Monday, November 17, 2003

Separate But Not Equal: the Government of Exclusion or New Congressional Politics

According to the Pew Research Center the current electorate is evenly divided between Democrats, Republicans and Independents/Other. Starting with that premise, regardless of which of the two major parties a congressional member represents, it is likely when proposing 'partisan' legislation, that two-thirds of the electorate would be in opposition. One might think this would cause Senators and Representatives to pause for reflection before engaging in such divisive practices. In fact, if the current legislative session is any indication, the Republicans have 'escalated' partisan politics to a new low, the politics of party exclusion.

First, in an unprecedented move, the Republican Whitehouse places Limits on Queries From Democrats forcing Democratic members to go through Republican committee chairs with their requests for information.

Granted, Senate or House Republicans did not initiate this action but neither did they offer any objections.

Second, the House and Senate Republicans agree on an energy bill, a bill that that was negotiated, behind close doors without any Democratic participation.

Without going into the Neanderthal nature of this legislation, suffice it to say two-thirds of the electorate would very likely be opposed to it. Let me reiterate, zero participation of Democrats but they did have a 48-hour window for review of the 1700 page document -who could ask for more?

Third, the Republican-controlled house cut all Democratic projects from the
Health-Education Bill
. Generally, the House portion for home-district projects (often referred to as pork), ~450 million dollars in this bill, would be split 60:40.

The validity of pork (of any political persuasion) aside, I can see the local/regional headlines of the 2004 congressional races advertising what the Republicans brought 'home' or conversely, what the Democrats failed to bring 'home. Retaliation for voting against legislation is unconscionable.

Fourth, Senate Republicans, upset that the vote for 2% of Bush's judicial nominees was filibustered by Democrats, STAGED an over 40-hour debate in protest.

For a re-cap, that's only 4 of Bush's 172 nominees. What is meant by "staging" the debate? Well, besides coordinating efforts with Fair and Balanced Always Irrelevant Fox News, they exploited children by having them pose behind a lecturn beneath a sign reading "Fair Up or Down Vote" all for maximum visual effect. But hey, at 1:30 AM Senator Lindsey Graham consoled the youngsters, "you can tell your grandkids about this" just prior to turning on the Democrats, "There's never a good time to hijack the Constitution for partisan politics."

Mmmm …really?

Two additional actions this week, one by The Administration and one by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist illustrate how the current Republican Regime wants to control both the input and output of information.

On Wednesday, an online poll at the senator's web site posed the question: Should the president's nominees to the federal bench be allowed an up or down vote on confirmation as specified in the Constitution? However, when the 'No Votes' exceeded 60% (clearly not the desired result), the poll question changed. On the third iteration, the question changed to effectively reverse the meaning of a yes or no vote and the poll quickly disappeared when the 'Yes vote' had a lead. Later, a Poll merely allowed the names of judicial nominees as choices with the voter to decide, in absence of a 'none of the above' choice, which nominees should receive a vote. Senator Frist's spokesperson, Bob Stevenson denied that the poll had been changed to ensure a particular result.

Okay, that's your story, you stick to it.

Thursday on CNN's NewsNight a correspondent spoke of the creation of a defacto news operation in Iraq, produced by the Bush Administration and overseen by Ambassador Bremer to effectively eliminate the major networks as middlemen. Interestingly, the transcripts of this show are no longer on the web site, however, the same information can be found here.

An election is coming, the pResident wouldn't want the voters exposed to any bad news. He's just looking out for our best interests.

Our system of checks and balances seems to have failed us as of late. From the anointment of a pResident by our judiciary to the failure of Congress (Democrats and Republicans alike) to keep a deceitful and zealous administration in check; the system has failed. And what of the media we rely on as a failsafe mechanism, where have they been? The art of reporting news (versus creating or commentating on) and investigative journalism appear to have gone the way of the dinosaur.

The divisive and exclusionary politics practiced by this Republican Administration and Congress goes well beyond mere partisan politics. It is very clear that, collectively, these Republicans are not interested in governing, they want to 'rule'. To be sure there are individual exceptions, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska for instance. However, while he (and others) may refrain from engaging in such dissonant behavior, they do little to squelch the mob mentality and malevolence of their colleagues. In the words of Edmond Burke, "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"


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