Saturday, November 05, 2005

More Scorched Than Mirth

I saw the road show of Capitol Steps Friday night, and had a peculiar reaction. Based in DC, they do mostly political parody with wicked lyrics set to familiar songs. Most of what they did Friday I'd heard on their latest CD, though they did have a Sam Alito song (set to "Mona Lisa.") But even when I knew the material, it was pretty funny in performance. Some of it was downright hilarious.

But as it turned out, the release of laughter also released other emotions. I felt like crying. I don't mean laughing until I was in tears. I mean just plain tears.

I got little sense of the righteousness I may have felt when I was younger when political idiots were skewered with effective satire, the kind that just tells the truth. I felt the sadness, the grief, or what San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll called anguish in his Friday piece. The kind you have to hold back with the assault of such appalling news day after day.

And the tragedy keeps unfolding, or maybe the accurate metaphor is metastasizing. Now we learn from Lawrence Wilkerson that when he was in Colin Powell's State Department he followed the paper trail on prisoner abuse back to the vice president's office. Having such suspicions confirmed doesn't inspire feelings of vindication, it just layers on more dismay and shame, and anguish, and grief.

Meanwhile, the Republicant Congress ignores the astounding polls and keeps on the path of their relentless destruction, ramming through legislation that not only despoils the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but enacts deep cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, other programs for the poor, and cuts student loans, all in the Republicant class war on Americans.

Laughing at dumb old G.W. is a necessary release, but let's face it, when you need a doctor, or a house payment, or a future, or a burial plot for your son or daughter, it's not funny anymore.

While we're on the subject of political comment, why is there more intelligence, eloquence and wisdom in James Spader's lines as a fictional lawyer in Boston Legal trying a fictional case about a National Guardsman forced to remain past his enlistment and is killed in Iraq---or Jimmy Smits as the fictional presidential candidate talking about abortion on The West Wing---than out of anyone's mouth in Washington, or any of the pundits, talking heads, and wise scribes I hear or read?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Gotcha Day in the Senate

On Tuesday, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid organized and carried out a successful sneak attack on the Republican leadership. He used a parliamentary maneuver to force a closed session of the Senate to discuss why the Republicans won't investigate the breach in national security at high levels of the executive branch, namely the outing of a CIA operative.They came away with a commitment on the next steps in holding just such an investigation.

While it's silly to hold out much hope that Senate Republicans---particularly this integrity-challenged bunch--are going to really investigate their fellow GOPers, this manuever was a big win for Reid, Democrats and the nation that must know how and why it's ability to defend itself against terrorists with WMDs was compromised by the President's men.

I can't say I was a big Reid supporter when he was announced as the new leader, but he's shown some impressive moves. He's been out front and outspoken on important issues, more so than recent Senate leaders. He's a congressional pro, something the Dems have lacked perhaps since Tip O'Neill was running things in the House. That became clear with this manuever, in a couple of ways.

The context is important: it's the day after Rovebush announced a Supreme pick that the rabid right loved, a transparent attempt to change the subject from the White House inner circle indictment, and the whole subject of political corruption there. In the process, as Reid mentioned yesterday with a seemingly casual attitude, the usual consultation with Reid and other leaders didn't happen. Bushrove talked only to rabid rightists before naming Alito.

With his secret session manuever today, Reid served notice that he knows what he's doing in the Senate, and he'll find a way to make things very difficult there for Alito's confirmation. And that he understand payback. This might have been a little inside the Senate nudge, except that Repub leader Bill Frist announced it to the world, whining that he wasn't consulted about this, contrary to the usual procedure. What a dope.

It took Reid about 24 hours to get his. Not only that, but he has placed the Plame Game back on the big agenda, no matter what else Fitzgerald does or doesn't do. There are other benefits, too, enumerated in this dkos post by hunter.
The Big One

It's a Rove move, likely the first consequence of Official A's escape from indictment Friday. President Bush appointed Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, a move that is at once bold and weak, outrageous and predictable, skillful and desperate, confrontational and a flanking maneuver.

Because Alito redefines the extreme right, he energizes the rabid right base that harried the Harriet back to the White House, where she is already busy instructing the press secretary not to talk to the press about anything having remotely to do with She Who Must Not Be Plamed. Because Alito is such an extreme and divisive choice, the resulting cacaphony is supposed to drown out any residual echoes from the indictments of White House honcho Scooted Libby, along with drowning out Democrats' calls for Rove's resignation heard Monday (but barely).

That this is an essential part of the strategy is clear from vp Cheney's actions in response to Libby being indicted for lying and obstructing justice in the Plame Game. As Think Progress among others point out, he replaced Libby with another staffer who is named in Libby's indictment as essentially a co-conspirator. He elevated a second staffer who is also named, and even more directly involved in the orchestrated campaign to publicize the name of a covert CIA agent. This is not exactly evidence of contrition and reform.

Diverting attention may or may not work, but clearly this appointment is not just a little misdirection. Alito can be seen as the payoff of the Bush administration, from the moment that Justices Scalia and Thomas ignored their conflicts of interest and their own judicial records to appoint George Bush, the loser of the 2000 election, as President.

Scalia gets paid off, as do all the rabid right faithful, who outed themselves in the Miers mire as insisting on an unconstitutional religious test for one of the twelve judges charged with the ultimate interpretation and defense of the Constitution.

The stage is now set, and this is The Big One. If the Bushies prevail and Alito takes the oath, this long national nightmare will echo through the law for generations. If the Democrats can rouse themselves and fight a solid and judicious fight, they will not only defeat the antiConstitution but give voters the beginning of a rationale to return them to congressional majority in 06.