Friday, May 22, 2009

The Weakly Wimps

In spite of the last eight years of Republican bulldozing of the Republic, the Democratic Congressional leadership still does not seem to get it: holding firm is a more promising strategy than folding. Indeed, the leadership has taken folding as an art to a new level, gently waving in the right direction, and then giving up at what should be merely the beginning of the legislative battle.

Two cases on point this week:

1. Including the right to carry loaded guns into our National Parks in the credit card reform bill, offered an easy opportunity to paint the NRA as extremists. Instead, the leadership complained that they had been outmaneuvered by a parliamentary trick by the Republican minority. At the least, they could have recommended a Presidential veto. At the least, the President could have vetoed the bill on his own, while conveying the proper message. Neither happened. The NRA now will introduce pro-gun riders at will, until we reach back to the (fictional) Old West and everyone carries a gun in a holster, and an automatic rifle in the car.

2. Congress overwhelmingly rejected authorizing funds for closing Guantanamo. It is not enough that this was a major campaign issue for the Democrats. It is not enough that closing Guantanamo is an essential first step toward restoring the rule of law and some integrity to the country, in the eyes of the world. Instead, Democrats massed with Republicans in what has to be labeled hysteria, facing the prospect of terrorists being brought onto mainland America.

Is it that such prisoners could escape, plot attacks from prison, start riots, or the like? The reality is that high-security prisoners, including currently incarcerated terrorists, are safely behind bars in U.S. prisons. Why are we so afraid of these people? Are they larger-than-life pure evil, bound to hurt the country if imprisoned here? What is the fear about? Or do we want to keep the “war” on terror far away, less real if distant? Easier not to think of the prisoners as people.

The truth is, we captured these people in foreign lands, and brought them to Guantanamo to face our justice. We now have an obligation to afford them that justice in U.S. courts, and if convicted, U.S. prisons.

The Democratic Congress, and an apparently weak White House, have disgraced themselves this week.

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