One can just see this group disembarking from the airplane five years ago. Montalban turns to Hervé Villechaize and says:
“President Bush wants to pretend he was elected with a mandate to govern like a radical. His party wants to pretend also. First they will pretend that the outgoing Clinton Administration’s warnings about Osma Bin Laden and Al Quaeda are less threatening than Saddam Hussein. They will also pretend that cutting taxes for the super rich will not erode the surplus his administration inherited. The Republican Party’s fantasy also includes believing that government has no relevance in people’s lives and can be exploited as a patronage mill for cronies without dire consequences. Finally, the Republican Party wants to pretend that democratic values can be imposed on the mid-east by force while their friends steal millions of dollars in Iraq.”Those are just a few of the Republican Party’s misguided fantasies – I’ve only neglected several hundred of them. We in the “reality based community” have watched in horror as this feculent political machine constructed a Bizarro World based on evangelical doctrine, cronyism and corporatist Enron style fiscal mismanagement. To our collective anger this cabal of delusional cartoon characters are empowered by a supplicant media, cowardly opposition from the Democrats, and an apathetic public.
My answer to this alternative reality are monthly awards that recognize those courageous enough to stand for truth as well as expose public figures guilty of enabling the madness. Accordingly, this is the January 2006 Intrepid Liberal Journal’s awards for the Intrepid Person of the Month, Republocrat of the Month, and the Brezhnev Republican of the Month. Hopefully, by announcing these awards every month a small contribution can be made to restoring the balance between conservative fantasy and reality as well as raising public awareness. As Dick Cheney put it during the 2000 Republican National Convention, it’s time for a “stiff dose of the truth.”
Intrepid Person of the Month – This award is for an individual that goes against the grain to do what is right. Ideally, I would prefer to acknowledge a regular person performing a valuable service in their community and in turn encourage similar deeds among others. One example might be someone who fights their school board in a red state to advocate for keeping religion out of our public schools. However, I am compelled instead to name James Risen of the New York Times for his reporting on the Bush Administration’s national surveillance program. It’s because of his reporting that we now have a necessary debate about civil liberties and security during a time of war. Mr. Risen actually obtained sufficient information prior to the 2004 election but his employers do not share his professionalism or respect for the public’s “right to know.” Consequently, this story was first reported last month as a prelude to the release of Mr. Risen’s book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and The Bush Administration.”
To this point we’ve learned that the Bush Administration has blatantly violated the FISA protocol and refused to obtain court issued warrants as required by law. The Administration even refused to obtain these warrants retroactively. I happen to believe that one can make a reasonable argument that the FISA protocol is outdated for current circumstances. A single computer may contain thousands of names. When totaled with hundreds of computers, even obtaining retroactive warrants may not be practical or advisable. Yet, the Bush Administration has refused to go to Congress and ask for a new legal framework. When reviewing this Administration’s serial habit of concealing information such as their incompetence during Hurricane Katrina or their connection to Jack Abramoff, a reasonable person must be suspicious about what they are hiding with this program. Are they monitoring terrorists or eavesdropping on their political critics? Thanks to James Risen, this month we’ve started asking questions that should’ve been asked a long time ago but didn’t because most reporters don’t care about the public interest anymore. He is quite a contrast with his former New York Times colleague Judith Miller.
Mr. Risen is an old school reporter. He nurtured relationships with true patriots who were willing to risk everything in order to expose this Administration’s illegal conduct. Mr. Risen has expressed his willingness to go to jail in order to protect their confidentiality. The Bush Administration is far more interested in finding the source of leaks to this story then revealing the truth about who committed treason and exposed the identity of CIA Agent Valerie Plame. Mr. Risen will experience coercive pressure in the coming months from the Justice Department. This country is indebted to him for exposing the conduct of the Bush Administration that even some Republicans such as Arlen Specter are questioning. Journalists are not supposed to be stenographers for those in power but instead retain prudent skepticism and serve the truth. Sadly, Mr. Risen’s employers and colleagues are not nearly as principled or brave.
Republocrat of the Month – This award is designated for public figures that benefit from the “Democratic Party” label while undermining progressive values. Joe Lieberman is a classic example of a Republocrat. However, the Republocrat and Chief these days is Hillary Clinton. To paraphrase John Kerry, I was actually for Hillary Clinton before I was against her. During the ’92 campaign I found her refreshing. This was an accomplished career woman and devoted mother. She combined heart with nerves of steel and personified what I wanted my Democratic Party to represent: compassion and toughness. I thought she had far more principle and discipline than her husband and often wished she were President instead. When Ken Starr imposed a media circus on her and deliberately paraded Hillary Clinton before the news cameras in the mid nineties she demonstrated remarkable grace under humiliating pressure. When she told Matt Lauer on the Today Show in 1998 that there was a vast right wing conspiracy against her husband, I applauded because she was right. Finally, when Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate in New York in 2000 I underestimated her. I didn’t believe she could ever compete in conservative upstate New York or survive the intrusive tabloid culture of the New York media. She proved me wrong and as a New York resident I proudly voted for her.
