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FOOL ON THE HILL
By David Podvin
Dear Senator Daschle,
In an attempt to appease your tantrum-throwing conservative colleagues, you
recently agreed to allow the confirmation of fourteen right wing zealots as
federal judges. The Senate Republicans have graciously responded by confirming
one of your cronies to a seat on the Federal Communications Commission. As a
result of this deal, the U.S. Court of Appeals - the layer of the judiciary
immediately below the Supreme Court - will lurch in the direction of those who
believe that cross burning is artistic expression and the Theory of Evolution is
a communist plot.
By trading fourteen lifetime federal judgeships for one seven-year FCC
appointee, you have just made the shrewdest move since Stu Sutcliffe quit the
Beatles in 1961. It appears as though I owe Bush an apology – apparently,
he’s not the dumbest guy in Washington.
What an outrageous abandonment of
your stated principles. What an indefensible betrayal of the people whom you
claim to represent. What an appalling example of how your compulsion to
capitulate dominates every other consideration.
And how typical.
Since you became majority leader in 2001, your party has been in full-scale
retreat. You have defaulted on issues ranging from the economy to civil
liberties to national defense. Your promise to be a vigilant guardian of
personal freedom during the War on Terrorism was broken as soon as the right
wing questioned your patriotism, whereupon you crumbled like a handful of
You claim to be making the best of a bad situation, and that the highest
priority is retaining control of the Senate so the Republicans don’t have a
complete stranglehold on the federal government. But in the name of preserving
the Senate majority for the Democratic Party, you have discarded the majority of
the principles of the Democratic Party.
The Republicans constantly cry that you are an “obstructionist”, which to
the casual observer must indicate that you are giving them a hard time. If only
it were true. In the conservative lexicon “obstructionist”
means you are only yielding to them almost all of the time.
Twelve of your Pseudocrat colleagues joined with Bush last year to completely
defund the Democratic agenda by giving almost two trillion dollars in tax
breaks to the rich. As majority leader, you have done nothing to attempt to roll
back this confiscation of the American domestic agenda by the right wing.
Despite all of the blather about “protecting the interests of the working
people”, your allegiance is not to the average citizens who vote for your
party - it is to Zell Miller and the eleven other political transvestites who
dress up as Democratic senators.
No one in America is more responsible
for the high approval ratings of George W. Bush than you. You have figuratively
and literally embraced him while he has used 9/11 as a pretext to turn America
into that Shining Gulag on a Hill. In doing so, you not only failed in your duty
to provide loyal opposition, you also made it untenable for other Democrats to
You have disingenuously claimed to be
severely hamstrung in opposing a popular wartime president, while neglecting to
mention that Bush could not possibly have attained such popularity if there were
a viable opposition party to challenge his irresponsible behavior. Opinion
surveys show that most Americans believe he is wrong on most of the major
issues, yet he continues to receive strong support because you have failed to
provide an alternative.
And excuse me for committing the social faux pas of obsessively raising this
tired old subject again, but I haven’t gotten over it yet: Who cleared the
final roadblock to Bush stealing the election? Who instructed his colleagues to
refuse to support the Congressional Black Caucus’ challenge of the Bush
You claimed pragmatism dictated your surrender to Bush on his theft of the
presidency. The G.O.P. would have had the ability to defeat a challenge by
ramming him through on a straight party-line vote. They offered you greater
parliamentary privileges if you just dropped the little stolen election thing.
Therefore, the only possible reasons you could have had to confront Bush on his
rape of our democracy would have been a) your strong general commitment to the
principle of universal suffrage, and b) your intense feeling of specific moral
obligation to Democratic voters who were cheated out of the right to have their
You chose the parliamentary privileges. From that day to this, the most
consistent adversaries of Bush have been John McCain, who is a Republican, and
Larry Klayman, who is a psychotic. As the supposed leader of the ostensible
opposition party, this must make you very proud.
