Democrats: Get Up and Walk Out
Democrats: Get Up and Walk OutBy William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Sunday 22 January 2006
To: Congressional Democrats
From: William Rivers Pitt
RE: A bold maneuver
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I have a wild and crazy idea.
George W. Bush's delivery of the State of the Union address will take place on Tuesday, January 31, a little more than a week from now. It is my strong belief that every single Democrat present in the House chamber for the speech should, at a predetermined moment, stand up and walk out. No yelling. No heated words. Every Democrat should simply stand silently and leave.
Crazy, I know. Crazy, and possibly the best idea ever put before a body of Democrats since the New Deal.
Understand this, congressional Democrats, and understand it well: you are not dealing merely with a body of political opponents in the GOP. You are dealing with a group of people that want you exterminated politically. The days of walking the halls of the Rayburn Building, sharing a bourbon with a colleague from the other side of the aisle, and hammering out a compromise are as dead as Julius Caesar. Collegiality is out. Mutual respect is out. They want you gone for good. Erased. Destroyed.
And you have been far too polite about this. The writing has been on the wall for a while now. Back in 1995, Republican Senator Phil Gramm said, "We're going to keep building the party until we're hunting Democrats with dogs." That was eleven years ago. If you listen close, you can hear the beasts baying in the distance, waiting to slip the leash. Your limp tactics in the face of the assault upon you, your vacillation, your strange hope that maybe the GOP will be nicer tomorrow, has left you all smelling like Alpo.
For the love of God, you are being compared to Osama bin Laden all over network television because some within your ranks have had the courage to question the war in Iraq. It hasn't been subtle. Bin Laden, according to the right-wing talking heads, is getting his talking points straight from Howard Dean. These are the out-front spokespeople for the folks running the GOP right now. If you think there is compromise to be had with these people, if you think there is quarter to be given to you, then I have a nice, big red bridge to sell you in San Francisco.
I know you believe the Abramoff scandal is going to be your bread and butter in the upcoming midterm elections. I hate to break it to you, but you have already been outflanked. The television nitwits have flooded the airwaves with the meme that this is a "two-party scandal," despite the fact that Abramoff would have sooner lit himself on fire than give money to a Democrat. As you have been collectively incapable of setting the record straight in public, with the exception of a two-minute crunch between Howard Dean and Wolf Blitzer on CNN that left Blitzer spluttering impotently, understand that "this scandal affects both parties" is now commonly accepted fact all across the land.
Oh, yeah, P.S., the investigation is being run out of the Department Justice. If this scandal does touch some sixty Republican officeholders, as Abramoff's donation history indicates, do you really think this White House is going to let the investigation get far enough to do real damage? If so, I again need to mention that big red bridge I have for sale.
In all likelihood, however, the White House won't even need to derail the Abramoff investigation to save Republicans from their ridiculous greed. Did you see the Washington Post headline from Friday? It read, "Rove: GOP to Use Terror as Campaign Issue." In reality, the headline should have read "GOP to Use Terror as Campaign Tactic." Once again, the Republicans are going to try to win midterm elections by scaring the hell out of the American people. This time, the fear factor will center around Iran and nuclear weapons.
The intelligence specialists in the United States, Germany and Israel all agree that Iran is between three and five years away from being able to manufacture nuclear weapons. This, of course, is based on the premise that such manufacture is Iran's goal. Take it as a given that it is, and we have at least three years to use diplomacy, economic pressures and possibly sanctions to keep them from creating these bombs.
But "three to five years" isn't going to help the GOP win the midterm elections. They need things to be scary, and they need things to be scary now. The same right-wing groups that ginned up the fantasy that Iraq was laden with weapons of mass destruction, and was an imminent threat, are now at work building up a martial froth about Iran. They did this in time for the midterms last time, and are preparing to do it again.
United Press International carried a story last Thursday about a group called the Foundation for Democracy in Iran. This group, according to the UPI story, claims that, "Tehran is planning a nuclear weapons test before the Iranian New Year on March 20, 2006." FDI, according to the story, offered absolutely no proof to back this claim. But that's not three to five years. That's less than ten weeks. Scary stuff, right?
Take a closer look, however, and you can see the fingerprints of the architects of our current Iraq boondoggle all over this. The Foundation for Democracy in Iran is run by a man named Kenneth Timmerman. Timmerman is umbilically connected to the godfather of right-wing think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute. It was the American Enterprise Institute that spawned the Project for the New American Century, the think tank that gave us Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, the original noise about Iraqi WMD, and the idea that a military takeover of the entire Mideast is a bully idea. The same people that terrorized the American people into unnecessary war in Iraq are preparing to do the same with Iran, and all in time for the midterms.
One must also note the irony of the suggested date for this Iranian nuclear test. March 20, 2006, for those not paying attention, is the three-year anniversary of our invasion of Iraq. And round and round we go.
You've been outflanked, Democrats. Abramoff won't help you, and the noise machine is preparing to terrorize the American people into such a distracted state that anything you say in the next ten months will be lost amid the howling. The midterms are pretty much a done deal, and your continued marginalization will proceed at speed.
You can stomp your feet and yell at the wall. You can put your head in your hands and weep. You can sit silently and be simply satisfied that your own job-for-life is secure, thanks to your friendly district back home, and be damned to actually doing anything of substance. In other words, you can continue to do what you've been doing since this outrageous assault on basic American democracy began.
Or you can stand up.
It takes a spine to stand up. Find yours. Get up and walk out of the State of the Union speech. Turn your backs on the blizzard of lies and empty promises that are sure to pour forth from that podium. Give it exactly what it deserves.
Walk outside to the steps of the Capitol Building and hold a Counter-State-of-the-Union. Lay out your plans for a better future. Explain how you will reform the system that spawned Mr. Abramoff. Demand answers and explanations about what is happening in Iraq, what is happening over at the National Security Agency, and why this administration believes itself to be completely above the law.
I can even offer a bit of text for your opening statement. "Three years ago during this very speech," your leading spokesperson can say from those steps, "Mr. Bush told us that Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons - which is one million pounds - of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, 30,000 missiles to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs, al Qaeda connections, and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nuclear weapons program. He said all this three years ago, during this all-important annual address, and all of it was a lie. The American people deserve an explanation."
See? It's easy. All it takes is courage.
What I am talking about is political theater on a grand scale. No opposition party in American history has ever turned their backs on a President and walked out of a State of the Union address. No opposition party has faced the degree of potential extermination the Democrats face today. The stakes have never been higher. You are dealing with a President who wants to make his Executive powers absolute, and with a Republican party that has been usurped from soup to nuts by extremists that would be cartoonish if they were not so very real.
Abramoff won't help you. The fear factor will subsume you. You can sit there and take it, clapping politely as the ram rolls towards you, or you can stand up and make yourselves relevant again. To walk out of the speech would be a huge statement, bold and potentially dangerous. But if you don't do something bold, something grand and unprecedented, something to take back the initiative, you will join the Whigs in the dustbin of history.
Stand up. Walk out. You have a week to get this organized.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence