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By David Podvin

Following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, leaders of both major political parties called on Americans to put aside their differences and unite in the best interests of the country.

Leaders of one party actually meant it.

Ever since the airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing thousands of Americans, Republicans have been relentless in cynically using the disaster to promote their partisan agenda. They began by immediately blaming President Clinton for allowing the intelligence and military capabilities of the United States to “dramatically deteriorate over the past decade”. Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Don Nickles specifically blamed the Democrats for the deaths of the Americans.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saw the tragedy as an opportunity to promote the trillion dollar Bush missile defense system, although he was at a loss to explain how the trillion dollar Bush missile defense system would have prevented terrorists from ramming planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

While victims were still lying under the rubble, Republican Senator Pete Domenici went on national television to explain that this bloody nightmare is the perfect example of why a capital gains tax cut is crucial for America’s well being.

Republican Senator Frank Murkowski used the occasion of thousands of his fellow citizens being brutally slaughtered to propose that destroying the pristine beauty of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge through massive oil exploration is just the tonic to comfort a grieving nation.

Republican House whip Tom DeLay said that the heartbreaking loss of American lives points out the pressing need to further reduce taxes on his energy industry campaign contributors.

Republican moral leaders Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson talked on the 700 Club about how the hijackings and murders show that America needs to do something about the “Christ haters” who are responsible for what happened. The G.O.P. spiritual icons then identified the “Christ haters” who had the blood of the victims on their hands: the A.C.L.U., the federal courts, abortionists, pagans, feminists, gays, lesbians, People for the American Way, and the National Organization for Women.

Republican pundit Ann Coulter wrote that the terrorist attack proved that there is an urgent need to violently convert all Moslems to the pacifism of Christianity.

Republican websites have been relentless in identifying Democrats as the true culprits in this situation. Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Tom Daschle, and Jesse Jackson are among those who have been named as causing the murders.

Republican talk radio has blasted the “Democrat complicity” in the matter. Everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Michael Medved to the local yokels have unified in declaring that this is all a result of 1960s liberal permissiveness.

Meanwhile, back in fantasyland, the Democrats have been practicing unilateral unity. They have refrained from blaming Bush or any other Republican for the crisis. They have been complimentary on how the administration is handling the matter. They have chosen to not defend themselves against the G.O.P. slanders. They have not challenged the Republicans to stop exploiting the tragedy. They have not responded to the Republican deceptions on major policy issues.

While there has been some dissident media conjecture about whether Bush displayed cowardice by initially refusing to return to Washington, the Democrats have refused to criticize him in any way. They did not publicly complain when he consulted only with G.O.P. congressional leaders prior to making his aid request. As a show of “unity”, they even confirmed a Bush nominee who actively supported terrorism in Central America to represent America’s anti-terrorism position at the United Nations.

The Congressional Democrats have repeatedly shown that they will not “play politics” during this national crisis.

They have been admirably selfless and patriotic.

They have completely deferred to the commander in chief.

Their selflessness and patriotism would be even more impressive if you were able to forget that they always defer to the commander in chief, as long as he’s a Republican.

It has been said that crisis situations reveal the true nature of people, and this crisis reaffirms that platitude. Just as with “bipartisanship”, where the Republicans demand and the Democrats capitulate, “unity” consists of the Republicans aggressively promoting their agenda with personal attacks and the Democrats passively absorbing their abuse.

The United States would be insane to maintain the illusion of peace by pretending that the terrorism didn’t happen. The Democrats are insane to maintain the illusion of unity by pretending that the Republicans are not pounding away at them.

It would be pathetic if the Democratic elected officials were just allowing themselves to be mistreated. It becomes despicable when you realize that these Democrats are the only people who can protect the civil liberties and economic interests of those who voted for them.

Let the Democrats in Washington subject themselves to being dominated and tormented on their own time. While they’re representing us, they need to stand up and be counted. An attack on America does not excuse Democratic office holders from their responsibility to be advocates for their constituents. They can patriotically support the commander in chief without meekly surrendering to the commander in chief.

If the advocates of instant historical analysis are right, then America changed forever on September 11, 2001.

However, even during a crisis, when it comes to which party is fighting to represent the beliefs of its supporters and which party isn’t, the sickening reality is that nothing has changed at all.

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Last changed: December 13, 2009