"Shallow Throat": Do Dems Have a Death
January 17, 2006
By Bernard Weiner, The
Throat" joined me at a mostly-deserted park in Virginia, red-faced
and shaking with anger. I didn't even have to ask a question before
the rage exploded out:
"I can't believe your Democrat friends are blowing it once again!
The Bushies are imploding in one scandal after another, it's dictator-time,
the GOP in Congress is tarred by the Abramoff corruption brush,
more attacks on Mideast countries are coming soon, Bush ordered
spying on Americans with no court permission, impeachment momentum
is in the air - and the Dems have let the President off the hook
once again! How many times are you going to push that boulder up
the steep hill to the top and then let it roll back down again?
Do you liberals really have a death-wish?"
Normally, I have to contact the secretive GOP mole high up in
the Bush Administration, but this time Shallow Throat came looking
for me. To vent, to explode, to dish.
"Whoa there," I said, as we walked quickly down a tree-lined path.
"Slow down and tell me what's wrong. And, by the way, I'm not a
Democratic consultant, I just play one on the Internet. I presume
you're talking about Alito escaping the Judiciary Committee noose
in his hearing?"
"No, no, you're missing the point. Your Democrat friends - MoveOn.org,
Democratic pols, liberal pundits - always miss the point. They're
great when they finally decide to hone in on something, usually
minor, but they constantly miss the big picture, and rarely have
a world-view, a philosophy, even a sense of what their political
enemies are trying to do to them. No wonder you guys lose elections
- wait, before you call me on that last one, I'll admit: balloting
fraud helps, too."
"So what is the 'big picture' here? What did the Democrats ignore?"
THE UNITARY DICTATORSHIP
"The reality they're missing is that Bush & Co. long ago declared
war on our democratic institutions, and the liberals pretend that
it never really happened. Bush & Co. have set themselves up as a
dictatorship, where, under an extreme interpretation of 'the unitary
executive' theory, the president can violate whatever laws he wishes
whenever he wishes, totally negating the Legislative Branch's lawmaking
and oversight powers. They've been doing this in secret for years
- using the 'national security' dodge when carrying out and condoning
torture, domestic spying on citizens' emails and phone calls and
so on - and now, thanks only to some whistleblower friends of mine
inside the Administration, the whole rotten, stinking pile is out
in the open.
"The issue is joined, and yet the Dems simply can't face that
they're going to have to really fight for freedom and power, not
just mouth the words. The Alito hearings were the perfect platform
to make their points openly, and with all that free airtime, and
they dropped the ball."
"But they did ask Alito plenty of questions about presidential
overreach," I responded. "It's not like they ignored the issue."
"Yeah, they asked some questions, a well-rehearsed Alito bobbed
and weaved with platitudes, and then the Dems moved on to another
line of questioning, as if each issue were equal and a perfectly
normal difference of opinion. What you and your friends are failing
to grasp is that this is the issue of our time - the amassing
of total political and military power in the hands of a few dangerous,
power-crazed officials down in a fantasy bunker. The result of this
denial has led to a withering away of other countervailing powers
in our society, in the Judiciary, the Press, the Legislative branch.
It happened in Germany in the '30s, and it is starting to happen
here. If we don't stop them now, we may never have another good
opportunity to do so."
"But you still haven't told me what the Dems - who are the minority
party, remember, with little or no power - could have done in the
Alito hearing other than to press the issue with the nominee," I
TAKE DISSENT TO THE NEXT LEVEL
"Think creatively!" shouted Shallow Throat. "If the Democrats
truly and sincerely believe America and the Constitution are in
imminent danger from this wild, power-hungry crew in the White House
- and, believe me, you guys only have seen the tip of the iceberg
as to how bad it is - they can't keep behaving in the normal manner.
"The Senate Democrats could have reined in their individual egos,
organized themselves and, in effect, held an educational sit-in
during the hearings, using their media face-time to lay out the
facts of Bush's cockamamie theory underlying his assumption of total
power. They could have met elsewhere in the Capitol and held their
own hearings, a la John Conyers in the House, about what
Bush has done. They could have said they would be unable to vote
for Alito as long as he avoided telling the country his philosophical
views - not how he might rule on particular cases - on the key issues.
As a united body of senators, they could have indicated their support
for impeachment hearings based on the usurpation of total power
(tying the nominee to this right-wing agenda), domestic spying,
torture, corruption, massive lies, etc.
"Instead, they just lobbed a few easy-to-deflect questions at
Alito and moved on. If Alito is confirmed to the Supreme Court (joining
Roberts, also a supporter of expanded executive power during 'wartime'),
the likelihood of more police-state tactics and shredding of more
Constitutional protections and more spying on ordinary citizens
will move us further along toward an authoritarian, one-party state.
Although they seem to recognize this, the Dems' questions (too much
on Roe) and disorganized, noncholant approach suggest that they
don't really care to try to stop this movement toward an American
type of fascism."
"You, a moderate conservative, think America is heading into fascism?"
I asked, somewhat shocked.
MANY IN GOP FEAR BIG-BROTHER GOVT.
