Friday, September 29, 2006



When big corporations pour tens of millions of dollars into Republican and DLC congressional candidates annually, they are making a purchase. They're buying very specific support for a very specific agenda. Big Oil bribed Dirty Dick Pombo with over $200,000. That's a lot of money for a money grubbing pischer like Pombo. But in return the Chairman of the Resources Committee, was able to deliver millions of dollars in favors to Big Oil. Just north of Pomboland, John Doolittle is at least as corrupt and Big Oil bought his ass for over $120,000 to get him to vote against proposals o restrict price gouging (among other things on Big Oil's legislative agenda). Both of these crooked politicians also took tremendous bribes from Big Pharma and both expressed their appreciation by supporting the Big Pharma-written Medicare Bill. Do you think senior citizens in Northern California appreciate John Doolittle and Dirty Dick Pombo shoving the doughnut hole down their throats? I just picked these two almost as random. Every single Republican congressman is on the take from Big Business. Big Oil and Big Pharma are two of the worst. Defense contractors have been bribing Republicans and making out like bandits, although several of the bandits are in prison and several more are headed that way. Buck McKeon is the Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee and while he oversaw the rise on student loan rates by 2.4% and cut federal student loan programs by a staggering $12.7 billion, the very people who stand to benefit most from these policies, student loan vendors, were shoving over a quarter million dollars in bribes up McKeon's ass.

DLC Democrats are exactly as corrupt as Republicans. They just haven't had as much to offer lately. Just wait. But that's another story, one I follow avidly. But what about non-DLC Democrats, the ones who don't believe in selling votes for legalized (and otherwise) bribes? Well, those are our guys. And when I interview candidates I always ask them if they support substantive campaign finance reform. I had a great talk with Sherrod Brown a few weeks ago on the subject. I was very proud to support a man who could assure me that he never sells his vote. Period. I believed him them. And I believe him now. I donated some money to his campaign and urged my friends and DWT readers to do likewise.

So, at least on one level, Brown's out-of-character vote for Bush's Torture Bill shouldn't have shocked me. Our donations weren't buying Brown's votes, not even on this crucial a matter. By donating to his campaign-- and encouraging others to do the same-- I was making a gamble, based on a long and solid record, that we would be helping to elected a good Senator who would make the right decisions.

By voting the same way as Mike Dewine, Bill Frist, Trent Lott, Felix Macacawitz, Rick Santorum, Denny Hastert, Roy Blunt and Mean Jean Schmidt, Brown made a big mistake. He doesn't think so. Below you'll find Brown's rationale for his vote. Tom Curry's defense of him at MSNBC fell pretty flat to my ears. "Unlike Mike Dewine," Curry quotes him as saying, "I'm willing to stand up to my party when they're wrong." God... has Lieberman been mentoring him too? Anyway, I want to explain why I'm not writing any more checks to Brown's campaign and why I'm not asking anyone else to do any more than to vote for him on election day-- even if it means holding their noses when they pull the lever, or whatever you do these days with that Diebold crap.

A few days ago I was looking at Brown's 10 point lead over Bush rubber stamp Mike Dewine and I was writing how after January Sherrod and Russ Feingold would be able to help deprogram Obama from all that mentoring Lieberman had filled him with. I imagined the three of them could be a real "can-do" spearhead of progressive values aimed right at the heart of the U.S. Senate.

To tell you the truth, I still hope Congressman Brown wins his Senate race against Dewine. Brown has a better-than-excellent record and he has been an important leader on fair trade and other crucial issues. But, as I explained to his campaign today, we don't compromise on torture. Citing a crass, worthless, sell-out windbag like McCain as an excuse, doesn't make it any more palatable.

