Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.The New York Times may not blame Democrats for being frightened, but I do. In fact, their willingness to betray American principles out of the fear that doing the right thing will come back to haunt them in elections makes that oft-repeated claim of conservatives right: The Democrats really are soft on terror.
…We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.
Not the terror that exists outwith our borders, but the terror that rules within. The Bush administration has spent every day since September 11, 2001 making sure that we are a phobic nation, paralyzed with fear and thusly complacent and compliant. They terrorized us into supporting an unnecessary war with mendacious imagery of mushroom clouds and dirty bombs, terrorized us into reelecting them with politically-timed terror warnings, terrorized us into going along with whatever subversion of our Constitution the Bush administration suggests is necessary to protect us.
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, one of the administration’s most reliable fearmongers during his tenure, gravely warned opponents of their terror strategy in December 2001, “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve.” It was the first step in marglinzalizing dissenters as traitors and terrorist sympathizers—a page right out of Third Reich second-in-command Hermann Göring’s playbook: “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
And so it has worked here.
The Bush administration has wrought a reign of terror used to coerce the American people into giving up their rights and freedoms, and confer upon the executive branch an unprecedented centralization of power. And fear of losing elections, of being seen as “soft on terror,” has made most Democrats go along with this effective coup nearly every step of the way. In the end, they have shown themselves to be what they most fear being seen as—unwilling and unable to stare terror in the face and stop it in its tracks. I’ve no doubt that a Democratic leadership would be better for fighting the brand of terrorism incessantly invoked by the Bush administration to cow us, the kind that induces in a cringing and teeth-chattering electorate images of swarthy men in turbans with bombs strapped to their chests. But the Dems have proven themselves patently incapable of fighting the brand of terrorism that haunts us at home, that emanates from the top levels of our government and wrenches from our hands the liberty and principles that Bush’s “war on terror” is meant to defend.
Too much time worrying about perceptions of their support for the War on Terror has left the Democrats hopelessly inept in fighting the War of Terror that’s being waged in America. And, quite frankly, being capable of fighting terror from foreign enemies is of no use if they’re incapable of saving us from the domestic terrorists who will destroy everything that was ever worth protecting.