The GOP Government: Delegating Accusations of Treason!
Dawn Walters Lowery:ONE OF OUR CAMPUS COMMENTATORS
Since 9/11, Senator Lott and many others on the Right have viciously attacked Senator Daschle for some pretty benign questioning. What Senator Daschle asked was not a threat to our national security. What Senator Daschle asked was not unpatriotic. What Senator Daschle asked was not in any way inappropriate. Quite the contrary, what Senator Daschle asked is exactly what constituents expect their elected leaders to ask.
A military campaign that might last for decades, as we have been told, cannot be orchestrated like a one-man band. The federal government cannot be conducted in secret. This is not how our democracy works. History has enough examples to demonstrate why.
If the Executive Branch was doing its job properly it would be keeping its Congressional partners better informed regarding the expansion, expenditures and goals in the current military campaign. Then Senator Daschle would never have been in the difficult and unpalatable position to openly and publicly ask the kind of difficult kinds of questions he has been castigated for.
If the Executive Branch was it job properly, the Majority Leader of a coequal branch of government would not have had to be sitting on national television informing We The People that he was unaware of the administration's plans regarding a "shadow government." If the Presidency is keeping these kinds of things from a coequal branch of government, it's only normal that We The People will begin to wonder what else it is hiding from us. This is not the way to foster unity. This is the way to foment mistrust, anxiety, and discord
However, it seems that the administration wants a blank check to do exactly what the President and his top advisors deem appropriate, without feeling any obligation to offer any explanations to a coequal branch of government about what the goals are for the operations for which they are expected to approve funding.
I am not fooled by the rhetoric that congressional oversight poses a threat to national security. Senator Daschle was not even asking about nitty-gritty details of military operations (even though he probably has a right to). He was not asking for our military to be compromised in any way. The GOP rhetoric to the contrary was transparently self-serving. It appears to me that this administration is trying to operate not as a representative democracy, as is our tradition, but rather as the type of regime for which Guillermo O'Donnell named his essay – as a "Declarative Democracy."
"Declarative democracies rest on the premise that whoever wins election to the presidency is thereby entitled to govern it sees fit, constrained only by the hard facts of existing power relations and by a constitutionally limited term of office...After the election, voters/delegators are expected to become a passive but cheering audience of what the president does...Only the head really knows: the president and his most trusted advisors are the alpha and the omega of politics...resistance...has to be ignored...the president isolates himself from most political institutions and organized interests..."
Daschle is being demonized for doing his job – the job he is accorded under the Constitution and being punished for not acting like a "cheering audience of what the president does."
The Republican Party has chosen to smear Daschle and the rest of us who dare to question whether it's in our best interest to be a passive, cheering audience to the president and his advisors who are maliciously labeling us traitors. They want us to sit back and shut up and let them be the "alpha and omega." Clayton Williams might well add this to the list of things we ought to just sit back and enjoy.
Indeed, the administration is hard at work reducing what O'Donnell calls "horizontal accountability." The administration has defied the GAO, has lost a lawsuit filed by a conservative group, and has still refused to comply with the law. It has scoffed at the Freedom of Information Act. It has told We The People that public records are none of our business. It's shroud of secrecy has been extended even to Lady Liberty's bosom!
This mass wasting of horizontal accountability has been extended to their own GOP moderates, resulting in the widely publicized party desertion of Jim Jeffords and to congressional discord. It has been so pervasive as to send four-term Republican Steve LaTourette into a tirade, decrying the administration's refusal to hand over documents as "crap."
A mark of declarative democracy, O'Donnell posits, is "the additional apparent advantage of allowing swift policy making," (Can you say "Fast Track?"), but this can also lead to a higher level of mistakes. We should thank Senator Daschle for clearing the red, white, and blue scales from his eyes and trying to prevent gross mistakes and hazardous implementations. That is, after all, what a system of checks and balances is designed to do.
This administration has set a declarative tone about how it wants to get business done. It makes policy in secret, ignores the Freedom of Information Act, defies legitimate requests from oversight branches and non-governmental organizations, ignores or rebukes anyone who dares to question, even in the feeblest, manner, its tactics. People who should know better are being infected by the declarative fever. Any attempts to utilize traditional methods of horizontal accountability, which are long standing traditions in our United States of America, get shouted down as treason. The American flag is being wrapped around a package, the contents of which are anybody's guess and woe be to the traitor who dares to put an ear to the box and shake. The results of this, as we week after week, support O'Donnell's claim that declarative democracy "could hardly be less congenial to the building and strengthening of democratic political institutions."
Despite the clear and levelheaded logic and utter lack of malice in what Senator Daschle continues to ask on behalf of We The People, Senator Lott will not back down from his declarative position, saying on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "any sign that we are losing that unity, or crack in that support, will be, I think, used against us overseas."
However Lott would not criticize either the rabid attacks on the Senator Daschle, nor would he condemn a partisan ad that featured Senator Daschle next to the image of Saddam Hussein. Regarding the attacks on Daschle, he stated, ironically, that "we all have to speak our own mind."
Lott apparently fails to see the glaring contradiction in the fact that the ad and smear campaign against Senator Daschle is an attack on the Majority Leader of a coequal branch of government and is also a loss of unity. Is this not also liable to be used against us overseas? And isn't hypocrisy and authoritarian rule more destructive in the long run than anything anyone from overseas can do to our country?