Yes, the House passed Bush's torture bill a couple days ago 253-168. And yes, all but 7 Republicans voted for torture. And all the Democrats except for 34 who decided they were Republicans when it comes to torture, voted NO. I basically don't care about fake Democrats who can almost always be counted on to support BushCheney in a pinch-- the John Barrows, Dan Borens, Tim Holdens, Stephanie Herseths, Chet Edwardses, Jim Marshalls, Henry Cuellars, Leonard Boswells, Gene Taylors, Collin Petersons (a fucking co-sponsor, the only Democrat who was willing to give the crooks a fig leaf of bipartisanship, of the doughnut hole Medicare Bill), Jim Mathesons, Harold Fords, Melissa Beans. I do, however, care about Sherrod Brown's vote.

I care for a number of reasons. I expect more, a lot more, from a leader like Brown, whose record has been so sterling and inspiring. But he's violated a core value-- Thou Shalt Not Torture Nor Tread On Habeus Corpus. No exceptions. Is Mike Dewine worse? Don't ask stupid questions. On his best day, Dewine will never be worth a bucket of spit and on his worst day-- 2 days ago-- Brown will always be better than the likes of Mike Dewine. But by voting with the pro-torture camp, basically Republicans and a few right wing or cowardly, unprincipled fake-Democrats, Brown took all the onus off Dewine to join Specter and a few others in the Senate to at least not wreck Habeus Corpus, an amendment that lost by 2 votes.

As Orcinus pointed out so eloquently today, it's important to remember who decides who is and who isn't liable to be tortured: George W. Bush. Sherrod Brown believes that's ok? I know he doesn't. He serves in the same body with Congresswoman Louise Slaughter who mentioned today that "No law enforcement agency ever came before Congress and said new wiretapping powers were needed to secure the homeland. And yet, this Republican Congress has taken it upon itself to roll over on some of our most basic constitutional rights so that the President can have even more power. Today, Republicans are poised to rubber stamp the Administration's latest efforts to legalize spying on American citizens. The Republican line is, trust us-- we're from the government. But after so many lies and distortions, why should we trust this Administration? It has sullied our reputation around the world as the torch-bearer of democracy by authorizing secret prisons, planting propaganda at home and abroad, and fighting attempts to ban torture. The last thing Congress should be granting it is more unchecked power." Trust George W. Bush? All Congressman Brown has to do is think about Iraq. Or think about New Orleans.

My Sherrod Brown/Russ Feingold fantasy is rich with irony considering how the two men handled the Bush Torture Bill. I printed out Feingold's Senate speech and tacked it up on my wall. I hope Congressman Brown reads it. Or maybe he could read what Senator Kerry says about the bill:
We've got to tell the truth about what's happening right now-- right now-- in our country. We must start treating our moral authority as a national treasure that doesn't limit our power but magnifies our influence. That seems obvious, but this Administration still doesn't get it. Still. Right now-- today-- they are trying to rush a bill through Congress that will fundamentally undermine our moral authority, put our troops at greater risk, and make our country less safe.

Let me be clear about something-- something that it seems few people are willing to say. This bill permits torture. It gives the President the discretion to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions. No matter how much well-intended United States Senators would like to believe otherwise, it gives an Administration that lobbied for torture just what it wanted.

The only guarantee we have that these provisions really will prohibit torture is the word of the President. But we have seen in Iraq the consequences of simply accepting the word of this Administration. No, we cannot just accept the word of this Administration that they will not engage in torture given that everything they've already done and said on this most basic question has already put our troops at greater risk and undermined the very moral authority needed to win the war on terror.

I contacted Congressman Brown's office early yesterday morning to let them know I was more than disappointed and that I had angry readers sending me e-mails and that I felt that I would probably not be an effective fundraiser for him any longer. They asked me to read a statement on his website:

Yesterday, Congressman Brown voted for a bill that creates a military tribunal to try those enemy combatants that have been held by the government since September 11, 2001.

This compromise is supported by Senator John McCain, a former POW who fought to ensure that this tribunal lives up to our national standards on human rights.

