In my nearly 64 years I've seen more of government corruption than I'd ever have guessed I might, given the US history classes I took in high school.
I recall watching on a black-and-white RCA television as the junior Republican senator from Wisconsin, Joseph R. McCarthy, wave his "list" like a scimitar and defecate over every First Amendment guarantee of free speech, free press, and freedom of assembly. Alas, he had left no "shred of decency."
I recall Vice-president Spiro T. Agnew attacking those "effete snobs" who opposed Nixon's perverse paradigm as the "nattering nabobs of negativism," just before he vacated his office, indicted on criminal charges of extortion, tax fraud, bribery and conspiracy, and how a legal phrase, nolo contendere, found its way to American lexicon.
I recall Richard "If the president does it, it's not illegal" Nixon and the entire Watergate stink that brought to black light his most anti-American, anti-democratic imperious deprecations. Wielding the IRS as a blunt weapon to bludgeon to submission those Americans bold enough to stand against him, and whom he disdained utterly and placed on the "White House Enemies List."
I recall vividly the Iran-Contra miasmatic affair, and of Ronald Reagan's toady, Colonel Oliver North, testifying in congressional hearings concerning it and his central role in it. For those who do not know, in the United States military, a colonel is a pretty low-level officer. And, considering the American scheme of government, Ollie North was certainly as low level as we've known.
But of each and all of these, the worst of the worst were George W. Bush's and the Republican's eight interminable years of horrific domestic and global terrorism; the literal scratching out of Lady Liberty's eyes and every 't' from the US Constitution: cronyism in the extreme and to the most incompetent, the surfeit of lies that buried the country's 3,794,101 square miles in moldering putrescence, the casual discard of the basic tenets of human decency and dismissal of any measure of regard for those he ushered to needless and useless physical and psychological death and dismemberment, and no scroll, regardless of length, will ever exhaust the list of degradations and destruction that are his legacy.
President Obama was right when he asserted in Oslo that there is evil in this world. I've witnessed it right here in the good ol' USA. And unlike Cindy McCain, there have tragically, depressingly been more than a few times when I was not proud of my county.
Thus it is accurate to say that when the country and the world watched a young bi-racial American male take the "Oath of Office" at noon on January 20th of this year, the tears running in rivers down all those cheeks were tears of rapture; joy that the Bush-Republican nightmare was officially over, replaced by hope that we would never see again such pan-national and pan-global ugliness, and with hope that a new and better and shining brightly day had dawned.
Sadly, what we seem to have seen through the first almost eleven months of the Obama administration and the Democrats' surfeit of legislative branch overwhelming dominance by numbers, is validation of candidate Hillary Clinton's reply to the question, "What can you say are Senator Obama's primary qualifications?" She answered, "He gives a nice speech." Had she been asked concerning the emerging Democratic majorities, she could well have responded with the same answer: they give nice speeches. Because, nothing other than that can be laid on the table as evidence of anything more substantive than hot air. The effects on the base that made the Obama presidency and the Democratic majorities possible has been chilling.
While the facts appear plain, to avoid a total collapse of the US and the world's economic (and with it, any semblance of civil order) foundations, that it was necessary to bail the financial industry, the facts are just as plain that the families on Oak Street and the small shops on the side streets were and remain every bit as desperate for economic assistance; assistance that was late and too little. That the generous hand outs came first and foremost (and the most untethered to any sort of conditions) from the Bush administration's hands to the glad-handing "haves and have mores"does not mitigate the truth that Obama did not push when he could have and should have. He and the Democrats permitted themselves to be pulled.
While it is constructive to look to the future and to not bury ourselves in the past, it is also true that looking rearward for lessons as to what worked and to what didn't is the most effective way to keep the ship of state from hurtling against ice bergs. But there is something else, to a civil society, that is also important: "justice" and the sense that it will prevail against the injustice inflicted by the unjust on the just. For a legal scholar, such as President Obama is, that is a simple truth he seems to have been blind to.