I no longer recognize this woman who I admired so much. Her record since 2000 is troubling and reflects someone more prone to calculation than principle. From the Iraq War to her recent pandering on the flag burning issue. Flag burning! Who the hell does she think she’s kidding? If she’s willing to compromise on a principle such as free speech to market herself as a centrist than what other principle might she betray? What has Senator Clinton done these past five years to champion the down trodden and advocate for working people? She didn’t even vote when the insidious bankruptcy legislation passed last spring. Can you imagine what might have taken place had an icon such as Hillary Clinton attempted to galvanize her party and the public against the Republicans about so called bankruptcy reform? I believe she could have shamed her party into a unified position and offered a compelling contrast with the Republicans who were waging class warfare from the top. Obviously, she prefers campaign contributions from the fat cat bankers just as much as Republicans and that took precedence over standing up for the constituency that loyally supported her: small businesses, minorities, and the working poor.
When she uttered her “plantation” remark earlier this month my gut reaction was, “where the hell have you been?” I think she was spooked by Al Gore who delivered a speech of substance critiquing the Bush Administration’s lack of respect for the law. Since 2002, Al Gore has found his voice while Hillary has become mealy mouthed and overly calibrated. I was not offended by her plantation remark but found it gratuitous – especially compared to Gore’s remarks the same day. There is an old cliché: power without principle is barren and principle without power is futile. Hillary has become utterly bereft of principle, which makes her less likely to win in 2008 and obtain power. A Democrat must combine compassion, toughness, and authenticity to have any chance. A triangulating Republocrat as the Democratic nominee in 2008 guarantees that the Republican’s reign of indecency will continue.
Brezhnev Republican of the Month – In my January 8th posting entitled “Brezhnev Republicans” I compared today’s Republican Party with Soviet Communists during the Leonid Brezhnev Era. Brezhnev personified waste, corruption, cronyism, lies, incompetence, tyranny and indecency. Hence this award goes to the Republican who epitomizes those qualities the best. It is my hope that such an award will wake up decent minded Republicans who continue to empower indecency by their silence. There is nothing more insulting to a Republican than being compared to a Communist. May the naming of this award every month act like cold water splashed in their face. For January the winner is House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
Soviet historians will recall that Brezhnev was a tyrant with a laissez faire disposition towards the Communists Party’s nomenklatura. Following Stalin’s reign of terror and Kruschev’s turbulent reforms the party wanted a General Secretary who would let the apparatchik’s enjoy the fruits of patronage and perks of power. Brezhnev left them alone while the rest of society had to fear big brother. The worker’s party under Brezhnev was an entity that promoted the elite at the expense of the commoner. Brezhnev’s cronies dined on caviar while the workers labored with no reward or incentive to produce. Brezhnev was also somebody they could control. Toward the end of his reign, Brezhnev was really a figurehead while KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov pulled the strings.
Similarly, House Republicans chafed under the leadership of firebrand Newt Gingrich. At one point in 1997, Tom DeLay and Dick Armey among others attempted a coup that Gingrich foiled. Finally, the mid-term election results of 1998 provided the pre-text to force Gingrich out. When Robert Livingston opted to resign the Republican apparatchiks chose a Brezhnev type figurehead they could control. Hastert is the amiable wrestling coach who let Tom DeLay run the show, looked the other way when Jack Abramoff and other lobbyists drafted legislation, publicly rebuked fellow Republican John McCain for such sins as promoting campaign finance reform and challenging the Bush Administration about torture. The laissez faire doctrine about corruption was abandoned whenever the backbenchers wanted to express dissent about the new drug prescription bill or excessive pork. Although much of the scrutiny is on Tom Delay and Bob Ney one has to ask: how deeply was Hastert involved? Or was he simply not in charge? Rather like Leonid Brezhnev himself. Heck of a job Speaker Hastert. Well done.
The Intrepid Liberal Journal will announce winners at the end of each month for the three awards cited above. I am receptive to suggestions and can be lobbied each month (feel free to persuade me Jack Abramoff style!). In particular, I want to hear from people about who merits the Intrepid Person of the Month Award. If there is somebody you believe merits recognition or has a cause that deserves attention I want to hear about it. Over time I hope to encourage behavior that promotes progressive values, stiffen the spine of feckless Democrats, and wake up any Republicans with a conscious.