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An Open Letter to Senators John McCain, Howard Baker and Warren Rudman:

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I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Republican. Nonetheless, I have understood that people who disagree with me on matters of political philosophy and policy can be honorable people, genuinely concerned about what’s right and wise. And you gentlemen are among those Republicans whom I’ve regarded as basically honorable men, no less honorable than people for whom I’ve voted over the years.

So it is to you that I’d like to address a question that’s been troubling me for a while. While your party –and through your party, the whole country—has been taken over by what I think can only be called “evil forces,” where have been the voices of Republicans like you? I can’t think of a single prominent Republican –including any of you—who has come forward to denounce this Republican leadership that, for all its righteous posturing, acts like thugs.

I can imagine that you might answer me by saying that I’m simply mistaken in characterizing of these Republican leaders –people like G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Tom Delay—as lying and ruthless bullies. But that’s an answer that certainly won’t satisfy me. There are only a few other times in my life I’ve felt such conviction about my perception as I do about the evil I perceive in the forces that have taken over the Republican Party. And over the years I’ve learned to trust the truth of my perceptions on such occasions.

But if that is what you truly believe, then that would certainly provide me with a kind of answer. I’d understand that the reason Republicans like you, whom I’ve regarded as honorable, haven’t spoken out because you simply don’t see what I see.

Except that I have difficulty altogether believing that’s true, at least in your case, Senator McCain. I remember how the Bush-Rove gang smeared you in South Carolina in 2000, so surely you must have known since then what kind of assassins these men are who are ruling our country. It may have been “only” character assassination, but that’s really just a democracy’s version of what evil rulers have always done to people who get in their way, whether a Saddam Hussein with his murders or medieval tyrants with their dungeons.

But there you were in 2004 –Mr. Integrity, as many of us thought you to be from 2000, the guy who tells it like it is—stumping for this president who had already for four years been tearing apart the fabrics into which the goodness of this country has been woven. I’ve got to tell you, I was awfully disappointed in you. Since I felt that you must know what kind of man it was to whom you were lending your credibility, and were thus helping to hold onto America’s highest office for another four years, I imagined that it was out of your own ambitions to reach that office four years hence that you had (figuratively speaking) made a bargain with the devil. I hope I’m wrong, but I haven’t come up with another interpretation that seems very plausible.

Which leads me to wonder: Is that the more general answer to my question, i.e. that Republicans know that if they speak up they’ll be cutting their own throats politically? I can imagine that would be a tough thing to do, but then, Senator McCain, it’s not as though you haven’t been through far worse, as a POW, than the life you’d have in the worst-case scenario of losing your seat from Arizona. And how about you, Senators Baker and Rudman, long-retired from public office: what would you have to lose? If you actually have seen what I see, would anything prevent you from speaking out to denounce the dark forces that have taken over your party?

Might you somehow still be inhibited by that impressive Republican ethic of strict party discipline and loyalty? If so, just what is the object of that loyalty that it would outweigh your loyalty to the basic values of our country?

I remember you, Senator Baker, from those Watergate hearings more than thirty years ago. At that time, you seemed willing to follow the truth wherever it led, despite the fact that it was a president of your own party whose abuse of power was being investigated. “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” you so famously asked, while millions of us watched as “the system worked.” Now I’m wondering, if your party had controlled the Senate at that time, and you already had a pretty strong sense of Nixon’s malfeasance, would you have been in favor of the Senate investigating the president as it did? Or would you have done what today’s Senate Republicans seem to be doing—protecting the president rather than protecting the country?

Well, I’m left with my original question and concern. What does it mean that the Republicans have all been so silent while these dark forces have been riding to power with the Grand Old Party as their vehicle? Do none of them see what I see? Or do they lack the courage to make themselves unpopular with the party base whose admiration they’ve enjoyed? Or do they, like their present leaders, care more about power than about the values served –or destroyed—by that power?

Anyway, I hope you’ll answer. Or better still, speak out. Better late than never.


Andrew Bard Schmookler
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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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