For those of us who worked, supported and voted to bring Democrats their majorities in Congress, the actions taken by the House and Senate last week amount to nothing less than an outright betrayal—a betrayal of their campaign promises to us, a betrayal of their responsibilities to the nation and a betrayal of the future.
In passing bills to give the government expanded powers to spy on Americans and $162 billion more in funding to continue the Iraq and Afghanistan wars well into next year, the Democratic-controlled Congress has acceded to the demands of President George W. Bush, handing him victories in the final months of his administration and selling out those of us who helped put them in office.
The outrage Democrats ignited by their actions has been so enormous that it shut down the switchboard of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—the very same person who, in becoming the first woman to hold the Speaker’s leadership position, promised us she would radically change the Bush agenda in her first 100 days in office. The outrage Pelosi witnessed will only build in the days, weeks and months ahead as the Senate follows suit and likewise passes the FISA bill, which should rightfully be titled the Federal Intrusive Spying Act, not the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
So far, the major issue of discussion on this highly controversial legislation has been the provision of retroactive immunity for telecommunication corporations that willingly turned over the phone records of millions of citizens to the government with no probable cause, warrants or proof that those citizens had any involvement whatsoever in any illegal or suspicious activities. Under the provisions of the FISA bill, immunity will be granted to the telecoms if a district court finds that they were acting at the request of the White House.
In simple language, this means that our entire structure of government, where the president and executive branch are checked and balanced by Congress and the judiciary, has just been negated by the Democrats’ actions while making a mockery of the “Rule of Law” under which we supposedly live. Speaker Pelosi and her spineless cohorts are calling the measure a “compromise,” but in effect, what our congressional Democrats have done is give credence and legitimacy to the illegal, immoral and unconstitutional policies of the Bush administration.
What they got in return was nothing, except perhaps to ensure their massive campaign donations from the telecoms. There is no provision that we ever get to learn who the telecoms spied on, what was or wasn’t recorded, which of those records were or weren’t given to the federal government, and we won’t get even a shred of evidence why this patently illegal activity was authorized in the first place. Some compromise—Bush and the neocons get everything they want and we get nothing.
If that isn’t bad enough, consider the new $162 billion war funding bill, likewise passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress in direct contradiction of their campaign promises to end Bush’s wars.
The seminal question being asked across the nation right now is why Democrats would ever give Bush an extension of his unpopular and un-winnable wars in an election year? If you believe the spew coming from congressional mouthpieces, it’s ostensibly to give the next president time to decide what to do about these horrific morasses after he takes office. But aren’t the presidential candidates already talking about what they’re going to do in Iraq and Afghanistan? And why, oh why, would we vote for or against them if they’re not talking about it, especially since the fiscal impacts alone have literally brought our nation to its knees?
The real reason may well be that it’s the Democrats who don’t want to talk about the wars during this campaign season. By passing such a huge appropriation, they can say, “It’s a done deal,” and assure us that they’ll decide what to do about the wars sometime next year, when these additional billions for slaughter, mayhem and destruction run out. Oh, and they’ll be able to campaign on “change,” while actually maintaining the status quo of Bush’s failed foreign policy and ensuring that the political contributions from the booming military-industrial corporations don’t dry up.
Meanwhile, as Congress throws ever more money into war, the impacts from that spending are crushing our citizens. Foreclosures are everywhere, utility bills off the charts, tens of millions with no health insurance and no hope of any to come. People can’t even afford the gas they need to drive to work so they can turn around and give their hard-earned paychecks to the oil companies. As the dollar plummets to half its value since Bush took office, the price for our most vital necessities—food and energy—skyrocket into the stratosphere.
Where’s the bill to re-regulate the oil, gas and electricity industries? Where’s the bill to rein in usury in the credit card industry? Where’s the bill to stop permanent bases in Iraq and end the war? Instead, what we are now hearing from Democrats is that we must “redouble our efforts in Afghanistan”—which just happens to be on a major energy pipeline route—while the energy giants acquire “no bid” contracts for Iraq’s oil.
We are spiraling downward as a nation, but instead of turning our dwindling resources toward saving our own people, Democrats are funding imperialist wars to ensure more unconscionable profits for energy corporations. What a tragedy for all of us, but especially those who have lost loved ones so BP, Shell and Exxon can rack up more multi-million dollar bonuses for their executives while our families struggle to survive.
This is a shameful legacy for the Democrats, who promised us change, then gave us more domestic spying and war. Their betrayal may well backfire, however. Americans are hard pressed right now and looking for relief. But if this is what Democrats call “change,” why would we ever want to vote for more?
Helena’s George Ochenski rattles the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at firstname.lastname@example.org.