Loyal Opposition, Disloyal Regent
by Daniel Patrick Welch
October 2, 2003
Remember the hullabaloo about The End of History? There were many of us who scoffed then at its hubris, the sheer arrogance of thinking we were “it.” Now, of course, even the adherents of such triumphalism are back in the trenches, forecasting their own gloom-and-obscene-profit version of Permanent War. It’s as if the Cold War never ended and just in the nick of time for them, too. This gives the right the opportunity to revive that most heinous of Cold War anachronisms, the Loyal Opposition. Now the LO can be permanently kept toothless by the ever-present threat of the New Cold War (remember: they have actually used these words). Some have even promised World War IV.
This bogeyman is considered by the right to be sufficient to cover any manner of High Crimes and Misdemeanors. Even the egregiously traitorous act of deliberately revealing the secret identity of an intelligence agent must be beyond scrutiny. But who’s kidding whom? The whole concept of loyalty is perverted, of course, when the war itself is fraudulent, and when those demanding such loyalty are treasonous themselves. This whole new ballgame largely missed, of course by the unnecessarily “loyal” “opposition,” provides the means, opportunity and motive to beat back the right like never before.
In the last analysis, Karl Rove may have to borrow his defense from Shaggy: It wasn’t me. Despite the increasingly violent denials erupting from the White House, Rove is widely believed to be behind the leak, if only because it is also widely known that all pertinent information is kept, a la Great Carnac, in a hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar on Karl Rove’s front porch (by which we still mean the White House).
Wilson himself, whose courageous exposure of the Niger Lie prompted the retaliatory and illegal outing of his CIA agent wife, said his preference was to see Rove “frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs.” I have no idea what “frog-marching” is, but it all sounds very exciting. It is High Treason, after all, and may have prompted (and may yet still) the “liquidation” of dozens of CIA “assets” overseas. What would the right wing think of The Regent from Hell, their own little Frankenstein suffering the fate of those they would condemn? High Treason?, hmmm sounds like a job for our old friend, Lethal Injection. Something wickedly alluring about the ultimate vindictive fantasy of poking a needle in Rove’s icy veins. Some might think it can’t be done on a man like Rove, the needle would freeze or something. But then, the neeedle-happy Texas Mafia must have more practice than anyone else in chilling the coldest hearts of man. Talk about opportunity.
But what if opportunity knocks and no one answers? There is no longer any reason to be trapped behind this soft-on-defense façade, since it is made of Kleenex and spit. The right wing is always barking up this same tree. My wife’s cousin, filling that most curious of niches, Black Republican, keeps shrieking: What about 9/11? Ah, yes, what about it, exactly? You can hear the rest of this tired exchange paraphrased in Al Franken’s new book, in the one-page chapter entitled “Our National Dialogue About Terrorism.” Without even resorting to the well reasoned arguments about U.S. imperialism, state terror, etc., the standard expert’s opinion about fighting “terror”, that is to say, mass murder by non-state groups, is with police, not invasion and conquest. Go after a fly with a tank, and two things happen: you’re likely to blow up a whole lot of stuff, and miss the fly in the bargain.
If fighting terror must be your mantra, then the counterpoint is obvious: Not only is the right dangerously incompetent at their own game, but its vindictive, overly politicized and petty exercise of this power proves once and for all that they really don’t give a damn about the Security of the American People they so righteously claim only they can protect. This is their Ace of Spades, and OutingGate shows that the Trump Card has no Technicolor Dreamcoat, or something like that.
Yes, Democrats are beginning to ask for Rove’s head on a spike, as well they should. But they have been beaten to the punch by more courageous former defenders of the Realm. What is this, Seven Days in May?? Do we really need the Halls of Power, from the CIA to the elite soldiers of Israel’s Air Force, to tell us when the world has gone mad? Where is the voice of the left in the Democratic Party?
I heard this from a translator who declined work, and she may as well have been speaking for most of the Democratic Party: “I’m actually not 100% against the war, although there are some things about it I don’t like.” Sounds like the same moral fuzz that clouds the vision of the Democratic candidates. Hey, what’s not to like? Is it the DU that will be poisoning the children of the region for decades? Is it the tens-of-thousands of dead and maimed? It’s not the war crimes, is it? Please tell me it’s not the war crimes. The tens-of-billions in reparations? The point is that there are enough “embedded disasters” (tell Fox I own that one) to make anything but total withdrawal, along with reparations and a foreign policy which unflinchingly acknowledges such a grievous mistake, seem doomed to failure.