Unlike President Bush's plan, this compromise measure prohibits the degrading treatment of detainees and specifically lists the types of behaviors that are banned in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

The Washington Post wrote about the legislation, "The compromise legislation does not seek to narrow U.S. obligations under the Geneva Conventions in the treatment of prisoners, as Bush had hoped."

Those detained have been held for more than 5 years with no opportunity to prove their guilt or innocence.

It will provide that opportunity, so that those who are innocent can be set free and those who are guilty can be punished. 
The bill prohibits the use of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees. Because that evidence is often unreliable, it will not admit evidence obtained through torture.

Detainees will be entitled to Combatant Status Review, where they may challenge their detention within the confines of the military tribunal system.
And the bill will allow combatants to receive an edited version of classified evidence being used to convict them so that they can respond without putting our national security at risk.

Congressman Brown feels it has taken far too long for a legal framework to be developed – for the innocent who must be freed, the guilty that must be punished, and our homeland which must be secured.

Sherrod is a very smart man, smarter than most members of Congress I've talked to. And he isn't a naive man either. And even if he didn't understand, his brilliant wife certainly does. If he honestly thinks Bush's Torture Bill is a good piece of legislation, that's even more problematic than just admitting, at least to himself, that he voted for it-- alone among progressives-- as a crass political calculation, although who exactly torture appeals to (at least among people who aren't positively wedded to Bush and Dewine) in beyond me. Does Brown believe in the same Republican pile of crap that Dewine believes in? I'm certain he doesn't. He has a long record of accomplishment that shows he doesn't. I wonder if he thinks anyone is going to fall for his spin. No one I know is.

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At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howie, As usual, you make me proud to be a liberal.

Brown is one of the very few current candidates whom I didn't support financially. I resented Schumer's strongarm tactics to get Hackett out of the senate race. That, combined with Schumer's disgusting support of anti-choice Casey in PA made me withhold support from both candidates and the DSCC. I wondered whether I was being petty, but I stuck with my decision. After yesterday's vote, I'm very glad I did.

Brown's supporters, jealous of the support that Hackett got from bloggers and progressives, constantly pointed out that Brown's progressive credentials were stronger than those of the hawkish Hackett. After yesterday's vote, that claim is shot. I don't know Hackett's stand on this issue, but I know one thing, he is not afraid to stand up to repugs.

Yes, Brown is better than DeWine. Faint praise indeed.

At 10:00 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

I feel your pain, both Howie and Eileen. Brown is still WAY better than DeWine, but this is lame and, I'm afraid, literally inexcusable. It's an explanation but not an excuse if we assume that Brown was afraid of the GOP campaign onslaught he would have faced if he had voted no to this dreadful bill. If I were in his position, who knows? Maybe I would have done the same thing. That doesn't make it right, though, or even OK.

For Brown's sake, I hope he has taken into his calculations that there's also a price to be paid for voting FOR a bill like this. In a similar vein, members of Congress who voted to give Chimpy the Prez carte blanche to go to war with Iraq because they were afraid of what GOP campaign strategists would do to them have recently been discovering that sooner or later there may also be a price to pay for taking the expedient route.

Somehow I think Paul Hackett--even though he wouldn't have been casting an actual VOTE--would have taken a very different position.


At 12:48 PM, Blogger L.K. Rigel said...

Howie, I feel your pain! I called Brown's office to ask for my fifty bucks back. It's a betrayal of us all. Thanks so much for following up on this and talking to Brown's office about this. We can't let them take us for granted.

Linda R.

At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We were sucker punched by one of our own and it wont be the last time, just his last time for me.
Clearly additional questions for candidates will be needed. A year ago who would have ever thought this type of questioning would even be needed..
Hang in there, we need you.

Eureka Springs, AR

At 6:22 PM, Blogger Mary said...

Howie - thanks for this post. I'm furious and to be honest, the "explanation" put point-counterpoint with the Curry CYA makes it even more evident that Brown isn't being forthright.

