The Impossible Will Take a Little While
From Working Assets & CommonDreams.org
At the height of the nuclear arms race, those who marched against it used to say that in the ashes of a nuclear war, no one could tell a capitalist from a communist. “Not necessarily,” others would joke, “Richard Perle could tell.” For Perle, even total annihilation would have its victors and losers, and he knew which side he wanted to be on.
Perle has continued to preach the virtues of usable nuclear weapons while helping orchestrate our invasion of Iraq. Now he’s a key allied strategist of an administration willing to obliterate democracy itself if they don’t get their way on judicial nominees and everything else.
I’m thinking of the ease with which Trent Lott, Bill Frist, and other Republicans have talked of a “nuclear option” to intimidate the Democrats into capitulating on every right wing judge that Bush sends to Congress. Although Republicans have backed off from using the phrase since it began polling negative, it may reveal more than they intended about their Party. They don't just seek to enact particular programs, but have done their best to turn politics into total war, seeking to annihilate the opposition completely.
Their talk of political nuclear strikes in fact goes further than the actual Cold War arms race. The logic of Mutually Assured Destruction was at least partly defensive, even if its brinksmanship almost destroyed the planet. The Soviets wouldn’t attack us for risk of being annihilated. We’d do the same. A precarious balance would hold. Of course the US didn’t just use nuclear weapons for nuclear deterrence: We brandished them against the Chinese in Korea and offered them to the French in Vietnam. Nixon, through Kissinger, threatened their use on North Vietnam if they didn’t surrender, then backed off in response to massive US anti-war demonstrations. But with the exception of people like Perle and Herman Kahn, our leaders mostly justified ultimate risks in the name of preventing an ultimate cataclysm.
So what is the threat that merits blowing up 200 years of the Senate’s right to require more than a bare majority to confirm lifetime judicial nominees? That they might only get 95% of their nominees through? That Republican presidents would end up with just an overwhelming majority of judges already appointed, and not every single one? That someone somewhere might not bend to their will? The only threat they’re facing is resistence to their absolute power, but that now seems to be threat enough.
Honorable conservatives used to warn against the raw power of the state. It was Lord Acton who wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." But now that the political right controls more and more of our key institutions, the love of power has become their religion, and the slightest notion of checks or balances heretical treason.
In relations with the world, this administration has pulled out of every international rule and treaty from global warming, to bio terrorism, to land mines--substituting a rule of raw force that insists we can do whatever we choose because God is on our side. John Bolton as UN nominee just flaunts this approach. Now this administration is trying the same thing on the domestic front. Surrender or be obliterated.
The filibuster hasn’t always been used for good. It was a prime tool of Southern segregationists blocking civil right bills promoted in part by moderate Republicans. But to annihilate 200 years of tradition simply because you happen to hold the reins of power is to worship this power as a God. They may not be destroying the world to save it, but they’d be perfectly content with the ashes of democracy.
Paul Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear (Basic Books), named the #3 political book of 2004 by the History Channel and American Book Association. See www.theimpossible.org