Chris Dodd left Iowa in order to lead a real filibuster on the floor of the Senate today in an attempt to stop Dick Cheney and Jay Rockefeller's telecom amnesty gift -- a move necessitated by Harry Reid's refusal to honor Dodd's hold (even while he reverently honors pro-torture holds from Lindsay Graham and countless similar holds from Tom Coburn). Reid's procedural conniving was supported by numerous Democratic Senators, including Pat Leahy, Dick Durbin and others (though against the wishes of 14 Democrats, including all presidential candidates in the Senate). In sum, Senate Democrats -- yet again -- are taking affirmative steps to ensure that Bush's demands are met in full, that he is vested with vast new surveillance powers, and that the rule of law in the United States is further eviscerated.
Dodd's staff has indicated that during his filibuster, the Senator will read from numerous comments submitted by blog readers in support of his highly impressive stance. Here is one such letter submitted by a reader here, who indicates that she is 23 years old, a new voter, and that the posting of her letter is her first blog comment ever:
I thank Senator Dodd for the opportunity to participate in this debate. For the Senate's edification: I'm twenty-three years old and a new voter who isn't going away any time soon.
The United States of America is founded upon the rule of law. Senators and representatives swear to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." According to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution -- a document for which centuries' of blood and tears have been shed -- "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Yet here the Senate stands, poised to grant immunity to telecommunications companies for profiting from the warrantless and lawless spying perpetrated upon the law-abiding citizenry; here the Senate stands, poised to usurp the judiciary, the branch of government responsible for determining whether the laws of the land have been broken and meting out punishment where appropriate; and here the Senate stands, poised to usher in its own irrevelancy -- and, worst of all, in exchange for nothing: no promises that this flagrant lawbreaking will cease, no testimony to be offered in the course of real and rigorous investigation.
"Give me liberty or give me death," said Patrick Henry. "Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither," said Benjamin Franklin. Now the telecommunications companies lobby the lot of you, saying, "Give us immunity, or we'll suffer the consequences of our lawbreaking." Now the President comes before you, saying, "Give my partners in crime immunity, or there'll be investigations and findings that taint my legacy."
Never mind the judiciary. Never mind that it's the job of the courts to ascertain whether any laws have been broken. So Congress rushes in to save the day! Immunity for profit-driven corporations, amnesty for lawbreakers!
I submit to this body that the Founders are rolling in their graves.
Voters could be forgiven for not realizing the Democratic Party won control of both houses of Congress in the 2006 mid-term elections, for there's so little evidence of any checks being brought against President Bush, whose polling to date is both abysmal and deserved. Yet now Democrats brandish the majority and usher in much of the same: more war, more lives lost, more of our tax dollars pouring into places I've never even heard of, and here we've got next to nothing to show for it. I hear citizens of other countries get something for paying their taxes; I can't even imagine what that's like.
And what are Americans to think, except that they've been betrayed by both parties? I congratulate Democrats and Republicans for their breathtaking cynicism, for how well they've worked together to engender so much apathy among voters that millions of Americans stay home on election day. What choices we have!
The legislature abdicates oversight, puts blind faith in the executive, and extends immunity to lawbreaking telecommunications companies. Are those companies to be pitied for going along with the President's plan in direct contravention of the law and raking in cash? Are they, along with the President, to be congratulated for their foresight, considering that this warrantless spying upon Americans is reported to have gone on well before 9/11? (And mind you how well all of that illegal surveillance served to protect us on that awful day.) Are these companies to be respected more than voters? Are they to be granted immunity for lawbreaking, in return for nothing? Congress doesn't even appear to be interested in leveraging immunity in return for testimony.
What will I tell my children? It's fine to break the law if the president says so? It's fine to break the law if you can lobby Congress to grant you immunity? It's fine to break the law if you can stuff cash into the coffers of senators and representatives? What country is this? I say again: the Founders are rolling in their graves. For the past fifteen years, I've watched the news and felt disgust for the whole sorry lot of you.
You who purport to lead, yet cower like beaten dogs before the President, as if he were king. You who vote upon legislation you likely don't even read. You who coif your hair into absurd, unmoving helmets and whiten your teeth and don designers suits and appear on TV, daring to tell me you represent my interests. You who pass pointless, meaningless resolutions condemning commercials and congratulating professional sports teams for winning while Americans go hungry, while Americans go without healthcare, while Americans work two jobs to make ends meet, while Americans die in Iraq and Afghanistan. You who swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution and flatter yourselves by conflating your re-election with the interests of your country and constituency. You who fret about keeping your powder dry until the are barracks overrun.
You who tell me to live in a constant state of fear, but to keep on shopping; do keep shopping. How proud my children should be to be born American! They'll shop in the face of constant fear with fists full of credit cards. And I'll say to them, "What shall we buy tomorrow, children?" But, of course, I have my own ideas: our very own Senator, our very own Representative, our very own President. I should buy the whole sorry lot of you to be heeded at all.
And so here is the Senate in all its majesty. Where are the Patrick Henrys, the Benjamin Franklins? God save America from her greatest enemy: a pack of pathetic, self-serving cowards.
Speaking of self-serving politicians who are "conflating [their] re-election with the interests of [their] country," where are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during all of this? Having previously issued statements promising to support Dodd's filibuster (statements issued to placate the brewing anger over their silence on this issue), they are evidently too busy running around Iowa giving speeches boasting about what Great Leaders they are and therefore have been far too busy to do anything to take a stand for the rule of law or to impose accounability on the years-long lawbreaking by our government and their telecommuncations partners. "Leadership" is apparently demonstrated by giving pretty speeches about Leadership, not by taking actual stances in defense of alleged principles. Imagine the prominence this issue would have received and the heightened prospects for derailing amnesty which would have accrued had Obama and/or Clinton devoted the slightest "leadership" to these efforts.
Finally, don't expect the establishment press to pay much attention to Dodd's filibuster or the debate over telecom amnesty generally. They consider the issues raised by Holly's letter to be dreary, partisan hysteria. As the highly representative Shailagh Murray of The Washington Post put it in sneering at Dodd's announced hold back in October, such talk about the "rule of law" is just "breathless" "hot rhetoric." She then added:
Whenever that big day comes, Dodd -- as the keeper of the "hold" -- must return from the campaign trail to officially block debate on the bill. That entails standing around on the Senate floor, forcing procedural votes, avoiding the furious glares of colleagues who don't share the same concerns. The standard duration of such showdowns is about a week -- time that Dodd, who is trailing badly in early primary polls, can scarcely afford.
What reporter wants to bother with such mundane matters when there are exciting, catty comments to giggle about and pass on from the latest anonymous campaign aide dishing gossip? Writing those things down is so much easier -- and so much more fun -- than having to talk about the ponderous, depressing issues which Holly's letter raises. Boring everyone with those things won't get you invited on TV by Chris Matthews and Tim Russert.