by Sanford LevinsonDoes any serious person believe that the current rush to pass a new law with regard to modes of interrogation (i.e., the potential use of what most people would regard as torture) and to the possibility that many detainees, especially low-level ones, will spend their lives in prisons without the slightest semblance of due process, is anything other than an artifact of Karl Rove and George Bush's desperate desire to scare the country into voting for vulnerable Republican representatives and senators by ramping up the fear attached to the "war on terror"? Members of Congress are apparently willing to vote for a truly monumental law without having read it and without making the slightest attempt to resolve the remarkable range of differences that have emerged as to how the words of the so-called "compromise" (many of us would say "capitulation") will be interpreted. (Of course, given the total absence of any judicial oversight and the grant to the White House of plenary power to interpret, one can have one's suspicions about what the
interpretations will look like.) If ever there has been the need to SLOW DOWN, it is now. Democrats are in peril of dopting the same kind of disastrous (and pernicious) strategy of 2002, when Tom Daschle (abetted, of course, by John Kerry and many others), preferred to write George W. Bush a blank check rather than actually confront the country in a serious debate about foreign policy (instead of prescription drugs for the elderly).
At the very least, then, Democrats (and those few Republicans who are unwilling to get aboard the "torture and elimination of habeas corpus express") should filibuster any attempt to bring the bill to a vote prior to the elections, when, one might hope, there could actually be a sober discussion of the issue.
But who has the political and moral authority to suggest such a
procedure-oriented filibuster? Ironically or not, the one person who could stop the bill dead in its tracks for the next six weeks--and therefore save at least a semblance of the country's honor and preserve our further decay into a banana republic--is Senator Joseph Lieberman. He is the one Democrat who simply cannot be attacked as an anti-national-security bleeding heart by the Republicans. (He would also, I strongly suspect, absolutely clinch his reelection by taking the lead on what is truly one of the great issues of our time in defining the kind of country we wish to be.) He need not even oppose the bill, though obviously I hope that he would. All he has to do is express enough uncertainty to say that Congress should have a full-and-fair debate about the issues, including extensive hearings and briefing of the Congress.
The opportunity for truly significant leadership has presented itself to Senator Lieberman as to no other member of the Senate (save perhaps for John McCain, who I am afraid is too eager to be President really to stand up to the Bush machine).