America deserves a real discussion
Sure, there have been moments in the last few years when it felt so good to hear somebody tell it like it is. But all the while there has been a constant effort to keep America from having an honest debate about the direction of the country.
Forgive the late-night rant, but it cannot be a secret to anybody that the GOP and its supporters have made it a mission to stifle dissent and prevent debates from taking place.
It happened when Kerry was swiftboated. In their wildest dreams, those liars couldn't have imagined that the charges would stick, that the Kerry campaign would be so slow to respond, that the media would be so complicit in the attacks. John O'Neill was on practically every cable news show.
John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural speech said "Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans." But in the 2004 campaign, we were robbed of our right to a real national debate. While the problems facing our and future generations were looming, we were forced to rehash a debate that aired on the Dick Cavett Show a generation earlier. That was the swiftboaters' goal: To distract the nation and steal our chance to have a real candid discussion about our future. The damage to Kerry's candidacy was just gravy.
Bring up the question of warrants for wiretaps and watch them turn the debate to the effectiveness or necessity of tracking terrorists. Nobody in America -- nobody -- thinks we shouldn't track terrorists and everybody in America knows it. But the media doesn't play host to the debate we deserve.
Bring up the question of oversight and watch them change the subject to the seriousness of fighting terror. The media puts up the poll numbers and, again, refuses to play host to the debate we deserve.
Bring up any alternate plan for Iraq -- phased withdrawal, benchmark withdrawal, partitioning, etc. -- and listen to the howls of "cut-and-run" and "cowardice" instead of any oversight or constructive discourse.
You're either for drilling for oil in Alaska and off the coasts or you're for continuing our dependence on foreign oil. Raising our fuel-efficiency standards doesn't make it into the debate at all because the GOP way isn't the best way, it's the only way.
They don't want us to have a real debate about anything. They've already hatched their schemes and there is no point to any discussion about it. They are never persuaded to follow any other course because when they are sworn into office, they carry with them a mandate, regardless of the margin of their electoral victories.
And the bought-and-paid-for media just doesn't care. When events in the world spark inquiries into the administration's capabilities or the soundness of their decisions, a terror alert or reminder that we should be afraid and quiet is enough to prevent any real engagement with the issues. It doesn't even need to be a remotely good reason; warnings of wandering black holes in the galaxy or super-volcanoes on Earth had to suffice this week.
Or some tabloid garbage supersedes all reason. The media was supposed to have learned its lesson when 9/11 came on the heels of non-stop Gary Condit coverage. Then Katrina hit during Aruba-vision. This month, in the midst of two costly wars and tremendous developments in the wiretapping case, we were asphyxiated with John Mark Karr. Even if he had been the real murderer of Jon Benet Ramsey, enough is enough. The fact that he lied is just salt in the wound.
And then, there are the Democrats who enable the scoundrels who steal our right to a real dialog.
"I, too, disagree with the president on every major domestic issue from taxes to Social Security. Yet I believe those issues are trumped by the overriding need to defeat international terrorism, the biggest threat to our freedom."
Thank you, Ed Koch. And thanks, Joe Lieberman, for the concern about "undermining the president's credibility."
And on the floor of the Senate or in the halls of Congress, the debate is just as easily avoided. John Murtha makes a proposal and the GOP puts a bogus, superficial rip-off up for debate, just so it will be voted down with prejudice.
Minimum wage comes up for a vote and instead we get to hear a debate about whether it should be paired with the proposed repealing of the estate tax.
Important legislation about our nation's health care or energy policy is written in secret and passed without a chance for the public to evaluate it. Instead of debating Kerry's health care plan on its merits... instead of criticizing any flaws in the plan and offering America a chance to consider and possibly improve it or legitimately decide against it, the GOP said we should all fear a complicated government takeover of our medical decisions. That was the extent of the debate on the future of our health care system: Should we have a giant bureaucracy or not?
Practically nobody read the Patriot Act. How can we call this a true democracy when we don't even get to hear about our possible choices? They don't want us to have any choices.
During the campaign, they said Kerry had no plan. When he published his plan, it was automatically a horrible plan that would cost trillions. There is nothing in between "no ideas" and "horrible, dangerous ideas." There's no reason to expect more from the political operatives, but the media is supposed to fill that void. Tragically, the media is just not interested in presenting us with the information we need to make informed decisions and force accountability on our leadership.
Even when our most statesmanlike Senators have an actual debate, there are always reasons why something shouldn't even be considered. While Sens. Feingold, Boxer and Kerry were trying to get their amendment to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq considered, we heard this:
Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I say to my colleague that I agree fundamentally with the premise that the Iraqi people, in the final analysis, are the ones who are going to be able to bring about their own measure of democracy and enable this Government to exercise sovereignty.
Other Senators want to participate, so I will soon yield. I know both of us have had the opportunity to serve in the military. There is nothing more painful than the loss of a brother member of the service. I don't know about you, but it has been difficult for me today to contain my absolute outrage about what happened, Mr. President, to these two young soldiers who raised their right arms and volunteered for this service in Iraq, to have been captured and brutally mauled and executed.
What did you feel when we lost these two individuals? I know you felt it probably as badly as I did. I cannot understand why they could be saying over there that, see what we did, we beheaded two, and what did the Congress do? It passed this law that said our troops would be redeployed by July 1, 12 months from today.
Senator, timing in life is everything. The timing for this concept you have has not arrived, I say to my good friend.
Ripeness is all, as Shakespeare wrote. But as respectful as Sen. Warner was to Kerry, his message is infuriating. Our nation lost 63 brave soldiers in Iraq in the month of June. Sixty-three. Those deaths occurred on 20 of the 30 days in the month. That means the chances were twice as great that the amendment would be brought to the floor as a soldier was giving his or her life for this country. Not only is it shameful to use their deaths to evade the responsibility of the Senate to practice oversight, those morbid details and numbers are even more of reason to actually consider alternatives to the failing strategy of staying the course.
America deserves a real debate. Had we been allowed a real debate before going to Iraq, we might not have been stuck in this horrible war. We were entitled to that debate, but were denied.
We were denied because we were only given facts that supported the decision Bush had already made. We were denied because the media and pundits didn't respect their role in our society and didn't give an adequate platform to those who rejected the party line.
We were denied because too many career politicians in both parties made calculated political decisions instead of representing a diverse electorate.
We, as Americans, are entitled to a real debate about our future. We've been denied in the past, and Donald Rumsfeld upped the ante on Monday by, as Olbermann said, "question[ing] the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer's New Clothes."
It's about time the people in this country say they've had enough of this. Yesterday was a tremendous day for America because two men with a well-crafted message, a microphone and a huge crowd or prime-time audience finally did. Let's make sure that tomorrow there are even more people demanding respect for ideas and free expression. Someday we just might be able to go back to taking our rights for granted.