Like Many in this country I've been struggling to comprehend what's been happening to our modern political landscape. Some things are obvious to me. Others are completely mystifying.
For example, voting in tax breaks for billionaires and large multinational corporations who provide the lions share of your re-election campaign funds is a no-brainer. You don't have to be a legal scholar to see the "rub-a-dub-dub" quid pro quo going on there.
On the mysterious side, consider the relationship between the Congress and the White House. I have long been baffled by the success with which the Bush administration has been able to hold sway over the Congress, particularly among members of the Republican party. Ever since the first days of his tenure in office, Republican Senators and Congressmen have lined up behind George W. Bush and voted as a solid block in support of his policies.
Oh sure, there have been exceptions - criticism from the odd moderate up for re-election. But even the few objections that have arisen - like John McCain's principled stand against torture - have proven in the end to be little more than empty rhetoric. On every major bill supported by the President, Republicans have marched virtually in lockstep.
On the surface the reasons may seem obvious, party loyalty and all that. But in politics, as in bank robbing, loyalty only goes so far. The recent midterm debacle is proof that support for a president with unpopular policies and low poll numbers is a losing strategy. In terms of popularity, the neo-con's ship is foundering. Logic would dictate that at least a few right wing rodents would be heading for the lifeboats. Yet on vote after vote they blindly stand by their "Commander Guy". As I said, it's mystifying.
Not only are the President's policies unpopular, they don't even match the traditional ideals conservative republicans support. Pre-emptive strikes, extrordinary rendition, illegal wiretapping, military tribunals, the repudiation of Habeus Corpus, these are not "conservative" ideas. They are radical departures from the status quo. By rights these policies should garner at least some debate within the Republican base. And yet apparently there is none. When asked to vote on any issue supported by the White House, Republicans smile and nod like bobble head dolls on a dashboard.
The policy that surpasses them all, however, is the so called "Unitary Executive" idea. It is one thing for a Senator to look the other way when the President signs something called "The Clean Air Initiative" which, increases allowable arsenic emissions. But to sit idly by while the President openly declares himself not answerable to the Congress, to sit and watch while he attaches signing statements to virtually every piece of legislation that crosses his desk stating, in effect, that the law he is signing doesn't apply to him, is worse than a deriliction of congressional duty. It is practically suicidal.
Ashcroft, Gonzales and even Judge Roberts may swallow the Koolaide regarding Executive Priviledge, but the question remains how has the Bush administration been able to pursuade the Republican members of the House and Senate to sit on their hands while the President practically tears up the Constitution in front of their faces?
It is inconceivable to me that all elected Republicans should be so ignorant of the Constitution (or contemptuous of it) that they would willingly abdicate their power as overseers of the executive branch. It's especially ironic that elected officials, ostensibly concerned with re-election to the halls of power, should support policies designed to render their own power status obsolete. Not only are they watching the president saw through the (legislative) branch on which they are standing, they're urging him to saw faster. I can understand if a majority of republicans voted to support the President's policies, but all of them? Even Richard Nixon wasn't so lucky to have this kind of blind obedience from the rank and file of his party.
Much has been written of the efforts of power brokers such as Tom Delay, Karl Rove and Grover Norquist to twist the arms of Senators and Congressmen through control of the re-election purse strings. But Have Mssrs. Rove, Delay and Norquist really been so successful as to silence all dissent within the party? Are the Republicans in the House and Senate really so cowed by their leadership that they are happy to stand meekly by while George W. Bush eviscerates the very Constitution they swore to uphold when they took office?
I suspect not. I suspect there are at least a few Republicans who are not on board with wireless wiretapping and the elimination of Habeus Corpus. I think there are probably Republican Senators who feel in their hearts that spending half a trillion dollars invading and occupying two nations which didn't attack us was a mistake. I feel certain that there are at least a few Republican representatives who are sufficiently mindful of recent polls which show an increasing majority of their constituents want them to bring our troops home from Iraq. Yet for some inexplicable reason, they continue to vote with the President.
As I have said, many of the things Republican Congressmen do are mystifying to me. What is not mystifying, however, is the likely result of those actions. Any Republican Senator or Congressman who supports without question the policies of an Imperial Unitary Executive, who refuses to allow honest debate about the dangerous path that Executive has chosen for this country, and who doesn't protest when the Bush administration advocates unilateral acts every bit as heinous as the terrorists we are supposedly fighting, is guilty of betraying the very principles on which this government was founded. And in the end, this betrayal will lead to the destruction of the freedoms which we all enjoy.
This, to me, is clear as crystal.