Brave, Brave, Brave, Brave Sir Robin

“You are a coward when you even seem to have backed down from a thing you openly set out to do.” —Mark Twain

When I first heard that the theme of this issue of keepgoing was going to be Glimpse, I let the term roll around in the back of my head for days, knocking over boxes of long-forgotten porn and smudging itself repeatedly on old pockets of bong resin in the process. I wanted desperately to dredge up a connection to something funny or absurd, an idea that could lend itself to farce (and which I could then brazenly subject to my own spotty grasp of farce as a concept). Why, then, was the only possibility which suggested itself something that I don’t find funny in the least, and in which I see precious little potential to become funny no matter how I approach writing about it? Evidently, my brain and what passes for creative instinct with me have chosen to conspire to toy with me.

No, that’s not it. They’re fucking with me, plain and simple. The bastids.

Because all I can think of to rant and rave about at the moment is the one subject I’ve desperately been trying to avoid in my writing — the one thing that seems so trite and obvious a subject at the moment that if I’m going to write about it, I may just as well spend three or four pages transcribing musty old blonde jokes. And yet, here we are. Evidently this sucker isn’t gonna let up on me until I spew it out in front of you good folks, so here we go.…

The Democrats are pussies.

Thoroughly. Completely. Utterly. Undeniably. Screechingly. Panaphobically. Not-the-Slightest-Bit-of-Eye-Contact-Makingly. Shadow-Fearingly. Petticoats-Liftingly. Pussies.

Not just “No thanks, I won’t have that 18th shot-and-a-beer of the evening” sorta pussies. Nope. Not just “Man, I can’t ask her out because she, possessed as she is of … well, quite frankly, a pulse, is way out of my league” sorta pussies. Oh, no, no, no. Not just “I can’t come out for poker night anymore or the wife will surely geld me in my sleep” sorta pussies (though that does come closer).

No, the Democrats are pussies like a fireman who, when faced with a blazing office building, promptly wets himself and runs like a bat out of hell for the nearest bar. They’re pussies like a policeman in a crowd who, reacting to a sudden sniper attack from across the street, chooses to duck for cover behind a nearby pregnant woman. If the Democrats, as a collective, were a soldier in a field hospital in Sicily, General Patton would slap the ever-loving shit out of them, plant a boot up their ass, and send them straight back up to the front lines. See? That sorta pussy.

Now, before I catch holy hell for sounding like a refugee from the Free Republic message boards, I will say one thing for the Democrats: at least they aren’t a load of warmongering, Treasury-looting, Constitution-shredding Jesus-jackals like the Republicans. That alone makes them by far the less odious of the two. No question about it. But they also categorically refuse to stand up to the Republicans in any consistent, substantial way. Yes, we get occasional glimpses of what might be construed as Democratic “protocourage”: brief flickers of action requiring an actual spine almost by definition. But it never lasts long enough to take hold and grow. The professional political consultants who infest the Beltway like so many sushi-guzzling bacteria make damned good and sure of that. We wouldn’t want the Democrats as a whole to start standing up for their own stated political principles, after all. That would tend to go against established branding and confuse the buying ... er, that is, voting public.

And so we’ve seen a seemingly endless string of situations in which the Democrats ever-so-fleetingly talk tough on an issue; but when the boot actually hits the balls and it’s time to act, they roll over like whipped pups. Patriot Act? Most of them didn’t even bother to read it before blindly voting for it, lest somebody accuse them of coddling terrorists. Bush’s Iraq war? Again they chose political expedience over sanity, even though it couldn’t have been more obvious even back then that we were all being bullshat clear into next week. Impeachment of Bush or any of his cronies for their countless efforts to undermine our Constitution, our military, and the rule of law in general? Nope. Impeachment, we’ve long been told by Congressional Democratic leadership, is “off the table.” They finally made some noise when Bush nominated right-wing ideologues like Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court, but then in the end they opted to “keep their powder dry” by doing absolutely nothing to oppose either judge’s confirmation.