"It's not just me. There are so many distressed traditional Republican
conservatives out there, always opposed to Big Brother government,
who think likewise. Even Barron's, that establishment business magazine,
is of a similar mind, along with lots of military and intelligence
types still inside the administration, but scared to death of saying
anything. I'm nervous just being here with you, Bernie. God help
me if anybody sees me."
"I think this place is out of the way enough, and you're wearing
a wig and dark glasses," I replied. "But what I'm interested in
finding out is: Do you think it's too late, is it all a lost cause?"
"Almost, but maybe there still are ways to stop this reckless
bunch of ideologues. First of all, the Democrats have to stay united
and filibuster the hell out of the Alito nomination. And they have
to work on prying a few of the Republican moderates to pledge to
vote no, based on the clear indication by Alito that he's willing
to re-open the Roe decision, and judicially blessing Bush's assumption
of sweeping powers over citizens' privacy, positions not favored
by a great many anti-big-government conservatives.
"The hearings may have been a predictable dance, but they did
get Alito to reveal several things: First, that he lied to somebody
about being a member of the bigoted Concerned Alumni of Princeton;
either he lied to Reagan officials to get a job when he asserted
that he had been a member, or he lied to the Senators when he claimed
he couldn't remember if he was a member. (I wracked my brain and
I just can't remember if I was a member of the Klan 20 years ago.
ROE A GONER, BUSH POWER-GRAB OKd
"Second, Alito believes many other key issues are 'settled law'
precedents, but on executive power and abortion, clearly he's ready
to vote to tear away at Roe and to support Bush in his assumption
of more and more power, with little oversight. Some of the moderate
GOP senators are greatly concerned about the Legislative Branch
being stripped of its power, throwing the checks-and-balances system
out of whack, so they might be peeled away here. Folks like Collins
and Snowe and Chafee and maybe even Warner and McCain (who is pissed
at the way Bush humiliated him on his torture amendment, saying
he wouldn't necessarily honor it).
"Third, key Democratic Senators and House members should be willing
to risk arrest for civil disobedience by joining a sit-in outside
the White House gates, along with tens of thousands of ordinary
citizens, protesting Bush's breaking of laws passed by Congress
and claiming he can and will do it again and again, whenever he
"We need men and women of courage to drive this issue into the
mainstream media's front page and TV screens, day after day; imagine
the impact if, say, Senators Boxer, Feinstein and Leahy were to
put their bodies where their mouths are on the war in Iraq and on
Bush's in-your-face executive power-grabbing. If the Dems are serious
about confronting Bush where he's weakest, on breaking laws with
impunity, then they've got to up the ante and take some calculated
risks. Doing so automatically will move the impeachment ball forward.
"Fourth, it's not too late for the Dem senators to start holding
hearings on their own - or talking about Alito and over-reaching
executive power during a filibuster on his nomination - even if
the GOP won't initiate official probes on Bush's having violated
the law. (By the way, it was easy for Alito to say that even a President
has to remain within the law, because, if he gets onto the Supreme
Court, he'll help redefine 'the law' so that Bush always will be
seen to be 'inside' it.) Witnesses could be called at such hearings,
from inside and outside the government, to explain how Bush is a
serial lawbreaker and needs to be reined in, either electorally
at the mid-term balloting later this year or through the impeachment
"Finally, don't forget that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald
may drop a Rove-indictment bomb any day now on the White House.
Bush and Cheney might be forced to testify in such a case - or Bush
might feel constrained to issue a pardon in advance of Rove going
to court, which obvious coverup ploy would add another charge to
the impeachment list."
DEMS MUST STEP OUT COURAGEOUSLY
I had to ask the next question: "Do you really believe the Democrats
have enough courage to do at least some of what you're suggesting?"
"No," ST said, "but they're slowly coming to realize that unless
they do something dramatic to save the republic from the worst of
the Bush recklessness and power-amassment, their own days and their
power to get things done are numbered, and with more wars of choice
in the offing. The Dems will never ever get back in power again
unless Bush & Co. are brought down politically, through impeachment.
We can't count on Bush and Cheney resigning on their own volition,
on Fitzgerald doing it for them, on unsupervised voting-machine
tallies (by the Republican-supporting computer-voting companies
who control the counting of ballot) giving them earned victories.
In short, the Dems and their moderate GOP allies are going to have
to force the issue themselves.
"The Dem base - and a lot of angry traditional Republican conservatives
and military officers at the Pentagon and intelligence officers
at the CIA and elsewhere - are ready for courageous action on their
leaders' part. But those leaders have to be willing to step out,
take a deep breath and make the moves that need to be made to get
rid of this corrupt, incompetent, vicious, power-mad crew. If they
don't, we're all liable to go down with them. There are no more
chances. This is it."
Shallow Throat turned off my tape-recorder and, before jogging
out of the park, said: "Get this conversation published!" Which
I am dutifully doing.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations,
has had numerous conversations with the Shallow
Throat character. He has taught at various universities, worked
as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and
currently co-edits The
Crisis Papers. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crisis Papers Archive