We fool ourselves if we now pretend that candidate Obama did not repeatedly say that, however war is never a "good war," Afghanistan is the war the country should have been fighting, rather than the misadventure that was and is the "distraction" of Iraq that has cost our future generations precious treasure and a paltry fraction of serving Americans precious blood. But Candidate Obama also said it was the mark of a leader to be willing and able to change his (or her) mind when new and better information suggests that that is the right thing to do. American military involvement in thoroughly corrupt Afghanistan for minimally the next 15 years, as Harmid Karzai, the very corrupt president of Afghanistan, estimates our involvement will linger. President Obama seems to have ignored the sage definitions of a leader proffered by Candidate Obama.
On the soaring wings of a soaring call that "the days of lobbyists" lording over Washington were over, the manifest evidence has been that any sense of the pledge has become a long forgotten has-been. The voices of the vested financial interests have been as they were, sacred chants, and their feet what they have been as they were, feet to be kissed. And the interests of the average American have been what they had ever been, to be dismissed, but with the most grandiloquent gesticulating disingenuousness; or in other words: lies to be spoon fed to the gullibles who would swallow it in lapping gulps.
Seeking bipartisanship in governance is a lofty and laudable goal. But when the opposition announces front and center, as the entire Republican minority have repeatedly made clear, that its only objective is to object to everything you attempt, that it seeks only to bring you down, and your government with you, no matter the cost to the country, seeking bipartisanship and comity above all else is tantamount to being a co-conspirator with Legion. The only courageous course would be to publicly draw the line in the sand, and publicly announce that not one step will be taken in retreat of principles, especially those that were campaigned on, and upon those that were the fodder of victory.
Make no mistake ( PLEASE ), there have been exceptions; very courageous exceptions! But, by and large, too few of the majority of senate Democrats risk finding their names in some future update to John Kennedy's Profiles in Courage. Overwhelmingly they have demonstrated the most profoundly obsequious cowardice and full devotion to their monied masters.
These are not merely truths we hold to be self-evident, damn it! they are completely self-evident truths that can be neither denied nor mitigated. And what President Obama and much, too much, of the Democratic majority have clearly forgotten is what put them where they are and who put them where they are and why they were put where they are.
In both 2006 and in 2008 I worked alongside an entire army, an army that swelled to opposition-crushing strength, of highly partisan, highly energized, highly progressive and primarily youthful volunteers. I worked the phones in the Liberty Street party headquarters in Reno, in 2006, and in the E. Pueblo Street headquarters in 2008. Nor can I sum the number of visits that were repeatedly paid to my residence by the youthful enthused who had never previously even bothered to register to vote! None were what the punditry now prefer to colloquialize as "moderate" Democrats. Not a blue-dog's nose could be counted in the force. Do not be confused, nor permit anyone to be confused: President Obama and every Democrat in the House and in the Senate owes his or her membership in the majority to progressives. PERIOD! (Though I acknowledge that was an exclamation point.)
Now that they're supping sumptuously at the majority table they want to throw crumbs and marrow-free dried bones to the working dogs who pulled their sleds. They are persuaded the working team has nowhere else to go.
There are steps to take, not a one of which includes bashing Republicans. That's a complete waste of time and energy. As they neither read nor listen to anything that is not their own fascistic press or their own bowel-rumbling echoes, they're not going to be concerned with anything progressives write or say. It neither proves nor accomplishes anything.
My notice to President Obama and all Democrats in the legislative branch: They who made you possible do have somewhere else to go: to the mall, to the movies, to friend's houses; all the places they forsook while struggling on behalf of installing you in office.
I will never either recommend nor countenance among my associates casting a vote for a Republican. In the same breath, I do suggest, if it's a vote you must cast, cast one for an unabashed, genuinely progressive candidate, or cast none at all. Do not volunteer a dime or a minute of your time for a Democrat. Just do not. But also, make a phone call or send a letter or an email to the Democratic National Committee (430 S. Capitol St., S.E., Washington, D.C. 2003; 202-877-336-7200), and/or to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (120 Maryland Av., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002; 202-224-2447), and/or to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (430 S. Capitol St. S.E., Washington, D.C. 20003; 202-863-1500) explaining that you have no intention of making further contributions of funds or time, and why you will not be doing so.
It may prove to be somewhat of a case that appears to be cutting off our noses, but the progressive electorate needs to presume to some core principles and the courage to stand behind them, just exactly as the Democrat in the White House and those Democrats in the House and Senate are not.
We do have somewhere else to go, even if it's in front of the television.