Even in the rough and tumble of politics, there are places where honor, decency, and yes, even patriotism, demand that politicians not go. Challenging the loyalty of people fighting to uphold American constitutional liberties is one of those places.
Yet, here is what one of the most powerful officeholders in this nation had to say about efforts by Democratic members of Congress to add some small, if utterly insufficient, degree of respect for personal liberties to the so-called antiterrorism bill:
After Wednesday’s mostly party-line vote in the Republican-run House, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said in a statement that Democrats who voted against the measure “voted today in favor of more rights for terrorists.”
He added, “So the same terrorists who plan to harm innocent Americans and their freedom worldwide would be coddled, if we followed the Democrat plan.”
What am I supposed to say? Seriously, what words can even begin to express the depravity? This man doesn’t deserve to be elected sheriff of a small rural county, let alone Speaker of the House of Representatives. His words are indisputably un-American.
Yet, they aren’t the least bit surprising, are they? In fact, this may fairly be described as business as usual for the Republican Party. These are, after all, the same people who won a Senate seat in Georgia in 2002 by questioning the honor and patriotism of Max Cleland, who only lost three limbs fighting for this nation in Vietnam (and can any one say
dé·jà vu this year).
And it’s the same crew who falsely and maliciously besmirched the courage of John Kerry, a true American hero, so as to secure the reelection of a president who used his daddy’s connections to avoid having to fight in the same war.
They are also the same people who, ever since the attacks on Sept. 11, have consistently equated dissent with disloyalty, protest with treason and independent thought with providing aid and comfort to the enemy.
Still, this is a democracy, even if a very sick one at present: And in a democracy accountability doesn’t flow just one way. Yes, office holders are ultimately accountable to the electorate, but we the voters are also accountable for the decisions we make. And the harsh reality is that if we continue to reward un-American political conduct at the polling booths, we become as responsible for that conduct and the harm it does to our constitutional system as all the Hasterts, Cheneys and Bushes themselves.
So yes, some Republican leaders don’t deserve to be called Americans.
But then how many of the rest of us do?
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