Who speaks for me…

Who speaks for me, or more to the point who represents the will of the American people and influences public policy? If the decision by this administration and this Congress to sanction “extraordinary” interrogation measures and to blithely overlook the renderings of civilians to secret prisons in foreign lands doesn’t send a chill up our collective spine what will it take to capture the attention of a free people who believe in democratic principles.
And if the recently disclosed story about the Canadian citizen kidnapped by our government at a New York airport and sent to Syria where he was found, after months of detention and abuse, to have no terrorist affiliation doesn’t cause ordinary Americans to cringe in shame it is hard to imagine what would. It really isn’t enough for our leaders to say “oops” we made a mistake, is it? And if this is just another canard about how this president is keeping us safer here at home, think again – – at what such practices do to our credibility around the world and how they serve as a recruitment tool even among those Muslims who might previously have been considered moderates.
When did we become the tools of right-wing policy makers and religious fanatics? Why do politicians keep saying we should stop “bashing” the president because we are all Americans and, oh by the way, he’s a good Christian man, as they cling desperately to power by whatever bromide is handy? How did William Kristol at The Weekly Standard, for example, become a go-to opinion maker in print and on the airwaves, someone who should be taken seriously? His smug contention, before the invasion of Iraq, that sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites was unlikely is just another indication that he, like so many of the neo-cons, is all about agenda, un-encumbered by facts.
And just exactly when did James Dobson of Focus on the Family come to have such a formidable presence, as if he spoke for the entire nation and that his views should be imposed through government on all of us? He doesn’t speak for millions of Americans who are neither Evangelicals nor in fact Christians, or others who aren’t particularly religious at all but who are, nonetheless, moral, law-abiding, upstanding citizens who love their country and support our founders who believed that proclamations about religion would not serve the country well and should be private, not governmental concerns. And they were exactly right since today’s religious zealots have created wedge issues for political advantage; indeed one can’t help but wonder if the likes of Dobson and Jerry Falwell don’t enjoy their roles as political power brokers more than their less news-worthy roles as leaders of their flocks.
As if to make the point, George Allen visited this weekend’s Focus-on-the-Family gathering to support the group and its Christian principles – – he of “maccaca” fame and the recent disclosure that his mother was of Jewish ancestry. She had kept this from son George in case ‘he wouldn’t love her as much if he knew.’ What does this say about the man? One can only surmise that Allen is a man of narrow perspectives – – a rather disconcerting trait in one of our policy makers. His opponent in Virginia, Jim Webb, who opposed invading Iraq, went to see Senator Allen at the time to express his feelings but went away with the sense that Allen voted for the war out of loyalty to the president rather than after careful consideration of the facts at hand, something Allen denies.
Interestingly, at a recent conference at “The Center for American Progress”, the discussion concerned the abdication of congressional responsibility for oversight of government, an issue also explored in The Broken Branch, by Ornstein and Mann. What seems to have been forgotten by leaders in Congress, like Allen, is that they are members of “the people’s house” not simply partisan enablers for the administration. Former Republican lawmaker, Mickey Edwards, said at the conference that it was inconceivable for the White House and its appointees to say, for example, that they were too busy to appear before Congress – – and get away with it. He suggested that one way to put teeth into congressional requests was through the “power of the purse strings” – – by cutting, for example, governmental operating budgets.
There are, after all, legislative tools that can be used to ensure that proper oversight is conducted. But, of late, Congress has allowed a runaway executive to define and reconfigure laws it has passed or to promote legislation in ways that conform to the narrow dictates of this administration’s agenda – – often suffused with inappropriate religious and fear-tainted hyperbole.
We are coming mighty close to jettisoning our democratic principles and allowing the ship of state to founder in the dark waters of partisan radicalism which, quite possibly, may be a greater danger to our future as a nation than what the president likes to call “Islamo-fascism.” Where are the voices of reason?