James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Senate Democrats roll over again

We should work like mad to elect more Democrats to Congress, and especially to the Senate.

That's the message, repeated frequently in party mailers and online pitches.

OK. I have just one question.

Why? Why should we make a major effort in that direction?

Since the electorate gave them a slim majority in both houses of Congress in 2006, the Democrats, and especially those in the Senate, have either actively supported George W. Bush in his attacks on the U.S. Constitution, the poor and the middle class, or they have weakly collapsed before the threat of cloture votes or the mere threat of a Bush veto.

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2008, they went belly up again. The Senate voted to protect telecommunications companies from lawsuits related to their willing compliance with Bush administration requests to spy on their customers. The vote was 68 to 29 to shield the poor threatened telecoms from citizen anger.

About 40 suits already have been filed against the companies by citizens alleging – correctly – that the corporations violated wiretapping and privacy laws. Presumably those suits now will either be thrown out of court or lost quickly.

The Senate is made up of 49 alleged Democrats, 49 Republicans, Joe (I'm Bush's guy but I pretend to be a Democrat) Lieberman and socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with the Democrats and is more reliable on liberal issues than many of the Democrats.

But there were just 29 votes to hold the telecoms responsible for knowingly breaking the law in order to curry favor with the White House. That's less than 51, 50 or 49, you may note.

This is not new stuff, folks. It has happened on numerous White House appointments, and on many other issues. It happens on almost every vote that you might think would break down to Republicans vs. Democrats, the corporate elite vs. the American people.

Up here on the prairies, Democrats Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin voted for the White House and the telecom giants. Somewhat to my surprise, but not totally, Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar voted with the minority who wanted to hold the companies responsible for their actions. Sometimes she goes one way, sometimes the other.

(Sen. Barak Obama voted on the side of the angels and against the telecoms, by the way. Sen. Hillary Clinton didn't vote on the issue.)

A few days before the vote, I sent a note to Minnesota's Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican and slavish follower of White House orders. (He was anointed to run for the office by the administration, formally getting the nod from Dick Cheney.) Knowing the effort was futile, I nevertheless begged him to reject the retroactive protection for the telecoms for illegal eavesdropping on their customers.

In a reply Monday (Feb. 11), Coleman said he would back the White House and the companies because “I believe that it is unfair to penalize companies for responding to written assurances from the highest levels of the government that their help is legal and essential for saving lives.”

He acknowledged that “Whether the government acted properly is a different question...”

That's the official stance of all of those who supported Bush & Co.

There are, of course, a couple of problems with that. In arguments, those who stood with the White House have maintained that those poor little telecoms couldn't have known that what they were doing is illegal. But, of course, those corporations have literally hundreds of high-dollar lawyers who are capable of figuring out what's legal and what's not and advising accordingly -– as they almost certainly did. The companies have an obligation under the law to determine whether their actions are legal. No law obliges them to obey the White House.

And, of course, those senators who support the White House are not -- not now, not ever –- going to hold the administration responsible for its illegal activities.

So tell me again why I should support a big Democrat effort to get more Senate seats? Would we need to elect 20 new Democrats in order to get 10 “real Democrat” votes? Maybe 25 new Democrats? Is that even possible, and if not, why should we throw our money and our effort in that direction?

My stance remains what it has been for a couple of years now: No contributions to the Democratic Party as such, nor to any of its subordinate organizations, such as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee or Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. I undoubtedly will give what bucks I can afford to one or two individual Democratic candidates, but only if I'm very sure of where they stand on the important issues.


Greatmerican Lies 2: "We care what you think" A on fund-raising letters thinly disguised as "polls."