American politics reached a critical turn last week. The revolt of several Republican senators against President Bush's insistence on a free hand in treating terrorist detainees signaled the emergence of an independent force in elections and government.
This movement is not new, but the moral scale of the issue -- torture -- and the implications for both constitutional and international law give it an epic dimension, even if it is ultimately settled by compromise.
The senators involved -- John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner -- were also instrumental in forming the "Gang of 14," the bipartisan bloc that seized control of the Senate last year and wrote the compromise that prevented a drastic change in the filibuster rule that otherwise would have triggered a bitter partisan divide.
They were joined in their opposition to Bush's call for extraordinary interrogation techniques by Colin Powell, the former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is still, despite the controversies over his role in Iraq policy, one of the most admired Americans.
That these Republicans -- and others -- were ready to join the Democrats in rejecting Bush's plan caused the White House to scramble for alternatives and House Republican leaders to postpone a scheduled vote. The revolt goes well beyond three men.
What it really signals is a new movement in this country -- what you could rightly call the independence party. Its unifying theme can be found in the Declaration of Independence's language when Jefferson invoked "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind."
Ok Broder, now to begin with, the Republicans on the "gang of 14" evidently were just using the agreement to bully Democrats into not filibustering a few of Bush's extremist judges, since Lindsey Graham has publicly stated that the agreement didn't mean a goddamn thing.
[a filibuster] based on a judicial philosophy difference or an ideologically driven difference, I don't believe that, with all sincerity, I could let that happen.
Secondly, everyone praised in the Broder article has been a major enabler of the Iraq war, with the only people showing any inklings of dissent on Iraq mentioned as the heroes of "indendepence" in the Broder article have only dissented by saying we need more troops there. If they were truly independent of the Bush Administration, the people Broder turns to have more than enough clout to force an investigation into Iraq, which has had no investigations yet, the only American war that has not had Congressional investigations and oversight as Harry Reid noted on the Senate floor yesterday.
Broder really bases his article off a specific case of "independence" where some Republicans have broken off of the Bush Administration to not allow torture, which should be a no brainer to any sane person that we shouldn't be torturing people. However, the alleged "independence" of these Senators fails to hold true even in this current case, as they struck a deal with the White House today on an interrogation bill which gives the White House exactly what it wants, the authority to torture people and use secret evidence in judicial proceedings, the Constitution be damned.
Seeing as how they are announcing this with Steven "Probable Cause is Irrelevant" Hadley, forgive me for having my doubts on that one. Doubts that are confirmed by this next statement:
Mr. Frist said the agreement had two key points. "Classified information will not be shared with the terrorists" tried before the tribunals, he said, according to Bloomberg News. And "the very important program of interrogation continues."
And how was that "very important" program viewed by these would-be rebels prior to this compromise?
The three senators have contended that the administration was undermining Geneva Convention protections in a way that could leave Americans vulnerable in the future, and that its plan for military tribunals of terror suspects would allow evidence obtained coercively, and information they were not allowed to see to be used against them.
The "very important program of interrogation" that they have agreed to preserve is torture. Torture is at the heart of this program and is what the administration has been fighting for since the Supreme Court handed down Hamdan. What's more, Frist's statement makes clear that the Uniform Code of Militart Justice, which guarantees that defendants have the right to see the evidence against them, is going to be gutted in this "compromise."
Talking Points Memo has a slightly different but equally frustrating take on the agreement, which shoots down Broder's rosey picture just as well.
from what I could tell the torture compromise is that we agreed not to reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, only to continue violating them. The Post now has its editorial out. And they appear to have to come to something like the same conclusion. (Can't wait to hear the Dean's verdict.) The senate won't formally reinterpret the Geneva Convention or explicitly sanction the president's torture policies. But they'll allow him to keep using them.
That's the compromise.
So the alleged independence doesn't even exist on this issue that Broder is specifically writing about, now admittadly this deal developed after Broder wrote his article, but a little bit of skepticism about a group that has a past more than shady enough to warrant skepticism would be nice. In fact, Talking Points Memo goes on to call Broder out in a different post.
I must confess that I am simply dying to hear what Dean David Broder has to say about this torture compromise. In yesterday's paper he was positively rhapsodic about his prized Republican moderates channeling Thomas Jefferson and standing up to President Bush's lawless presidency. He even managed to get in a few digs against the only people who've actually opposed this lawless chief exeecutive. So where does he come out now that his 'independence party' has conceded most of the points of contention, folded abjectly and basically given up?
Broder goes on about the hope that comes with this new coalition of independents.
A "decent respect" begins at home, with an acknowledgment of public opinion. Americans are saying no to excess greenhouse gases and no to open borders; yes to embryonic stem cell research, yes to a path to earned citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants and yes to a living wage. Six more states are likely to approve increases in the minimum wage through ballot initiatives in November.
That paragraph came right after Broder trashed Sherrod Brown, praised Lincoln Chaffee, and accused Ned Lamont of being controlled by "rthe vituperative, foul-mouthed bloggers on the left." What the fuck having a foul mouth has to do with anything is way the hell beyond me, but I guess I don't give a damn. The point is this, Broder singles out Democratic Party platform issues, that have been opposed by Republicans. Republicans will not pass a living wage, by and large do not want a path to citizenship, and do not take greenhouse gasses seriously. The "open borders" argument is nothing but a straw man so I'll dismiss it. If Broder really sincerely cared about these issues, he would understand that the way to get them passed would not be to send back Chafee and DeWine who will vote for probably Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader, who will in turn put all those issues on the backburner. The way to advance the very agenda Broder wants acheived is to elect Democrats in November. Broder's article serves as nothing but an argument for Republicans to use to pretend to be independent from the White House and to hide the fact that they are Republicans.
But what do I know? I'm nothing but a goddamn foul mouthed blogger.