Here’s a great example of all this, though. And by great, I mean “totally gives me the motherfucking red-ass.” I recently had the singular misfortune of watching John Conyers try to chair the House Judiciary Committee as they … well, not so much “grilled” Attorney General Alberto “My Job Is None of My Business” Gonzales. It was more like they swaddled him in warm blankets and gave him a nice cup of tea. The Democrats mostly acted like they’d only just heard of the U.S. Attorney scandal earlier that morning, while Republicans were simply trying to stonewall and filibuster their way through the proceedings, refusing to address the matter at hand. Conyers, who was supposed to be keeping the whole mess on track, made a few feeble efforts to regain order by lugubriously drawling such no-nonsense imperatives as, “Oh, come onnnnn.…”

When the Democrats were safely languishing away as the minority party, Conyers was intensely outspoken about the need to investigate the Bush administration to within an inch of their lives and then some; he now resembles nothing so much as an elderly, doddering old substitute high school teacher. You know the substitute teacher I mean, right? We all had him.... The guy who, for reasons known only to himself, still tried to make feeble attempts at actually teaching the class rather than just handing out ditto sheets or running an impromptu study hall for the day like any other substitute — and all the while he’s taking nips out of his thermos of “coffee” with visible vodka fumes wafting around the lid.

I had exactly this guy as a sub in high school, numerous times. He was a long-retired history teacher, and his coffee thermos could very easily have been made into a Molotov cocktail if one had seriously wanted to go in that direction. He was a WWII vet, so everyone knew that once he’d had a pull or three from his “coffee,” all you had to do to get the hour free was to ask him about the war. And, of course, he spoke his own friggin’ language on top of it all. An actual quote: “Man, and land. Man ... and land. See? Man and land, in relation to? The universe!”

He was a real trip, and if you dug screwing around in class, he was exactly the guy you loved to see at the board when you walked into the room. And these days, Conyers makes that old substitute teacher look like Isaac “the Hangin’ Judge” Parker by comparison. After watching Conyers in action during Gonzales’ testimony, I started to get a sinking feeling as I remembered how the Democrats had tried so hard for so long to remain the minority party in Congress: you get the same paycheck, but you have none of the responsibility when shit goes wrong. I could see the prospect of the Democrats actually holding BushCo accountable for anything quickly fading away.

Then it got a whole helluva lot worse.

It was mid June when it became apparent that the Democrats were going to fold like a used rubber in their ongoing struggle to establish a timeline for the withdrawal of our troops from the utter disaster that is Bush’s Iraq war, and I’m still royally pissed off. I obviously never thought that this particular legislative battle would end the war in and of itself, but at least the Democrats were in the process of facing off with the president over the matter. Bush was demanding yet more off-the-books funding for his war, and for once the Democrats had it right. They agreed to give him every penny he asked for, but with the caveat that this deal would no longer be open-ended: the president would now have to stick to a deadline for redeploying our troops out of Iraq.

Bush, of course, threw a tantrum and vetoed the bill. Virtually everyone expected him to do so. As I and many other Americans foolishly thought, it was all part of the plan.

Approximately 70 percent of the American people supported the Democrats on this. Ending the war was, in fact, the very issue that won the Democrats control of both houses of Congress in November of 2006. In effect, fighting this specific battle is what the Democrats were hired to do, and with good reason. The Iraq war was a fool’s errand from the start, given the fact that it involved indefinite occupation of a nation that anyone with sense enough to drop their drawers before taking a dump could tell was almost certain to eventually degenerate into civil war. And it’s gotten exponentially worse as time has passed. The Bush administration never did have anything resembling a plan for this war, a fact that becomes clearer by the day. No end goals, no measurable victory conditions, nothing. President Bush’s only goal at this point seems to be to stall long enough to run out the clock in January of 2009, and then to simply hand his mess off to the next president. And why not? George W. Bush’s life has been a series of messes that somebody else has always had to clean up for him, and it appears that he intends to continue the pattern with the disaster he’s created in Iraq. More and more Americans are realizing this all the time, and they don’t want more of our soldiers to be maimed or killed for a cause as empty and pathetic as the further bolstering of President Bush’s ego.

And so, with the Republicans unwilling to do the right thing in regard to the war and hold their president accountable, Americans turned the keys to Congress over to the Democrats last November — and the Democrats promised that they’d fight the good fight.

The Democrats then proceeded to fight that good fight for all of about five months before they decided to pack it in.

It was unbelievable. Bush vetoed the very bill that gave him the funding for the troops that he’d requested, thus throwing down the gauntlet in what was clearly going to be a battle of wills between himself and Congress. Bush was like a petulant child who refused to eat his vegetables, and Congressional Democrats were finally in a position to give him that same plate of vegetables for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until he finally realized he wasn’t going to get away with his usual antics and had no choice but to eat them. And the Democrats buckled almost immediately. All Bush had to do was say “No!” and the Democrats, despite their pretense of toughness in recent months, immediately shrugged and said, “Oh, okay.” They didn’t get concession one from the son of a bitch on this thing, so they can’t even use the excuse of bipartisan compromise. They just flat-out caved.

