Calculated Democratic Cowardice on Guns, Impeachment and War
By Paul Street at Apr 22, 2007
Here is an interesting recent story from ABC News:
Democrats' Sounds of Silence on Gun Control
Presidential Candidates Have Been Reticent on the Issue After the Virginia Tech Massacre
By JAKE TAPPER
— - In the past, after shooting massacres, Democrats in Congress often looked immediately to pass gun control measures. After a killer with an AK-47 took the lives of five kids in a Stockton, Calif., schoolyard in 1989, Democrats pushed for a ban on assault weapons. After the Columbine tragedy revealed that gun show sales were exempt from many background check laws, Democrats pushed to close the so-called gun show loophole.But this week, when directly asked about Congress's mood to pass gun control after the worst school shooting in American history, liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acted as if she'd never even heard the term."The mood in Congress is one of mourning, sadness and the inadequacy of our words or our action to console the families and the children who were affected there," she said. "I hope there's not a rush to do anything," added Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "We need to take a deep breath." Liberal gun control advocates see this as emblematic of a deafening silence on the issue.
Candidates Being Very CarefulOld-school liberals like New York Rep. Charlie Rangel do not seem to understand why his Democratic colleagues are being so quiet on the subject. "It's some type of cult," Rangel said on C-SPAN. "'Don't touch. Don't take the fun from my dead, cold hands.' … And I don't understand it." But the fact is, Democrats are back in power thanks, in part, to newly elected freshmen with more conservative views on the right to bear arms.One of those Democrats is Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., whose narrow victory delivered the Senate into Democratic hands, and who just last month defended an aide who brought a loaded gun into the Capitol. "I believe that wherever you see laws that allow people to carry weapons, generally the violence goes down," Webb said at the time.While gun control in general is popular, banning handguns entirely is not. Better enforcement is preferred to new legislation, and three-quarters of Americans believe the Constitution guarantees individuals the right to own guns, according to ABC News polling director Gary Langer. The Democratic presidential candidates have all supported gun control in the past, but have been quiet this week about it. The campaign of former Sen. John Edwards issued a statement that seemed carefully calibrated to not offend gun owners. "In much of America, gun ownership is part of a way of life," an Edwards spokeswoman said. "John Edwards believes that the Second Amendment protects gun ownership and that we must keep guns out of criminals' hands."On comedian Steve Harvey's radio show, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., took a quick stab at how to prevent future Seung-hui Chos, but he focused more on the health care community. "If we know that he got mental health services, then there should be some way of preventing somebody like that from buying any kind of weapon," Obama said.
Lone Voice Is Republican
One of the lone voices supporting gun control is in fact a Republican. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has funded new TV ads airing this weekend that slam the Democratic Congress for not being more pro-gun control and urge them to act. Bloomberg's fellow Republicans in the presidential arena completely disagree with him. "This brutal attack was not caused by, nor should it lead to restrictions on the Second Amendment," said Arizona Sen. John McCain.And Bloomberg's predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, who has been a strong supporter of gun control in the past, said, "This tragedy does not alter the Second Amendment. People have the right to keep and bear arms, and the Constitution says this right will not be infringed."
END OF ABC STORY
Perceived "realistic" political calculations and parameters defined by concentrated power and relating to the next presidential election are preventing the Democratic Party from Doing the Right Thing. Edwards embraces the nation's gun lust and Obama emphasizes mental health care as reasons NOT to act to create rational social policy by making handguns unavailable. Neither wants to deal on a basic level with the simple and obvious fact that we make guns too available to human beings, a certain small number of whom are capable of mass murder and who will kill more with guns than without them in most cases.
Did Harry Reid really say " I hope there's not a rush to do anything?" While he takes "a deep breath," I wonder how many deranged psycho-killers have picked up rapid-reload Glock 9mm pistols at their friendly local NRA-supporting gunshop.
Sound familiar? The case for the impeachment and removal of George W. Bush is overwhelming: he defrauded the nation, falsely selling (lying) it into the monumentally illegal and mass-murderous invasion of Iraq. The depth and degree of the crime in question is simply astonishing. And the Democrats will not move seriously to impeach because of their "realistiic" political calculation that it would not work to their benefit in 2008. Bush's illegal war has been mass murder in broad daylight - Bush's body count makes the Virginia Tech killer tiny by comparison - and it is apparently going to go unpunished with the best available constitutional weapon. This is largely for reasons of cowardly political calculation.
