Saturday, August 25, 2007



I don't know what Bush's first lie to America was or even his biggest lie. But one that was very big came very early. "I'm a uniter not a divider" was something he spouted on the David Letterman Show in early 2000. But not only has he proven to be a divider, he has proven to be the most divisive North American president since the last illegitimate right-wing southerner, Jefferson Davis. I recently finished reading Kenneth Ackerman's excellent book, Young J. Edgar: Hoover, The Red Scare, and the Assault on Civil Liberties, which, thankfully, was not another Hoover biography. Hoover is very much one of the leading characters in this historical drama of the early 20th century pitting terrorist-obsessed and xenophobic authoritarians against American values. The young Hoover, was in the thick of his first big battle on the side of authoritarianism and bigoted obsession and against American values, developing a world view and traits that painted his entire hideous career as head of the FBI, a career that didn't end until he finally died in 1972. "By then, Hoover had evolved into an untouchable autocrat, a man who kept secret files on millions of Americans over the years and used them to blackmail presidents, senators and movie stars. He ordered burglaries, secret wiretaps or sabotage against anyone he personally considered subversive. His target list included the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, even Eleanor Roosevelt."

One of the best reviews I found was in last month's L.A. Times and it looked at similarities between the Bush Regime's agenda and those of the Palmer Red Scare by asking the excellent and pertinent question, Another J. Edgar Hoover?

The question is my title, begging for an antidote, is the other side of the same coin. When Palmer's Reign of Terror-- almost entirely perpetrated by the young, unseasoned and unsupervised Hoover-- came to an end, with much disgrace heaped on Palmer (while Hoover escaped unscathed), many Americans had a feeling of revulsion that our Constitution had been so shamelessly ignored by those we hired to protect and enforce it.
Palmer and his allies [including scores of reactionaries in Congress, of course] came very close to deporting thousands of innocent bystanders, all the immigrants they rounded up between November 1919 and January 1920. What stopped them? Historians like to point to the rapid cooling of the American temper after late 1919, but this, too, misses the point. Unlike the Seventh Cavalry showing up in the final reel of an old western movie, impersonal forces of history rarely reveal themselves on time to save the day for real people in danger. Instead, some individual person usually has to come forward first and be willing to stick his or her neck out. In 1920, this role fell to a small circle of lawyers. Louis F. Post dared to cancel the thousands of deportation warrants, and then talk back to Congress when it tried to impeach him over it. Felix Frankfurter succeeded in exposing Justice Department lawbreaking in a Boston courtroom and through the Twelve Lawyer report.

Reading Ackerman's book one finds living, breathing proof of the old adage, traced back to a quote by Edmund Burke in the 1700's that “Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it.” (Burke is responsible for several other equally relevant quotations: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” as well as “In a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority.” (Later George Santayana was quoted as having said "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.")

Greater ignorance-- unfortunately coupled with overwhelming arrogance-- has probably never been more dominant in the uppermost reaches of a presidential administration than that of George Bush's. I have no illusions of lots of would-be mini-Hoovers being suckled at the breast of Bush's neo-fascist regime. What I am interested in knowing is if there are also people with strength and resolution willing to stand up to them in the face of opprobrium and worse. Bush has packed the federal judiciary with activist partisan hacks and apathetic voters have allowed equally unworthy legislators take over the Congress. The long-term solution to the judiciary is to elect a Democratic president and to elect more and better Democrats to the Senate and House. Better? Better than what? Just about any Democrat is better than a Republican, but in some cases, not enough to be meaningful. I'm sure Hillary will be a much better president than either Bush has been, and hopefully better than her husband was. But the person to protect us from the excesses of authoritarian strains in society? We'll have to see. I do feel confident, however, that she'll be appointing a better breed of judges.

As for Congress, that's where the game will be fought out. It isn't enough to use the rule of thumb that all Democrats are an improvement over any Republican, even though that's true, as far as it goes. There are too many-- far too many-- screwed up Democrats to just remember that nostrum and not look any deeper into the electoral process. There are a few dozen Democrats usually willing to combine with the Republicans to insure an effective conservative congressional majority. That needs to end. Unfortunately most of the Democrats who consistently vote with Republicans also live in Republican leaning districts. Of the 12 Democratic congressmen who most consistently vote with the GOP, all but 2 are in Republican districts.
Gene Taylor (MS)- R+16
Bud Cramer (AL)- R+6
Collin Peterson (MN)- R+6
Dan Boren (OK)- R+5
Ike Skelton (MO)- R+11
Allen Boyd (FL)- R+2
Mike McIntyre (NC)- R+3
John Tanner (TN)- D+0
Jim Marshall (GA)- R+3
Jim Matheson (UT)- R+17
Tim Holden (PA)- R+7
John Barrow (GA)- D+5 (although redistricting has brought it down to D+2)

No reason to bother with Matheson and Taylor until after Barrow and Tanner have been dealt with. Georgia also boasts another reactionary-leaning Democrat, prone to vote with Republicans, who represents not just Democratic constituents but very Democratic constituents: suburban Atlanta's David Scott- D+12.

Aside from Barrow, Scott and Tanner, the Democrats in Democratic districts most likely to vote with the Republicans are:

Jack Murtha (PA)- D+5
Henry Cuellar (TX)- D+1
Leonard Boswell (IA)- D+1
Marion Berry (AR)- D+1
Jim Cooper (TN)- D+6
Mike Ross (AR)- D+0
Jerry Costello (IL)- D+5
Mike Doyle (PA)- D+22
Silvsetre Reyes (TX)- D+9
Adam Smith (WA)- D+6
Jane Harman (CA)- D+11
Gene Green (TX)- D+8
Nick Rahall (WV)- D+0
Dennis Cardoza (CA)- D+3
Jim Costa (CA)- D+5

I don't know of a single one facing a serious primary challenge, although there are primary challenges to Republican-leaning Democrats in Democratic districts that I urge DWT readers to get involved with, particularly in Maryland and Illinois, where Donna Edwards and Mark Pera are looking like they can oust reactionary Democrats Al Wynn and Dan Lipinski.

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