Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What is wrong with Senate Democrats?

Today, Senate Democrats voted to give Lieberman a slap on the wrist, stripping him of his positions on a couple environmental subcommittees, but letting him keep his far more important chairmanship of the Homeland Security committee, which has important oversight responsibilities.

And it was a pretty decisive vote, 43-12.

It's times like these that you really have to wonder what is up with the Senate. This is hardly the first time they've let their constituents down. Whether it was voting to grant the Bush administration all the new eavesdropping powers they wanted (along with telecom immunity to cover their asses), or renewing the Patriot Act, or declaring branches of the Iranian government "terrorists", or authorizing torture, Senate Democrats have been willing participants all along. There has been no shortage of "bipartisanship".

Now, confronted with an individual who voluntarily turned against his party and became a total neo-con, lost a Democratic primary, campaigned with Republicans, spoke at the Republican convention, and happily spread fear-mongering smears against the new President elect (a President elect who actually supported Lieberman in his primary battle; big mistake, in retrospect), what do the Democrats do? They let him keep his chairmanship through an overwhelmingly one sided vote, a position that he has done an exceedingly poor job at by any objective measure, failing to exercise any oversight at all over the Bush administration's failures.

All this so he can do what? Start witch hunts against the Obama administration?

This is all quite ridiculous, and makes the Democrats look weak once again, at a time of Democratic ascendancy, with the party making gains in all branches of government and with a significant progressive mandate for change.

The Democratic leadership should have called Lieberman's bluff, and stripped him of this chairmanship. Of course they want him to stay in the caucus, and he likely would have done so. As much as Lieberman wanted this committee, he still is a Democrat on most issues, and undergoing an even more extreme ideological conversion would simply ensure his defeat in 2012. It's looking very likely that the Dems will have at least 58 seats in the Senate without Holy Joe; he's not nearly as important as he thinks he is.

More broadly, this is a symptom of this overwhelming desire for "bipartisan harmony". Apparently the desire for "harmony" even overrides the rule of law. Don't hold anyone accountable, because that would be "partisan", and "vindictive".

It is important to note that Obama is not much better in this regard. He was not present for some of the aforementioned votes, but he did eventually support the disgraceful FISA bill and seemed to wash his hands of any decision on Lieberman. His aides have also signalled that his Justice Department will not be pursuing any prosecutions of those government officials involved in the Bush-Cheney torture regime.

I understand the need for healing, but justice and accountability are integral parts of that healing process.

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