By Don Klein
So you expected a vast change in direction for the country after the November election sweep by the Democrats who won not just the presidency, but the House of Representatives and the Senate? I suppose recent actions in Washington has brought you back to earth.
Although I lean towards the Democrats in general because I feel in most cases they are more concerned with the welfare of the public rather than guaranteeing unbridled profits of huge corporations who the Republicans usually support, I am often disappointed in the behavior of Democrats at crucial moments in history.
I recall with dismay the fact that all but one of the Senate Democrats in October 2002, including such stalwarts and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, voted in favor of the Bush legislation which authorized the inexcusable war in Iraq. Although they all insisted since that they were misled by the powers of the day, they really voted in favor of the war because they feared being stigmatized as soft on terror at the next election.
It seems being reelected is a more important priority for spineless politicians than doing what is right for the people. The Democrats are too anemic too often for my taste. They share a portion of the blame with the Republicans for the many deaths of US troops and foreign civilians in the Iraq conflict.
Today, when it is safe to oppose the war because the overwhelming majority of voters have turned against the conflict, these intrepid Democrats are all on the right side of the issue. They deserve no praise for their stance. Fortunately, this hypocracy does not include President Obama, who was against the war from the beginning. But he did not hold federal office at the time the relevant vote was taken.
You would have thought the fat-cat Democrats would have learned something from that ill-fated issue. But no, they are back at their wishy-washy ways again. While on the one hand they introduced legislation in Congress to require registration of guns and rifles, when it came down to voting on a unrelated matter they again went astray. They voted overwhelmingly in favor of an amendment to the credit card bill which allows loaded firearms to be carried on national parks property.
And we simple citizens thought the Democrats, with a strong majority in the Congress, could stop such underhanded and malicious legislative maneuvering. But this is a National Rifle Association issue and most senators lack the courage of a ladybug when it comes to thwarting the will of well organized and financially sound political action groups. I call it cowardice, but no one in Washington seems to care.
Then we come to the matter of closing the Guantanamo prison camp, a promise made by the Democratic Party’s own president before he was elected. Here is another case of categoric cowardice. Opponents of the plan circulated the ridiculous concept that more than 200 dangerous captives would be brought to US shores among the American populace if the Cuban base was closed.
The proponents of keeping the prison camp open and continuing the Bush policy of questionable legal detention of alleged terrorists were using the same fear tactic that Bush and Cheney had employed so effectively since 9/11. It was built on the basis that anything was justified in protecting Americans from another attack, even violation of the US Constitution. In order to keep Guantanamo open they had to destroy any hopeful Obama plan to close the camp.
They sold the idea of terrorists on American soil as a threat to every civilian in the country. But the fact is that these terrorists would never be set free in the US. The plan was to house them in maximum security federal prisons, from which no one has ever escaped, and try them in American courts. These facts obviously didn’t matter when timid Democratic senators voted overwhelmingly to deny the administration the funds needed to close Guantanamo.
Again the Democrats were craven at the thought of being painted weak on terror and endangering Americans by bringing these prisoners to US prisons. Gutlessness took over once again.
Worse, such shallow commitment to doing what is right when weighed against getting reelected will endanger everything that the Democrats hoped to do in Congress this term.
Before the year is over Obama hopes to pass a universal health care bill. It would not be unreasonable to think that such needed legislation might be jeopardized if Republican opponents can find an issue that would be construed by some as antithetical to the country’s welfare. They already did as much back in the Clinton years when they killed off a health care bill with a television campaign of misstatements and twisted facts.
This is what we all have to fear. If weak-kneed Democrats cannot stand on the decent principle of banning guns in national parks and funding the closing of Guantanamo, what can we expect from them on important and expensive matters like universal health care, establishing controls over business, carrying on the war in Afghanistan and delivering a greener country to us all?
Or even worse. How strongly will they support an Obama supreme court nominee if the GOP defines him to the public unflatteringly as nothing but a socialist tool?
If you are guileless enough to believe just because the Democrats hold a majority in both houses of Congress that every thing Obama promised during the campaign will come to fruition, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d be happy to sell to you.