“For over a year now,” writes Elizabeth de la Vega in United States v. George W. Bush et al. (New York: Seven Stories, 2006), “polls have shown that a majority of Americans believe that President Bush deliberately misrepresented prewar intelligence. Executive branch officials who deliberately mislead Congress and the public intending to influence congressional action have committed a federal crime. Roughly 100 million Americans believe Bush committed a crime, yet most, like Kitty Genovese's neighbors, are just passive bystanders – although not, I believe, due to indifference…Hundreds of thousands of people have in fact, in effect, called 911, but not even Democrats in Congress have been willing to answer the phone. It is not that they don't have enough information; it is, our Democratic representatives say, because it is not good political strategy”(pp. 18-19, emphasis added).
Obama had this to say on the night after the Congressional mid-term elections, when the openly criminal (transparently impeachment-worthy) and ultra-reactionary Cheney-Bush administration's incredible unpopularity with the American people cost the Republicans their majority in Congress (no small White House feat given the deep rightist gerrymandering and jerry-rigging of the nation's electoral districts and voting machines): “If the Democrats don't show a willingness to work with the president, I think they could be punished in ‘08” (Jeff Zeleni, “Democrats Fight to Say, ‘You're Welcome,'” New York Times, 5 November, 2006, sec. 4, p. 4).
Meanwhile the bloody presence of U.S. troops in Iraq continues and in fact increases against the wishes of most U.S. citizens - not to mention the majority of Iraqis. The Democratic-led Congress' "anti-war" timetable legislation gives Bush the money he needs to continue and expand the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and possibly to initiate an assault on Iran. It will fund Bush's audacious, democracy-defying Surge (escalation) to the supplemental tune of $100 billion or more, offering considerably more than the White House requested.
A distant troops-only withdrawal is hitched to the same Iraqi government “benchmarks” that Bush announced in his nationally televised escalation speech of January 10, 2007.
The benchmarks for “withdrawal” include the passage by the Iraqi parliament of an imperialist, neoliberal petroleum law. Hidden beneath largely diversionary language about “revenue-sharing” across Iraq's regions, this law will try to help subject Iraq's stupendous oil reserves to domination by Western capital and the American Empire.
The “withdrawal” envisioned by Congress would only remove combat troops and only on the eve of 2008 elections. In the names of “diplomatic protection,” “counter-terrorism,” and the “training and advising of Iraqi Security Forces” (translation: OIL protection), it would leave U.S bases and forces in Iraq for an indefinite period.
However much they claim to oppose permanent military bases in Iraq, leading Democrats within and beyond Congress imagine an American military presence in Iraq for decades to come.
The recent legislation, waiting for Bush's veto (on the false grounds that it undermines the assault on Iraq) contains no enforcement mechanism to compel the White House to actually withdraw troops at any point.
The troops supposedly to be moved out of Iraq under Congress' legislation would not actually “come home.” Congress' “antiwar” plan re-deploys troops from Iraq to other parts of southwest Asia, reflecting the belief that U.S. forces have been over-focused on Iraq in a way that is dysfunctional for the broader and (Democrats think) noble project of U.S. dominance in the oil-rich Middle East.
The Congressional legislation even removes any stipulation requiring Bush and Cheney to receive Congressional approval before undertaking a major assault on Iran. “With the U.S. openly threatening Iran and with war preparations at an advanced stage, and given the Bush regime's track record of launching pre-emptive wars based on lies,” Larry Everest notes, “this amounts to giving Bush a bright green light to attack Iran” (Larry Everest, “No Good Choices in the Halls of Power: Congress Votes $100 billion to continue the War,” ZNet, March 30, 2007, available online at http://www.zmag.org/content/print_ article.cfm?itemID =12456§ionID=72).
What's going on? There's a large contingent of Congressional Democrats who take a significantly militaristic approach to foreign affairs just like many of them are into guns. The new "populist" US Senator Webb (D-Virgnia) is a good example of a "left" Democrat who has the same dark side on both issues; there's plenty more where that came from the deeper you get into the Blue-Dog dungeons of Democratic centrism.
There's the fact that leading Democrats are just as committed as Republicans to U.S. imperial control of Middle Eastern oil - a technically taboo topic in elite Washington circles.
There's Democratic fear that really acting against the war (by de-funding it now) will help the Republicans blame them for "losing Iraq."
Last but not least, there's the cynical political calculation that Democratic chances are enhanced in '08 if Bush and the Republicans are saddled with the bloody Iraq quagmire right up until the big election.
Such are the perverse incentives of our staggered quadrennial narrow-spectrum winner-take-all Elections process.