Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Taking No for an Answer

By Rich Miles

April 26, 2005

"I believe when people figure out that we have a problem and the seniors hear that nothing's going to change, woe to the politician that doesn't come to the table. Woe to the person who tries to block this for partisan reasons."

- George W. Bush, March 11, 2005

If we could take the above remark at face value, it might be possible to say, “Yes, that’s right – for such an important issue to fail in Congress merely because the minority party wants to block it, to make the president look bad – well, that would not be good.”

But what if – just speculating, mind you – what if the folks in Congress who opposed this plan did so because they genuinely believe it’s wrong? What if the Democrats and the increasing number of Republicans who oppose Bush’s private accounts idea were simply acting according to their principles, and doing what they think is right for the country? Would that be OK with Mr. Bush? Is this even something he considers possible – his opponents acting on principle? Or is partisan politics the only imaginable reason why someone in Congress might oppose Bush on any topic? To listen to him tell it on the campaign trail (for that’s what this is – a campaign just like the one from 2000 or 2004), the answer is yes – it has to be partisan politics.

Mr. Bush made the above remark during his whistlestop tour of the South to whip up citizen support for private accounts within the Social Security system. I remind folks who perhaps have been hearing about this discussion in a sort of detailless “background noise” way that to date, there is no actual plan to Bush’s plan. He and his supporters have brought up this partisan-politics barb to head off opposition to legislation they haven’t even proposed yet. As Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.) said recently, "What he's put on the table is not a plan. It's a concept -- and Congress doesn't enact concepts."

Mr. Bush got almost everything he asked for from Congress in his first term, due in large part to the events of 9/11, and fears of opposing a “war president”. On the few occasions when he has been defeated or forestalled, notably on a small handful of judicial nominations, rather than withdraw the objectionable nominations and seek a consensus nominee, he simply resubmits them, over and over and over again, in the hopes that he will wear down or outflank the opposition, or that perhaps the Senate will just change the rules so the opposition cannot be registered at all. Despite getting confirmations for over 200 of his appointees, the President just will not let these 7 or so nominations die.

He reminds me of a small child asking for a toy, who when told he can’t have it, asks again and again and again, thinking the answer will somehow be different this time than it was last time. And the same tactic is used by this president every single time he fails to get what he wants from anyone: keep asking the question till the answer changes.

So it would seem to be shaping up for Social Security “reform”: before the plan is here, we’re being told that anyone who opposes it is “bad”. If the legislation, however it may finally look, fails, it can only be because of “partisan politics”, not because it’s a flawed plan, destined not to save Social Security but to dismantle it.

The signs are clear and growing clearer that Mr. Bush may have to take “no” for an answer on Social Security. One wonders just how much political (and actual) capital he will spend re-asking the question, just how many times he will ask the moral equivalent of, “But why not, Daddy? Why can’t I have it? Huh? Huh? Huh?”

Friday, April 01, 2005

One More Lawsuit

by Rich Miles

April 1, 2005

I would imagine that Michael Schiavo is, amongst all his other feelings, hoping never to see another lawyer, or the inside of another courtroom, as long as he lives. His hopes will not be fulfilled, as the Schindler family and others seem determined to continue to "fight over the bones" in this matter.

However, if Michael could bring himself to one last act in the legal system, I would recommend that he file suit for defamation of character, libel, slander, whatever is most appropriate legally, against the shameless, grossly uninformed, politically motivated, self-serving group of self-righteous hypocrites who have dragged his name through the mud for weeks, months or years now, many of them people whose only knowledge of the matter was based on fifth-hand opinions, devoid of fact. I would think a short list of defendants in such a suit would certainly include Frank Pavone, Randall Terry, James Dobson, Tom DeLay, and Bill Frist. All of these people, in the course of presenting themselves as protectors of Terri Schiavo (another person they've never met, nor even seen), have said shameful, demeaning and humiliating things about a man they never met, or if they have met him, never knew anything about his actions toward his wife other than what her mean-spirited, emotionally unbalanced family had to say about him.

But as is so often the case with the radical right, they will get away with their scurrilous behavior because it is more painful to the wronged parties to call them to task than to say simply, "Let it go".

Much has been said, and will continue to be said, about poor Terri Schiavo's life and death. She is at peace now, but her name will not be allowed to pass into obscurity - she will become the symbol for even more shameless posturing by radical ideologues, people who cannot even imagine, who WILL not imagine, the hell Michael Schiavo has lived through. Whether you believe Michael's statements or not - and frankly, considering the source of the nastiest criticisms about him, I do believe him - what cannot be denied is that he stood by her for 15 years, when it would have been so much easier to bail out long ago. It's not the money - that was mostly gone long ago, and whatever is left of it is in no way adequate compensation for what he's experienced. It's not that, after several years of waiting to see if Terri could ever recover, Michael decided to move on with his life by finding someone else to love and create a life with. It's that no one - NO ONE - who opposes him seems ever to have considered what he has been through.

All these folks who knew so little about the facts of the matter, crowing about their religious beliefs (THEIRS, as if any of this was about them), and how cruel Michael Schiavo was to Terri: did none of them ever for one minute apply the simple test of asking what they would have done if they had been faced with such a hideous set of choices? Does it not even register as inconsistent that the Schindlers and Michael were quite close for nearly 8 years after Terri's incapacity? If he is such a cruel and horrible person, and as is now being said, always has been even back to before Terri became ill, how did the Schindlers bear dealing with him all that time, until he proposed allowing her to die?

And one final question: how is what Tom DeLay did in his father's case so different from the Schiavo case? Other than the fact that DeLay SAYS it's different, I mean?

So much noise, so many accusations cast against a man so few could have known, and so little thought behind the slanders. One begins to suspect that this has become the American way. Our courageous Congress will show us if this is really true - and, I suspect, they will attempt to do so in very short order, before the smoke clears. Before the body is cold.