The scary reality is that Democrats seem in insufficient awe of the horror of inheriting the debacle in Iraq, and the concomitant mess around the world. Were it not for the disastrous effects on the poor of the world of a continuing relentless assault, naively assuming beyond all evidence that an alternative to Bush might actually stop this assault, it could even be argued that it just might be preferable to spend the next four years watching these bastards sink in the swamp of their own making, and pulling them out just as they slip under to make sure they survive impeachment, trial, imprisonment etc.
The GOP is up to another con game, and the Democrats should not be so easily fooled as in con games past. However smooth Schroeder and Chirac may appear on television, no one should mistake the cool statist rapprochement veneer with any softening of the world’s anger. Career politicians, after all, will not be the ones to initiate war crimes trials, let alone commit further acts of mass murder on behalf of stateless organizations.
From inside the American bubble, it seems like a “reasonable” position that tinkering with the occupation of Iraq is the prudent course of action. But this is not 1968. It’s like Richard Nixon in reverse. There is no George Wallace, and the opposition is squarely in charge of the disaster that is this war. There is no reason on earth to dignify this muddleheaded thinking with the old Cold War obeisance.
The protection argument has always been a sham, a Cold War leftover by which the “left” seems only too eager to be cowed. Some of my favorite lines in this campaign so far come from Dennis Kucinich’s brave and consistent attempts to give the lie to Bush’s bogus WMD obsession: “Mr. President, I grew up in America’s inner cities, and I have inspected real Weapons of Mass Destruction here at home, poverty is a Weapon of Masss Destruction. Joblessness is a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Lack of health care is a Weapon of Mass destruction. Poor education is a Weapon of Mass Destruction.” Bull’s-eye. The gap between rich and poor in America is the widest in 70 years, according to a new study published by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. But then, motive has never been much of a problem.
Former Republican pollster Kevin Phillips has talked about “Compression,” that necessary narrowing of this gap when it gets too large, as happened during the 1930’s. It is bound to happen one way or another, and it is pathetic that we keep relying on renegade republicans to point it out. “Jeffords saves the party,” is not a particularly flattering headline for a self-respecting “opposition.” John Weaver, a former GOP consultant in Texas, fled to the Democrats after being hounded out of the state and the party by the ubervindicitve Rove, according to James C. Moore, co-author of Bush’s Brain. So is this what we want to be: the party of Karl Rove’s victims?
It might be thought best to refrain from mentioning a particular candidate while making these arguments, and I had at first intended to do so. But then I hit on the means, opportunity, motive thing. Besides, it is tiresome to keep dancing around it: Kucinich is the Elephant in the Room. The Means. Even supporters of other contenders often agree that his is the best position on just about everything, yet he is almost completely blacked out because “he can’t win.” Most of these hypotheticals wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny in any self-respecting forum, of course, but the best prediction may come from Eliza Doolittle: Just you wait. Kucinich, unlike any of the other “non-viable” candidates, is building an organization that is truly national in scope, fueled by a truly astonishing supply of volunteer labor that may not need Kerry’s or Dean’s big ticket donors to sustain itself.
The smear of ideological purity should not be allowed to sully the genuine virtue of moral clarity. In a tense moment in the movie Luther, Joe Fiennes’ dashing portrayal reached a crescendo in his moment of truth: as supporters looked on, worrying openly whether the young monk would “say the right thing,” Luther was finally forced to say whether he would recant. His firm “I cannot” is more a revelation of moral truth than an act of defiance, and his supporters cheered. The tension is broken by his having said “the right thing”, not, as those frightened for his life might have reasonably wished, to save his own ass, but because his conscience gave him no choice.
This moral clarity acts as a beacon where going along to get along never can. Democrats need to remember that sloganeering, obfuscating, dodging and weaving will never win them another election. Programs, policies and positions, clear and unequivocal, that affect the growing constituencies they need to inspire will provide the wining coalition to beat the right wing, not catch phrases and amorphous “anger.” If the Democrats win, and more importantly, if that victory is to have any meaning, or any shadow for future elections, it will be not because they contort themselves trying to pick “a guy who can win,” but because they pick a guy who is right.
Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, USA, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. He has appeared on radio [interview available here]. Past articles and translations are available at www.danielpwelch.com. © 2003 Daniel Patrick Welch. Reprint permission granted.