There is really no facet of this Democratic collapse that doesn’t piss me off. First and foremost, Democratic Congressional leaders, particularly Harry Reid, stood in front of news cameras and blatantly insulted Americans’ intelligence by claiming that this act of capitulation was somehow a “victory” for Democrats. That alone was enough to machete its way through the remainder of my patience with these cowards, but then came the barrage of excuses. That was what really turned my response from “You cringing idiots…” to “No, seriously … fuck you!”

To paraphrase a few key examples:

  • “We didn’t have the votes to veto-proof this bill.” No, you probably didn’t — and so fucking what? That wasn’t the bottom line here. The bottom line was that you were in a position to hang in there and force the president’s hand by giving him the dessert he demanded, but making him at long last eat his damned asparagus first. That bill needed to go back to Bush repeatedly until he realized that you weren’t going to rubber-stamp his war the way the Republicans always had. Yes, this would have required persistence and some measure of political bravery on the Democrats’ part. But it was absolutely not about creating a veto-proof bill in the shortest time possible. Any coward can sit there and count votes. Real leadership and courage require a willingness to at least occasionally fight even when there’s no guarantee of an immediate win.

  • “We couldn’t bring ourselves to defund the troops.” You terminal dumbshits! Nobody was asking you to! And, might I add, the Democrats weren’t aiming to defund a damned thing in the first place. The previous bill gave Bush all the money he asked for. It was Bush himself who refused to sign off on that funding. Defunding is a Republican spin term, so it’s utterly ridiculous (and more than just a little sad) that the Democrats have embraced that term rather than methodically neutering it in the press. Why do the Democrats always allow the Republicans to frame the terms of every single debate? Near as I can tell, the Democrats don’t even have the issue-framing sense that one would expect to find in a first-year marketing student. You offer every last cent the president wants for the war, the Republicans call this “defunding the war,” and you all not only buy it but also start publicly repeating it? Even Bush himself isn’t that fucking stupid!

  • “We were afraid the Republicans would accuse us of not supporting the troops or of being soft on terrorism.” And here we come down to the heart of the matter. The Democrats simply don’t have the grapes to stand up to the Republicans. Period. Does anyone at this point still somehow manage to not understand the very simple, eminently predictable fact that the Republicans are going to accuse the Democrats of being soft on terrorism, or of not supporting the troops, or of devouring small children whilst riding on a Gay Pride Parade float no matter what the Democrats do? That is the nature of the far-right’s game, and it is the nadir of craven political cowardice for Democrats to use it as an excuse for their decision to throw in the towel on this or any other fight. Evidently, these chuckleheads are still more concerned with the opinions of the 30 percent of Americans who continue to support Bush on the war over those of the 70 percent of Americans who have had enough.

In short, Congressional Democrats are so worried about the Republicans calling them pussies, so desperately concerned with proving to the world by hook or by crook that they’re not pussies, that they consistently end up acting like (all together now, kids) … big ol’ floppy-ass pussies!

As it stands now, the Democrats have thrown away their credibility on the Iraq issue, and the way they’re going, they aren’t likely to get it back anytime soon. If they don’t make a concerted effort to get their shit together before long, they may well end up handing at least one house of Congress back to the Republicans in 2008, and possibly the presidency as well. The American public wants the war ended, and they aren’t particularly concerned with who ends it, as long as it ends. Wouldn’t that be just about a friggin’ bitch if the Republicans ended up picking up the ball the Democrats so thoroughly dropped?

But this is about far more than simply locking the GOP’s collective head in an Iraq-shaped stocks. And to a certain extent I, too, no longer particularly care which party ultimately ends the war. There are lives at stake here. The lives of people who have volunteered their service to this nation in good faith, and whose good faith has been and continues to be abused and exploited by the leaders who are keeping them stuck in the middle of this never-ending clusterfuck in Iraq. All political considerations aside, somebody’s got to end this goddamned war, plain and simple.

Yeah, I realize that we’re now supposed to anxiously look ahead to September and General Petraeus’ Iraq Progress Report as the “Next Big Turning Point” — the time when Republicans are going to have their long-awaited Road to Damascus moment and suddenly lend their support to the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be more transparently fucking obvious that this is just another wallet-on-a-string gimmick. Petraeus will throw just enough positive drivel into his report that the Republicans will continue to support the war just as they’ve always done, and the Democrats will continue to duck the issue in yet another effort to “keep their powder dry.” It’ll be the same old whiny excuses, the same old rubber-kneed refusal to stand up to the Republicans, and — most despicable of all — the same ever-mounting body count in Iraq. The only thing that’s going to be different come September is that it will no longer be August.

(Cue the dull, crotchety old buffoon in the tweed suit and the Corvair...)

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