By Don Smith
For OpEdNews: Don Smith - Writer
President Obama apparently believes that prosecuting Bush Administration officials for torture and other crimes would be a "distraction" from more important matters, such as health care reform.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The reason President Obama and the Democrats are having so much trouble passing health care reform is that they failed to hold conservatives accountable for their many misdeeds. The Democrats thereby empowered conservatives to continue their ample mischief. (I write "conservatives" rather than "Republicans" because some Democrats are amongst the conservatives who promoted harmful policies.)
Conservative misdeeds range from the unspeakably evil -- such as torture, rendition, lying about the reasons for going to war, and the deaths of up to a million or more civilians -- to the merely despicable -- such as politically motivated prosecutions, reckless deregulation, suppression of evidence, tax cuts for rich folks, stolen elections, inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina, dirty tricks, and rampant corruption.
Had Democrats pursued impeachment early on they would have exposed the many lies, crimes, and dirty tricks of the conservatives to the light of day. Democrats would have even bigger majorities in Congress, and the ability of conservatives to influence public opinion would have been greatly diminished.
Instead, the Democrats, and President Obama in particular, have tried to be "bipartisan".
What a stupid policy!
Conservatives in Congress have no intention of compromising on health care reform or on any other substantive issue. They continue to defend Bush Administration officials and policies in order to protect themselves and the GOP. This was discussed in Bipartisanship porn and Obama's Trust Problem, where Paul Krugman writes:
It's hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Obama has wasted months trying to appease people who can't be appeased, and who take every concession as a sign that he can be rolled.
Indeed, no sooner were there reports that the administration might accept co-ops as an alternative to the public option than G.O.P. leaders announced that co-ops, too, were unacceptable.
The Democrats will continue to have trouble passing a reform agenda until they decisively confront the misdeeds of the recent past by rejecting bipartisanship and pursuing prosecution of Bush-era officials. This will have the triple effect of (1) bringing criminals to justice, (2) exposing the truth to the public, and (3) weakening the influence of conservative politicians and ideology.
Alas, failure to prosecute may not be the main reason why Obama and the Democrats are having trouble passing health care reform. There is evidence that the Democrat leadership never intended to pass real health care reform. This grim conclusion was sketched in Squandered Opportunity and Follow the Money. The Democrats may be too corrupted by money and power to follow through on their promises.
Progressives' impatience with Obama is reaching a boiling point, not just over accountability but also over the bailouts, health care reform, militarism, and other issues. As Paul Krugman observes, "A backlash in the progressive base -- which pushed President Obama over the top in the Democratic primary and played a major role in his general election victory -- has been building for months."
Indeed, we progressives have power over Obama. We are his base. If we turn against him -- or, better yet perhaps, just threaten to turn against him -- the news media will pick up on the story and Obama will be in trouble. Let us use that power wisely. If progressives appear too pushy, the effort might backfire. Recall that Congress voted to condemn MoveOn.org in 2007 when the group published their ill-fated New York Times ad questioning whether Gen. David Petraeus would "betray us" (MoveOn.org ad controversy).
For years progressives have been criticizing Democrats for appeasement. Maybe it's time for progressives to follow our own advice and hold Obama accountable by saying, basically: either you stop protecting these torturers, stop continuing Bush era policies, and stop compromising on health care reform, or we on the left will withdraw our support and condemn you too. Progressives need to tread carefully, lest they be dismissed as radicals, but they need to demand their due.
"I want you to hold our government accountable. I want you to hold me accountable" -- Barack Obama (September, 2008). Let us hold him accountable. Let us do our part to get the word out about how America is being screwed. And let us do our utmost to ensure that progressive Democrats such as Dennis Kucinich and brave independents such as Bernie Sanders prevail.
Progressive activist, DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, programmer, and lyricist. My guest op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and the Bellevue Reporter. See my website (more...)
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