There have been two shining moments for the Democrats you so feebly lead. The
first was the defeat of the Bush proposal to allow Exxon Mobil to turn the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into Death Valley North. The second was the
defeat of segregationist judge Charles Pickering to the appellate court. In each
case, your team of gerbils did the right thing only after being threatened with
electoral death by key constituency groups – environmentalists and blacks.
They told you that, if you followed your natural instincts and caved into the
G.O.P, then you would have to get your future political support from the
American Petroleum Institute and the Ku Klux Klan. So, on these two occasions,
you capitulated to the good guys. Even when you do something right, you do so by
Rather than constantly appeasing Trent Lott, have you ever considered going
on national TV and talking about how his membership in a group that advocates
slavery casts doubt on his judgment and character? This might put him on the
defensive, and would have the additional benefit of standing up for your
party’s most loyal constituency: those of us who oppose involuntary servitude.
Then again, such an action would place a strain on the “constructive working
relationship” you have with your Republican counterpart, who has repeatedly
accused you of committing treason.
You are reportedly considering a run for the presidency in 2004. Please
don’t. Democrats desperately need another President Harry Truman, who was
willing to fight for the little guy at the expense of his own popularity. The
last thing that is now needed is Democratic presidential nominee Barney Fife.
Bush can only be defeated by someone aggressive who is willing to throw aside
the Marquis of Queensbury rules and respond to each malicious low blow by
administering an even more malicious and lower blow.
“2004 Democratic presidential nominee Lorena Bobbit” has a nice ring to
Last year, I wrote a parody about how the Senate Democrats would react to a
bill that proposed putting all of them to sleep. In that fantasy, you refused to
filibuster the legislation because you didn’t want to destroy the spirit of
bipartisanship. Ultimately, ol’ Zell cast the deciding vote in favor of the
proposal, and all of you Democratic senators were condemned to death. I was
accused by some readers of going “over the top” in trying to drive home the
point that bipartisanship had become a convenient excuse for you to collapse on
issue after issue.
Unfortunately, your cowardice makes satire impossible. This year, you and
your Democratic colleagues have been the targets of anthrax mailings. The Bush
administration has done nothing to apprehend the perpetrators, or to stop them
from trying to kill you again. And yet, even in this most extreme of
circumstances, you continue to pledge “my full support for my president”.
Okay. If it doesn’t bother you that Bush is willing to allow people to get
away with trying to murder you, then it doesn’t bother me, either. I must
object, however, when you fail to oppose his continuing efforts to kill the Bill
I would like to conclude by calling
for your resignation as Majority Leader. Unfortunately, I can’t think of a
single Democratic senator who is capable of experiencing the moral indignation
required to lead your colleagues into battle against a conservative movement
that is intent on enacting policies damaging to the average citizen. Joe Biden
does hate women’s groups, and John Breaux expresses outrage toward anyone who
votes against Republicans, but I was thinking more in terms of the Bobby Kennedy
type: someone who actually cares about Democrats and is so “ruthless” in
defending them that he provides right wingers with a legitimate rationale for
Then again, we all know what happens to the Bobby Kennedy type. Every action
of yours indicates that you have decided it’s much safer to reject his
outdated philosophy of passionately fighting on behalf of the powerless American
majority. Instead, you have chosen the somewhat less swashbuckling approach of
going along to get along.
Yet, even with you passively coiled in the fetal position, someone still
tried to kill you. Maybe it’s time to take a stand, before it’s too late.
You can start by defending yourself. There have been published reports - from
England, of course, where the media is not yet entirely owned by conservative
conglomerates - that Bush is dragging his feet on the anthrax investigation
because it would lead in an embarrassing direction.
You should demand that he provide you with all of the information about the
attempts to murder Democratic senators, and when he refuses you should be
punitive. Rank and file Democrats will enthusiastically support you, and Rush
Limbaugh will have a heart attack, so it’s a win-win situation. Having finally
stood up to Bush in order to protect your own life, you might eventually get
around to protecting the people who vote for the Democratic Party.
Now there’s a fantasy that really is over the top.
More David Podvin
Podvin, the Series