He's gone from "Bush is right, my party is wrong, enemy combatants aren't entitled to trials and habeas" to triangulating and shooting for a "Those detained have been held for more than 5 years with no opportunity to prove their guilt or innocence."

How much bull is that? He knows that only a small handful are going to have a tribunal and that HE JUST AUTHORIZED HOLDING THE OTHERS FOR THEIR LIFE WITH NO RIGHT TO A MILITARY OR CIVILIAN TRIAL.

Heckuva job Brownie.

Negroponte said that torture stopped after Hamdan. Brown just AUTHORIZED RESTARTING TORTURE DEEMED ILLEGAL BY THE SUPREME COURT.

Heckuva job Brownie.

If we followed the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Geneva Conventions, those detained would have had a right to REAL TRUE Status review trials. That is what Hamdan said should happen and there was (and has been for 5 years) every opportunity to have real trials and real Combatant Status Review hearings under the UCMJ.


Heckuva job Brownie.

We know about Abu Ghraib because of dedicated whistleblowers and we have soldiers and others who have in the past been able and willing to refuse to abuse and torture, because they could legitimately claim that such orders were violations of the UCMJ. Brown has REQUIRED ABUSE AND TAKEN AWAY THE PROTECTION OF REFUSING TO FOLLOW AN ILLEGAL ORDER.

Heckuva job Brownie.

Brown has been in Congress long enough to know the story of the Chinese Uighurs.

They were taken to GITMO, where everyone knew they were not enemy combatants, and kept there for years incognito from their family and under abusive circumstances - all for no crime. Only their access to the courts through habeas changed anything. After a Fed ct found that they were illegaly detained and their case hovered on a S. Ct review - they were released.

Brown WANTS TO MAKE SURE IT DOESN'T HAPPEN AGAIN (especially with so many habeas cases poised to finally be heard) - the part where innocent people get released. He's fine with the part where innocent civilians who are not "enemy combatants" (and who were a huge chunk of detainees) being kidnapped and detained and tortured for the rest of their lives with no recourse.

Super heckuva job Brownie.

Among all the other untruths (like the characterization of degrading and inhumane treatment and secret evidence and torture/coerced evidence) and the insipid reference to the WaPo article (want to send him the NYT Editorial that is more than a he said/she said?)

This is probably the worst:
It will provide that opportunity, so that those who are innocent can be set free and those who are guilty can be punished.

Heckuva job Brownie.

That has to be as awful as anything Karl Rove has ever put together. To deny habeas and institutionalize lifetime detentions after kidnap with no charges and call it an "opportunity for the innocent to be set free."

While also agreeing to amnesty for war crimes committed against those innocent.

Sorry - that makes me choke MORE than Dewine, who doesn't really pretend to be be much more than a doltish rubber stamp. To bald faced make the assertion Brown is giving people the opportunity to prove their innocence with this legislation that takes that away is just evil and awful.

Especially in a week of revelation after revelation about the kidnap tortures of innocent Canadian and German citizens and the testimony before the Democratic hearing that included the fact that less than 10% of the detainees at GITMO were battlfield or hostility related holds and the Harpers article with the former top CIA analyst who said everyone, including command, from very early on knew that at least one-third of those at GITMO had no business whatsoever being there - but we treated them just like the worst.

With that ringing in his ears, he votes for the legislation then pretty much lies about its effect.

The spin makes you feel almost worse about him than the vote.


Voting to allow torture to restart on an innocent man or child given a reprieve the S. Ct - it doesn't get much lower than that.

Maybe giving amnesty to those who have already tortured.

Maybe polluting the military with torture as a heritage and putting a strike through the Nuremberg concept of illegal orders.

ok - the spin doesn't make me feel worse than the vote.

At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why vote for a Bush enabler? Hold your nose and pull the lever?


Vote for ANYONE BUT a Republican or Democrat.

What exactly do you have to lose?

This bill is the MOST reprehensible piece of excrement I have seen in my 51 years.


And you would vote FOR a candidate that supports it??



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