Friday, July 22, 2005

Stop Rove-ing and Get Back on the Story!

It's certainly important to cover John Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court. With Roberts' confirmation more or less a foregone conclusion though, it's important that the media keep its eye on another big story: Karl Rove's outing of a CIA officer.

We know that Rove revealed the identity of an undercover CIA agent to reporters Matt Cooper of TIME and columnist Robert Novak. It's also pretty clear that Rove did it in order to discredit a critic of the Bush Iraq policy.

Think of this! The administration's claims about WMD in Iraq, ties to terrorism, and the costs and difficulty reconstruction have all been proven wrong. Now we find out that Rove was leaking information in order to punish a critic of the war for pointing out some of the administration's misinformation. Thousands have died in Iraq and the nation has become a breeding ground for terrorists! Yet no one has been held accountable!

The White House claimed repeatedly that Rove was not involved with the leak. They sneered at reporters' questions. They told blatant falsehoods. Now they obfuscate and equivocate.
There needs to be a full accounting to the American people about what happened in this case. The President needs to demonstrate that his word means something, outside of when he promises the religious right to appoint ultra conservatives to the Supreme Court.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Moving Past Stalemate on Abortion

Last night I called into Chris Lydon's new call-in show Open Source. The topic was the abortion debate. How can we move past Roe v. Wade and think about the issue in terms of a new morality? How do we put that morality into law? Can we even do that?

I phoned up and told my story. I was born in 1968, before Roe. My mother was utterly unprepared to be a mother. My dad wasn't around. We were really poor. Mom had a lot of emotional and physical challenges, and it was often a traumatic experience for me growing up. My experience makes me think that the whole debate around the rights of fetuses seemed misplaced to me. During the show I said "I guess I just don’t see the morality of concentrating on the rights of a fetus, but then not giving a damn about whether an eight-year-old kid gets a good education or can go to the doctor."

There is so much more to say about this issue, and I feel as though I was pretty inarticulate, particularly when Chris was asking me about morality and the law. I said that I thought we should have constitutional amendments guaranteeing equal access to health care and quality education through college for all citizens. So what does this have to do with the abortion debate?

Well, I think that there is room for compromise and real understanding for people on both sides of the issue. I can respect it if someone’s moral code says that life begins at conception and that, therefore, they can’t suppoprt abortion. It’s not my view, but I understand it.

What drives me crazy is logical inconsistency. How can a “culture of life” come down so hard on women, often poor and single, for wanting to abort a fetus, but be so silent on the tens of thousands of civilians - including women and children - dead in Iraq? How can they so often be silent on the death penalty? I imagine that people on the other side of the issue ask the same questions. How can someone support the right to kill an unborn child, but oppose the execution of a mass murderer?

So, fine. Why can’t we iron out some of the inconsistencies? If abortion opponents want a consitutional right to life amendment, then no more death penalty, and no more treating innocent civilians like the eggs we have to break in order to make an omelette in the Middle East. Life means ALL LIFE.

Moreover, I’d say that if we’re going to have a right to life amendment, we should also have a right to LIVING amendment. This is where the health care and education came in. If abortion becomes illegal, or even much more restrictive, poor folks and people who are ill prepared to be parents will be forced to have children. Rich folks will be able to get an abortion someplace from someone. So if we’re serious about caring for the welfare of children and families, then we should guarantee some of the basics that people need to be healthy and successful. Everyone gets to go to the doctor. Everyone gets a good education. That’s a Federal guarantee, no dependent on whether you live in a town with a rich property tax base.

Ultimately, I think that by the time the decision comes down to whether or not to abort, there are no good decisions. No woman WANTS her choices to come down to abortion or an unwanted child. Abortion is a flashpoint for a huge suite of issues: poverty, sex education, sexual freedom, the lack of support for kids and families in the country. Unfortunately, progressives have allowed the religious right to bash them around the head with the issue, the way they have with race and other social issues. So we all end up arguing about abortion, rather than the conditions that make abortions more likely and make having and raising a healthy child more difficult.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

