Friday, February 15, 2008

Boobytrapping Bipartisanship

Another alter kaker moment (they seem more common) came this morning when I heard George the Lesser play scold to Congress yet again. This time, on NPR news, he buggered and brutalized bipartisan.

For the House showing rare courage in standing up to his pathetic disdain of a series of Bill of Rights amendments in the current surveillance bill, he responded at his worst and most cynical. He read from the script the White House put our yesterday as a press release.

This bill would perpetuate spying on Americans in violation of our freedom of speech, freedom from unreasonable search, and rights to privacy, it would grant immunity to telcos for illegal spying they already did at the White House's bidding. It would make the sweeping spying powers permanent. Despite the wide and deep powers this President and his minions already have, they want more. There needs to be an alarm, but warning of the thugs in the White House and Senate. They are simply anti-American.

On top of this usual act-now-or-we-all-go-to-hell-immediately routine, he tried shaming the chamber who are showing a little guts. He said the Senate had passed its version with strong bipartisan support, so the House was obligated to do the same.

So far, the House leaders show reason and wisdom instead. Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to Bush's jive with, ""He has nothing to offer but fear" Moreover, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had already replied in a letter to Bush, "Instead of needlessly frightening the country, you should work with Congress in a calm, constructive way."

Bush's do-what-I-demand-now (or-the-terrorists-have-won) gambit has proven such a lie so badly so many times, it is astonishing that so many in Congress and beyond play along. Even worse for the current election cycle may be what he has done to the concept of bipartisanship.

He has so bastardized the definition that he has taken us back down to Wonderland for transient meaning and intent. When he vetoes a bill like expanded health care for poor kids or war funding with a troop withdrawal time table, the fact that it had strong support from both parties doesn't enter into it. However, when the Senate supports his spying-on-us bill, that's bipartisan approval than needs total respect, nay, obeisance.

From Through the Looking Glass:
"When I use a word, "Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is,' said Alice," whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all."

Let us note that this was the same House session that cited two former White House aides — Joshua B. Bolten, the chief of staff, and Harriet E. Miers, former counsel,— for contempt. The pair led the effort to block investigation into the outrageous firing of U.S. Attorneys by refusing to testify or cooperate. Despite the 223 to 32 bipartisan vote for contempt, in a small, impotent fit of petulance, the dissenters talked out of chambers. So there.

So Bush and some of his GOP congressional supporters want to call for bipartisanship only in the most cynical way. When it means bolstering their narrow goals, all is well and it's a two-party solution. Otherwise, it's treason.

Unfortunately, this election hinges increasingly on this now sullied term. Both Presidential front-runner candidates have cast themselves in the gestalt of the moment. Americans are demanding a dramatic shift from the past seven years of economic, domestic and military insanity. Both John McCain and Barack Obama acknowledge this can only happen if the President and legislators in both parties work together on the biggest repairs and redirection.

No doubt, no doubt both sides could and will maintain their party credentials by fighting on small issues.

Bush has smeared so much excrement on bipartisan that it will take a lot of airing in the campaign to make the concept acceptable again and to clarify what both sides mean, what they intend to do, and how they can distance the concept from the devolved version we heard yesterday.

As a nation, we're not likely to get another such chance when voters are ripe for the good. Let's get it on.

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