Happy July 5th: America’s Political Hangover

Ah, the morning after! The booze and hot dogs have left our systems, and the pops of exploding fireworks are remembered only by a mild case of tinnitus. Flapping open the morning newspaper to face America’s political reality as we nurse cups of coffee only exacerbates the lingering effects of too much sun and alcohol.

I realize that being overly cynical can be irksome, but today I’m prepared to be that guy. The state of our nation is just too far down the toilet to shake it off with independence day-brand patriotism.

Scooter Libby’s recent commutation is perhaps the best, or at least most recent, reminder of how upside-down things have gotten. It is evidence not only of the hypocrisy of the current White House, but also of the absence of the right’s supposed moral compass and of the fact that the political elite are no longer bound by the trappings of law. Slate’s Harlan J. Protass puts a finger on how this point has been clearly, if not overtly, demonstrated:

The specific bases Bush gave for the commutation are that the 30-month prison sentence was too harsh for Libby’s crime, that he was a first-time offender who had a long history of public service, that his conviction had already damaged his career and reputation and caused his wife and young children to suffer, and that sentencing Judge Reggie Walton rejected the advice of the probation office, which recommended that he consider “factors that could have led to a sentence of home confinement or probation.” …

Consider, in that light and in comparison to Libby, the case of United States v. Rita, which the Supreme Court decided two weeks ago. As Douglas Berman describes at Sentencing Law and Policy, Victor Rita also got “caught up in a criminal investigation and ultimately was indicted on five felony counts based on allegations that”—like Libby—”he lied while giving grand jury testimony.” Rita was convicted. At sentencing, he argued that he should receive a sentence below the range in the federal guidelines because he was elderly and sick, had served for 24 years as a Marine, including tours in Vietnam and the first Gulf War, and was vulnerable to abuse in prison because he’d worked in criminal justice on behalf of the government.

After receiving a within-the-guidelines sentence of 33 months, Rita appealed on the ground that the sentence was unreasonable given the nature of his offense and his personal circumstances. The Bush administration opposed Rita’s appeal. The government argued that 33 months was reasonable simply because it complied with the federal guidelines.

[Read Full]

Bush, Cheney and the rest of their lot have continually demonstrated that the administration’s prerogative is to plug their ears to the outcry of the American public and shift the pieces of the political and military chessboard as suits their endgame.

Alas, pointing a finger solely at the right would be overlooking the great weaknesses of the left of that have allowed us to be trampled so.

Democrats continue to tiptoe, hypersensitive to polls and staying carefully ambiguous on certain points as to not make a statement from which they couldn’t easily backpedal. When did the donkeys lose their balls? Our presidential front-runners won’t even take a stand for what is right on the issue of gay marriage:

According to several gay rights activists, Hillary Clinton and Obama give largely similar statements in private meetings on their opposition to same-sex marriage, citing religious concerns and the fact that older generations of Americans view the term “marriage” as a commitment between a man and a woman.

The activists say they trust the candidates’ opposition as heartfelt, while at the same time acknowledging that the candidates’ staffers have told them that taking a stand in favor of same-sex marriage is too risky politically.

[Washington Post]

How terribly authoritarian it is to deny a basic personal right to people who love each other.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Iraq has horrifyingly soared well beyond 3,500 – far surpassing our grave losses at the towers September 11th. Bush may not be listening, but it is up to the elected representatives to shout our dissent louder nonetheless.

As I sit here in a cafe writing these criticisms, it is necessary to appreciate the fact that I have the freedom to do so – so far, I’ve never had to fear that I might be taking my life into my own hands when I write a blog post, as is the case in Iran, Egypt and many other nations around the globe.

I’m not against the idea of America; quite to the contrary, I consider myself a patriot of sorts. But it is the fool, and not the patriot, who blinds himself to the surrounding reality and remains complacent. We must slog our way out of this stagnant political hangover, and make way for a nation that punishes the wicked, accepts diversity and understands that we are not an island in the world.

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