Saturday, June 30, 2012

Contempt for America

Yesterday, for the first time in US history, The House of Representatives voted to hold a member of the President’s cabinet in contempt of Congress. Well, Republicans voted to do that: Most Democrats walked out in protest.

The photo above was posted to Facebook by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. In it, she’s shown joining the Congressional Black Caucus in leading Democrats out of the US House of Representatives chamber in a protest of the Republicans’ political grandstanding against US Attorney General Eric Holder by voting to hold him in “contempt” of Congress. She wrote:
“I am joining my fellow Democratic colleagues and members of the Congressional Black Caucus in walking out on this hyper-political contempt vote. This is a shameful act by the House GOP.”
The walkout had been unanimously endorsed by the House Democratic Caucus, and also included the Hispanic, Asian Pacific American and Progressive Caucuses.

This walkout has a precedent: In February 2008, the House was voting on holding two Bush aides, Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers, in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify on the politically-motivated firings of US Attorneys during the Bush/Cheney regime. Then-Minority Leader John Boehner led the Republican Caucus out of the House, declaring: “We will not stand idly by and watch the House Floor be abused for “pure political grandstanding.”

Boehner said that then, but yesterday, when it was his turn, he was more than willing to engage in “pure political grandstanding” on the House Floor. This is about the gazillionth example of the hypocrisy of Boehner and Congressional Republicans because this time it really was “pure political grandstanding” which wasn’t the case in 2008. The truth is, back in 2008 it was Boehner engaging in “pure political grandstanding” by staging his walkout stunt.

The issue is that the Republicans in the House are playing politics on is the whole “Fast and Furious” plan to sell guns to Mexican drug cartels. They’re trying to spin it as a Democratic failing, despite the fact it actually began in the Bush/Cheney regime and the Obama Administration shut it down.

Republicans, led by the almost pathological Darrell Issa, have been crusading on their partisan witch-hunt, demanding that the Department of Justice turn over documents to their committee then, when it did, they’d demand more documents and so on—as if the Department of Justice had nothing more important to do than be at Issa’s beck and call. Finally, the Republicans went too far, as they always do these days, and President Obama invoked executive privilege to shield documents pertaining to current investigations and possible court cases. That was the opening Issa and his cronies were looking for: An opportunity to engage in “pure political grandstanding.”

What this whole incident shows me is that there’s no hope of bipartisanship on the big issues, or probably even any small ones, while the extremists within the Republican Party hold the power. Only two Republicans voted against the motion, and, sadly, 17 Democrats voted for it. However, one other thing underscored by that vote is that the Democratic Party is the only “big tent” party in Congress: Its members can vote against the party leadership, whereas Republicans cannot.

It’s not just Republican Congressional leaders Members were are afraid of: The National Rifle Association, the richest and most powerful rightwing special interest lobbying group in America, ordered members of Congress to vote for the contempt motion, declaring that if they didn’t vote as the NRA demanded, it would be reflected in the ratings of candidates by the NRA. This is probably why most of those 17 Democrats voted for the motion: They couldn’t risk a rightwing backlash in their pro-gun districts.

The NRA’s involvement is indicative of how insane the Republican Party has become: They really do believe that the “Fast and Furious” scheme was an elaborate plot by President Obama and the Democrats to take away Americans’ guns—seriously! The wingnuts believe that Democrats wanted gun violence in Mexico in order to get Americans clamouring for gun control. Some even claim it’s part of a plot by President Obama to “cancel” the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. This last part actually just proves that wingnuts and Republicans don’t know what’s in the Constitution, or else they’d know that the Amendment would have to be repealed by another amendment, and that’s utterly, completely and totally impossible, gun violence in Mexico or not.

The worst part of all of this is that it’s only the beginning. Unless Americans wake up, these nutjobs will be back in Congress after the November elections, and emboldened—no matter who is elected president. Worse, they may sieze control over both houses of Congress and the White House.

And that all means that we may end up with the Republicans moving on their partisan contempt for America, its people, and the US Constitution. Elections have consequences, and much is riding on this one.

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