Thursday, July 29, 2004

The substance of the dems 

Dismissed in Boston - Why won't the Democrats talk about judges? By Dahlia Lithwick
Former (briefly) prime minister Kim Campbell will always be remembered in Canada for her remark that election campaigns are no time to be discussing important issues.
She will be forever reviled for that remark, but I could see what she meant -- the politicizing of important issues, and their consequent trivialization, is a problem during election campaigns, when the clamour of reporters' questions and the need to produce acceptable instant soundbites precludes any politician from ever saying "let me think about that for a bit and I'll get back to you." Kerry, in fact, gets into trouble all the time when he tries to give a substantive and thoughtful answers to press questions - gradually, he has learned not to do this.
I was reminded of that problem when I read this article.
Lithwick writes ". . . Shouldn't this election ultimately be a referendum on the rule of law? . . . What is at stake, in this election, is whether we value the notion of being a nation that's ruled by law as opposed to rulers. This isn't just a voting issue. It's what used to launch revolutions." She is right, of course. And the cheers during the convention whenever a platform speaker refers to civil liberties, arbitrary arrests of Arab Americans, and the more bizarre provisions of the Patriot Act, shows that the democrats know this is a core issue as well.
But its not one that can be glibly soundbited, to become just another election goodie -- its not something that produces a soundbite along the lines of "we promise $4,000 college tuition credit". Kerry and Edwards cannot say, in their next breath "and we promise to appoint judges who will support the constitution rather than searching for ways to undermine it" or "and we promise not to corrupt our justice system by soliciting pandering legal opinions that put our own actions above the law" or "and we promise that our Pentagon will not get away with producing soldiers so lacking in moral fiber and leadership that they routinely torture and kill prisoners of war" or "and we promise that that disgrace to American values called Gitmo will be closed immediately".
The Bush administration has portrayed every one of these actions as part of the War on Terror; stating directly and explicitly the intention to change them would allow the dems to be characterized as "weak on terror".
In reality, these actions have nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with a kind of megalomaniac fascism which has seldom raised its ugly head in American political history before, but which is the basic underpinning of the Bush administration and the Project for a New American Century fanatics who are an integral part of that administration. Every president before Bush has taken seriously their oath to protect the constitution. I don't think even now most Americans would accept the fact that Bush and his people see the constitution as archaic, obsolete, an obstacle to their goals.
Lithwick is wrong, however, when she says that the democrats don't talk about these things. Their promise to make these kind of changes is implicit in every statement they make about bringing America together toward a more perfect union, and it underpins their commitment to build a diverse, inclusive, "united states" of America.

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