Everyone But Caligula’s Horse

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A group of Republican and Democratic senators just held a press conference to announce their agreement to allow a vote on judicial nominees without the use of filibustering to slow down the process. It was as vivid a demonstration one could make of the one-party political system that masquerades as a vehicle for debate on competing fundamental principles. One senator lamented the “poisonous atmosphere of partisanship” in Washington, failing to instruct us as to any examples of meaningful partisanship to be found in senate chambers. Sen. Lieberman was ecstatic that the “bipartisan center held,” apparently unaware that his words were a confirmation of the one-party state. He likened his colleagues to a “band of brothers and sisters,” words that dripped with the same insular tones by which the police, military, and even crime families, distinguish themselves from others. Sen. Landrieu spoke of the need to “reduce the rancor,” while Sen. Lindsey Graham dredged up the specter of American soldiers dying in Iraq to rationalize his view that filibustering is “out of bounds.” “We trust each other,” more than one senator twittered. Of course they do: those who conspire against their neighbors have to trust their fellow schemers! The phrase “honor among thieves” had to have been offered as a political statement!

I have no interest in how – or even if – the vote on judicial nominees progresses. I know that, whoever gets selected, the single-barreled agenda of the political establishment will continue unabated. The powers of the state will continue to expand, just as individual liberties will further contract – all in the name of “bipartisanship”, of course – leaving members of the senate to deal with such weighty matters as explicit sex in films, or the use of steroids by athletes.

For men and women who have never embraced a principle worthy of standing on their feet for hours at a time to defend, the filibuster is doubtless considered an impediment to the celebration of their sense of bipartisan cronyism. The filibuster is a remnant of a time when differences of opinion mattered, even in politics; when ill-conceived legislation might be held in check by partisan interests that can never be erased by phoney grins at a press conference. Might we soon see senators taking the logic of their actions to the next level and announcing that, in order to “reduce rancor” and end the “poisonous atmosphere of partisanship,” they will agree to let an imperial president run the state in any way he or she chooses?

I would have been embarrassed to have stood at a nationally-televised press conference and let Americans bear witness to what a wimpy slug I had become. But, then, it takes some inner sense of character to be embarrassed at all, qualities I find in no U.S. senator. Nor do I find many Americans who are prepared to appreciate the difference. If any members of this body would like to see just how depleted they are in their personal integrity – and to have a role model to which to repair – they might wish to review the tape of British MP George Galloway’s blistering performance before one of their committees. But a Senator Galloway would not go over well inside the beltway, as he would be too disruptive of this “band of brothers and sisters.”

7:19 pm on May 23, 2005