Monday, June 5, 2006
This is so great. The Congress of the United States, which has cheerfully given President Bush essentially everything he's asked for in his extensions of executive power, has condoned or at least not condemned illegal wiretaps, illegal detentions, torture, violations of the Geneva Conventions and essentially any other action the government wants to take against American citizens it thinks might be somehow, maybe connected with someone who may be connected with someone who knew someone who once went to Pakistan or some country that sounds like Pakistan -- that Congress is now upset because some FBI agents raided the offices of Rep. William Jefferson, an apparently corrupt Louisiana Democrat.
A corrupt Louisiana politician -- what are the odds?
President Bush became so alarmed by this unexpected challenge to his monarchy that he called for a 45-day cooling-off period. It's not clear who or what is cooling off -- the central evidence in the case, the bribe money paid to Jefferson, was found in his freezer, so presumably it's cool enough. Perhaps it's intended to calm down congressional Republicans, who might find their heads rotating like demon-possessed children if they were forced to ask tough questions of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, the public official best known for finding legal reasons for the president to do whatever the president feels like doing.
First, of course, the president must wave a banner reading "Sept. 11." That makes everything OK. Why? Because we must honor the firefighters. Why are you being held without bail or access to counsel? To honor the firefighters. Why is your phone being tapped? To honor the firefighters. It's crazy-making, and Congress has gone along with it. Why? Because ain't nobody going to throw them in jail without charges; ain't nobody going to harass them -- wait, that just changed.
It's unconstitutional! It's a violation of the separation of powers! What bloody separation of powers? Congress has been sitting on Dick Cheney's lap and accepting tasty treats from Jack Abramoff for six years now. That ship has sailed; that famed separation is just a bit of patriotic nostalgia, like the Liberty Bell. Better they should have worried about it back when it mattered.
You see the problem. Being in Congress is not like living in America. You have a hired car and driver, and you don't carry money. You don't buy groceries and you don't pay plumbers. You spend every day raising money so you can go back to Congress, where you will raise more money. People want to buy you dinner, take you golfing, give you ... what do you want? There are people who will give it to you, and other people who make it look OK. Unless you do something dopey like keeping cash in your freezer, you'll never get caught.
You are supposed to represent the people in your district, but you don't live like the people in your district. Hell, most of the time you're not even in your district. You live in a bubble, and you take seriously stuff that other people find silly, and you ignore stuff that other people find important. Tim Russert: important. Working two jobs while trying to find health insurance to cover your pre-existing condition: not so important.
People in Congress do not speak the way other people speak. Have you ever listened to a congressional hearing? Congress members do not ask questions when it is time to ask questions; they make speeches. Sometimes they pretend it's a question by starting with "Wouldn't you agree... ?" -- but that doesn't make it a question. They seem to be utterly indifferent to their routine pomposities. They frequently call themselves "the American people," as in, "The American people are shocked by midnight break-ins at congressional offices."
We could feel sorry for them because they don't actually have lives. They may have had good motives at the start, and they may still have tiny areas of expertise in public policy that they use to benefit the nation as a whole, but basically they are aliens. They live on Planet Beltway. They've become tone deaf, so they don't understand that whining about one office break-in on Capitol Hill while showing supreme indifference to unwarranted searches, seizures, traffic stops and detentions might be considered in the outside world to be, well, dopey. Dopey in a bipartisan look-at-the-monkeys sort of way.
Basically, we're screwed. The Congress was supposed to save us from the executive branch, and the Supreme Court was supposed to save us from both, and now all three are playing some game that does not involve protecting citizens, spending money wisely or making sense. End rant. Have a nice Monday.