In director Brian De Palma's 1987 classic film, The Untouchables, Kevin Costner, as Eliot Ness, has recruited Sean Connery, playing tough cop Jim Malone, in the federal government's effort to get gangster Al Capone. Malone tells Ness, like it is, when he counsels the fed on the "Chicago way": "They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of theirs to the morgue. That's the 'Chicago way.'"
There's been an awful lot of street noise that's gotten called 'lessons learned,' from prior experiences. But, unless a behavior or an action is demonstrably altered as a consequence of those lessons taught, ain't nothin' been learned.
As I listen to the taunts and threats being hurled at the Dems by the Right, and the Democratic lawmakers' responses, somehow it just doesn't seem that the majority party has learned much, if anything at all, from the offerings presented to them as lessons by the Republicans.
When the GOP rammed the Bush tax cuts through the House and used reconciliation in the Senate, to avoid a Democratic filibuster, we heard the mantra that "elections have consequences." George W. Bush got more of his judicial and cabinet appointments approved, and in a shorter period than any recent president. But when just a few of the most outrageous rightwing candidates failed to get an immediate stamp of approval from the Senate we repeatedly heard Utah's Orrin Hatch plaintively opine how "The president is entitled to have whomever he wants in his cabinet. All we're asking for is a simple up or down majority vote," because after all, "elections have consequences."
For eight years the country got bankrupting policies. (Note: Comptroller David Walker of the GAO testified in numerous House and Senate hearings that the horrendous budget deficits that were doubling the national debt were overwhelmingly the result of the tax cuts, and that reducing discretionary spending to zero would not have dramatically changed the fact the country was deep in the red.) We got wars. We got lies. We got federal department and judicial appointments based on cronyism and political orientations, not competence or science. We got gondolas heaped with shame and embarrassment. And it was all, we were told, because "elections have consequences."
And the Dems hung their heads, put their tails between their legs, and said "okay, I guess you're right."
It is 2009. In the elections of both 2006 and 2008 the people of the United States spoke more loudly than they had in nearly three-quarters of a century: "We've had it, we're sick of it, and we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any longer."
Senator Barack Obama offered conciliation to the Republicans, and a desire to work in a bipartisan manner, to seek GOP ideas and opinions on all the issues.
But all that President Obama received from the GOP was the back of the hand, blatant threats, and "I hope Obama fails" oratory. It is completely logical to presume that, by their recent remarks, ex-Vice President Cheney and political advisor Karl Rove drop to their knees each night and pray that the US is horrendously struck by one or more terrorist attacks. They must be supposing that then the American public would at last see that they and the immoral and brutal tactics and policies were right, were efficacious after all, and it would usher the GOP back into power. That people suffer, that hundreds of thousands die is of no matter to them. Across the board, from boardrooms to church pulpits to elected office, all that counts to Republicans and conservatives is power!
Republicans have demanded what amounts to veto power over not only presidential department and judicial appointments, but over executive orders as well. Utah's Robert Bennett, a Republican, has placed a hold on the nomination of David Hayes to be Interior's Deputy Secretary. The reason: At the end of his last term, the Bush Interior Department approved hundreds of oil and gas leases on tens of thousands of acres of public lands, three of which are immediately adjacent national parks in Utah, all without the legally required public review. When the current Interior Secretary called a time out to consider the effects on the environment of the leases, Bennett wielded the veto axe over the Hayes nomination.
In the same spirit, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have demanded the right to deep-six any Obama judicial appointment they feel might tilt the now highly conservative federal court system the least to the middle. Any Democratic wiggle from acceptance of the demand will trigger a Republican nuclear attack.
Now that the most lurid details of the Bush administration deprecations have been leaking to light, by the most recent polls, a majority of Americans are demanding full investigations, that wherever the evidence leads . . . so be it. But Republicans are threatening a legislative nuclear war should investigations be commenced. (Conveniently forgotten is how the GOP overturned every stone and pebble along the White River, all to effectively assassinate a Democratic president they despised. When they found nothing on the river, they spent fifty million more to uncover a stain on a blue dress, and then impeached the fellow for lying about something each and every one of the Republicans would also have lied about!)
Overwhelmingly, the day-to-day minutiae of both legislative chambers is accomplished "without objection." A member submits a request to be absent a given day. In the House, the Speaker pro tem (In the Senate, it's the President pro tem.) simply says, "Without objection" and the absence is approved. Or, he or she may say, "Is there objection? Hearing none, the absence is approved." The same sort of procedure occurs for an entire host of other matters also. "Mr. Chairman," (A Senate committee this time.) "Request that the witness's entire testimony be made a part of the record." To which the chair replies, "Without objection, so ordered."
But any member of a committee can issue an objection and demand a full recorded vote of the committee, or if the matter is before the full body, a recorded vote of the full body. Nothing gets done! NOTHING! Their way, or no way. That's what the Republicans are threatening.
And the Democrats continue to speak in terms of congeniality.
Why? They were given the majority by the majority of US voters, for a reason. We have a Chicago president, for a reason: the voters wanted him. Now, ain't it about time to inject some of the "Chicago way" into the entire Democratic spine?