An open letter to Senator Rick Santorum

Dear Senator.
I recently returned from a trip to Florence, Italy. I traveled there to see what life was like during the 14th and 15th centuries. After reading your breathtakingly ignorant remarks about the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church, though, I see I might have saved myself a couple of grand and stayed right here in America.
"When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm."
Oh I see! It wasn't the cover up, or the repression or the hostility toward sexuality in general! It was the liberals! Thanks for clearing that up!
You are the best example I could possibly find of 15th century Catholicism. Right at home with the fanatic Savanarola, you'd have been ripping the paintings out of Botticelli's hands to toss onto the Bonfire of the Vanities.
As an American and a member of a Catholic family, I'm ashamed to have you as a United States Senator. I wasn't paying any attention to the race for the Senate in Pennsylvania, but I sure will now. My next stop after this email is Bob Casey's Web site for a campaign donation.
See you in the middle ages Rick!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London Calling

The numbers from Scotland Yard keep rising: 33; 40; more than 50 dead. At least 700 were wounded in the subway bombing on the seventh of July. They won't have the final count until they can exhume the bodies of some still trapped in tubes deep below ground.

President Bush responded, saying that the attack illustrates the difference between the G8 nations, coming together to eliminate poverty and AIDS, and the terrorists, murderers of innocent people. I was sort of dumbstruck. No "Bring it on!" No, "We'll bring them to justice dead or alive." No posturing. Putting aside the toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, prior support for Saddam, US covert action in Central America, etc... what the President said was dead on. Compassion, a commitment to social justice and to creating a better life for all people are the hallmarks of a civilization. It's what separates us from the bombers.

John Nichols savvily observes in the Nation that a Democrat (or, I might add, a moderate Republican) would have been assailed by the right wing media had he said precisely the same things the President said.

As we saw over the weekend, though, there was never any danger of that. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid released a predictably weak-kneed statement on the day of the attacks. As David Sedaris might say, you only need to catch the headlines of Reid's broadcast. "...heartfelt condolences, hmmm... depraved acts of terrorism, hmmm... complete solidarity, hmmm..."

As usual, the Democrats (and some moderate Republicans) are running scared. They're scared of being called wimps. They're scared of being called partisans. And because they're scared, they're handing the moral and political high ground over to the right wing in the name of being "uniters, not dividers." And in 2006 and 2008, the right wing will run campaign ads telling the electorate what cowards and weaklings Democrats and moderates are. And voters will believe them. Because in bending over backwards to sound tough and supportive, Democrats demonstrate they have no moral center of their own. Worse, they fail to articulate any real alternative.

As Norman Mailer quipped during the DNC in 2004, "You can always count on the Democrats to do something anemic." Right wingers are counting on it in 2006.

For any politician - left or right - who could muster up a little gumption, though, a withering critique of the administration policy at this moment in the war on terror could actually transcend partisan politics and create the opportunity for real change. Four long, expensive, bloody years after September 11, someone needs to ask where the hell Osama Bin Laden is, and why he's neither dead nor in custody. Where is Mullah Omar? Why are these guys still sending us their home movies every 6-12 months?

The attacks that occurred in London could take place in any city, on any subway system in this country. Now is the time for our legislators to ask how we could possibly have spent over $1.6 trillion on defense from 2001-2004 and nearly $200 billion more to invade a country with no links to Al Qaeda, while our elected officials slash spending for security at subways and train stations that are vulnerable to the type of atrocities we witnessed in Madrid and London. What we've done at the airports is nice, but did we think Al Qaeda wasn't going to notice that 29 million people take the train to work every day?

How is it, someone should ask, that after nearly 15,000 American casualties and at least 22,000 civilian deaths thousands of miles away in Iraq, the citizens of our closest ally can still be murdered on their way to work? If the overthrow of the government in Iraq has created an incubator for terrorists who commit acts like the ones we've witnessed today, is the world really better off?

It's time for someone in our government to move beyond condolences and expressions of solidarity. Moreover, it's not a partisan issue. It's about keeping the people safe and keeping your eye on the ball (It's the terrorists stupid!). After 9/11, 3/11 and 7/7, after daily images of death and destruction in Baghdad, Kabul, Falluja and Karabala, someone in Congress must ask why we are still so vulnerable after so much blood and treasure have been expended in the name of keeping us safe.