believe her if she started jumping up and down and screaming "terrorist-lover!" if you voted against the American Civilization Redefinition Act? Or do you just think it's appropriate to give an incompetent and/or insane and/or mendacious administration a fresh batch of powers to abuse? I have no doubt that Harris would have voted for this monstrosity—hell, I doubt that she'd have even given it a moment's thought. It's okay to agree with Katherine Harris about some things, Bill. It's okay to agree with her that lemonade is especially refreshing in the summertime, or that it's nice to see gas approaching $2.00 a gallon again, or that bowling is a pleasant leisure activity. But you're not supposed to agree with her on matters like this. I know that you've had a distinguished career as both an astronaut and a politician, but man, if you can't stand with your party against the near-lock-step Republicans on an issue like this—well, let's just say that about the only thing that will give me much motivation to vote for you at this point is heavy contemplation of the words "Senator Harris." I wonder: when you were floating in space, looking down upon this lonely globe from a perspective that only a tiny fraction of human beings will ever have the opportunity to occupy, did you think to yourself, "Sure, orbiting the Earth is great, but what I really want is to someday be the lesser of two evils"?

Earth to legislators, and Earth to America: We are not in a state of emergency—at least not one caused by terrorists. The barbarians are not at the gates. We can fight terrorism without turning our backs on the rule of law. Yes, there are people who want to hurt us. There always have been. There always will be. Hell, y'all want to keep us safe from the big bad terrorists? Actually following through on the 9/11 Commission's recommendations might be a good start. There is no sufficiently good reason at this time to give this administration these kinds of sweeping new powers. Wake the f*ck up.

(I'm sorry for going dark for a while; I've been very busy and, frankly, I feel kind of dark. Hell, now I feel like I woke up in a different country this morning. Hopefully I'll be back a little later with some Random Flickr Blogging. Maybe that'll cheer me up. Here's to the day when we can wake up in America again.)

I wonder: when you were floating in space, looking down upon this lonely globe from a perspective that only a tiny fraction of human beings will ever have the opportunity to occupy, did you think to yourself, "Sure, orbiting the Earth is great, but what I really want is to someday be the lesser of two evils"?

He was probably thinking, "...and the *papers* want to know whose *shirts* I wear!"
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