Monday, February 06, 2006

King George or President Bush? Shout It From the Ramparts
King George or President Bush? Shout It From the Ramparts
Miles Mogulescu

The Senate Democrats got things spectacularly wrong in their handling of the Alito nomination. Take a look at the February 2nd Washington Post article entitled "REPUBLICANS WERE MASTERS IN THE RACE TO PAINT ALITO: Democrat's Portrayal Failed to Sway the Public". Let's hope they can do better in the hearings about Bush's warrantless domestic wiretaps which start on Monday, February 6.

The Democrats let the Bush Administration frame the Alito confirmation debate from the moment Bush nominated him: The role of a judge is to interpret the law, not make the law. It's a question of competency. If a nominee is intelligent, shines his shoes, loves his family, and shows a passing knowledge of constitutional history, then how dare you question him on judicial philosophy--You're asking a judge to promise how he'll vote and we'll damn well hear none of that. Besides, you're making his wife cry.

Within minutes of the Alito nomination, the Republicans and their Christian right supporters went into high gear repeating this simple message over and over through the Republican noise machine and into the mainstream media. Within days, the mainstream media adopted this frame and proclaimed Alito's confirmation as an inevitability. The wind was taken out of the Democrats' sails before they even had a chance to get started. They were never able to frame a coherent alternate story. By the time the hearings were over, half the Democrats refused to filibuster and the other half did so with little heart. It was a massacre by a President with 40% approval ratings and left the Democrats looking weak, divided and helpless. As a result of the Democrats' failure, we now face a 4th hard right Justice who likely will participate in reducing the rights of American citizens for the next 30 years. Even if the Democrats regain control of Congress and the Presidency, a right wing Supreme Court may block many of their initiatives for years to come.

The Judiciary Committee hearings on President Bush's warrantless wiretapping give Congressional Democrats a chance to redeem themselves. But they, and their allies among progressive organizations, media and the blogosphere, will have to frame the issue for the public and the mainstream media quickly, before the Bush Administration's frame is set in concrete.

In his State of the Union address, Bush stated "If there are people inside our country who are talking with Al Qaeda, we want to know about it, because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again." Expect to hear this simple refrain over and over again from Bush surrogates, conservative pundits and then the mainstream media. Bush is for aggressively preventing another terrorist attack. Those who question warrantless wiretaps on Constitutional grounds are weak on national security and use legal technicalities to try and prevent the President from defending America. Karl Rove has already said he wants to use the "us strong, you weak" mantra yet again to prevent Democratic gains in the '06 congressional elections.

Bush wants the public to see this as an issue of security versus weakness. The Democrats must get the public to see it as an issue of law versus lawlessness.

Let's get one Republican canard off the table right away. Of course everyone wants to know what Al Qaeda and its allies are talking to each other about. The simple response is that this can be done legally and efficiently with a FISA warrant which can be quickly and easily obtained, even 72 hours after the wiretapping begins.

The real question is do we want a President to obey the law or break the law? Do we want a Constitutional republic or a Presidential dictatorship? Is it King George or President Bush?

So, repeat these few simple phrases after me: King George or President Bush? Constitutional democracy or Presidential dictatorship? Law vs. lawlessness. Let's shout it from the ramparts, repeat it over and over on talk shows, in newspaper columns, in letters to the editor and in the blogosphere. Mobilize the grassroots. The United States is a democracy, not a monarchy, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that it stays that way. This is our sacred duty as a free people.