Navigating the wonderland of our political landscape is becoming curiouser and curiouser. When Republicans say the Democratic party has moved too far left it is probably an accurate statement from their perspective because their party has moved so far to the right – kind of like that old greeting-card humor that said “I’ve been down so long it’s beginning to look like up to me.” In fact most rational observers would agree that the Democratic Party has in fact moved more towards the middle. At the same time it seems to work politically for Republicans to claim there’s a biased, liberal press although apparently this means any reporter or analyst who questions any aspect of administration policy.
Then, too, there are those accusations that Democrats aren’t tough enough with respect to the military even though our current forces were trained and armed during the Clinton years. There are also repeated accusations that our intelligence service was weakened by Democratic fiat. However, one of the reasons for legislative action in the ‘80s was that Congress had been kept in the dark about clandestine operations by which the US had disrupted elected governments, notably in Nicaragua and Chile. Congress then passed legislation forbidding such operations and demanding that proper Congressional oversight be observed in the future. Of course two enablers of those policies are back; Eliot Abrams and John Negroponte having become acceptable once again in the eyes of this administration.
When it comes to supporting our troops the public is encouraged to believe that only Republicans care but, really, who doesn’t support those young men and women sent to do our government’s bidding in foreign lands? Watch out, though, when those troops come home wounded or disabled, especially guardsmen and reservists, some 185,000 of whom are on active duty in the US and overseas. “Unlike active-duty soldiers and marines, guardsmen and reservists typically get access to military bases and hospitals only when they are called to active duty. Once they are injured, guard and reserve troops frequently need approval to have their active-duty service extended so they can get medical treatment.” (article here)
And how is one to make sense of those proposed cuts in the president’s new budget? Vets will soon be charged $250 to enroll in a government medical plan as well as pay increased charges for prescription drugs even though the small print in military applications promises vets free health care. To be fair, though, the additional expenses are only meant to apply to wealthier vets, those fat cats earning, say, $26,000 or more. Then too in The House, as has become typical, committee chairs are removed by the leadership if they show a tendency to stray from administration strictures, or in the case of veterans’ affairs, if they advocate too strongly for those they represent rather than serving as party absolutists.
Nevertheless, critics charge, Democrats are soft militarily despite the fact that they always champion veterans’ interests and support wise weapons choices. For a certainty they have questioned increased funding for the putative Missile Defense Program. But consider the history of this system the president has funded heavily, even building silos in Alaska. It has responded poorly to every test and in two recent attempts failed even to leave the launching pad. There are also questions as to whether the system is capable of distinguishing between active incoming and a weather balloon. Yet it is often hazardous to one’s political health to question the efficacy of any weapon or defense mechanism offered up by this administration, and it can be just as hazardous to pose serious questions about other aspects of its agenda. Issues that should be legitimate topics for discussion are off limits for a loyal opposition that is most often described as obstructionist.
And when it comes to ethical considerations, it now appears acceptable to change the rules as you go along as in retroactive law, one of the most widely condemned practices of fascist regimes. Currently the Texas legislature is attempting to pass into law a provision that would allow a legislative committee to determine if ethics violations cases should proceed, bypassing the prosecutor’s office and informing that official of its decision. Said to be an attempt to prevent the filing of frivolous cases, it seems an obvious attempt to insulate Tom Delay from legal action with respect to his fund-raising and other questionable activities.
In our current wonderland of managed news and fungible ethics we are witnessing a display of dirty tricks that would put Donald Segretti and Chuck Colson of the Nixon years to shame. In the happy family of a stenographic press and a manipulative administration the public is an impoverished sibling. What some in the media refer to as “access” has become a relationship that more closely resembles “incest.”

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