On Tuesday, Bob and I went to a protest outside Chuck Schumer's apartment building like the one I participated in back in March. Schumer was backing Michael Mukasey for attorney general even though at his confirmation hearing, Mukasey refused to say that waterboarding was torture and he said, counter to what the Constitution says, that Bush can basically do what he wants to whomever he wants during wartime. Schumer and Dianne Feinstein, both of whom are acting more like neocons than Democrats, voted with all the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday to send the nomination to the full Senate, where, naturally, enough Democratic sellouts—including, again, Schumer and Feinstein—joined with the Republicans to install Mukasey as AG late Thursday night.
Here's Glenn Greenwald's live-blogging post of the first day of the Mukasey confirmation hearings back in October. Greenwald presciently said that even though Feinstein's questioning was very probing and elicited some troubling answers from Mukasey, "I am quite certain they will not impede her vote for confirmation." The Democrats are the party of probing questions followed rapidly by caving in. They make a show of caring about human rights and the rule of law, but when push comes to shove, they gleefully get shoved.
And speaking of caving, Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, had promised no AG nomination would see the light of day until the committee got the information it needed on the U.S. attorney firings and the National Security Agency's domestic spying program. We see how that turned out.
In an op-ed in the New York Times that ran on Tuesday, Schumer said he was troubled by Mukasey's unwillingness to call water boarding torture but said Mukasey had assured him he would enforce a law banning water boarding. The U.S. is party to conventions that clearly state we won't torture, and yet the Bushies have been happily torturing for years. Schumer is a goddamn fool to suggest we need to pass a law prohibiting it. And he's an even bigger fool if he thinks the chicken-shit Dems and the Bush-yes-men Republicans in both houses would pass such a law by a veto-proof margin.
"For the Senate to make a bold declaration about torture and waterboarding by rejecting [Mukasey] is appealing," Schumer wrote. "But if we block Judge Mukasey’s nomination and then learn in six months that waterboarding has continued unabated, that victory will seem much less valuable." What excuses will Schumer make when we learn in six months that waterboarding has continued unabated even with the installation of his—and Giuliani's—buddy? The Democrats hand Bush what he wants time and time again and expect us to be as gullible as they are. "Hey, Schumer, look up gullible in this dictionary. I bet you won't find it." ... "It's in there, you say? Well, what about that dictionary? I bet it's not in there."*
Toward the end of his op-ed, Schumer wrote, "No one questions that Judge Mukasey would do much to remove the stench of politics from the Justice Department." I do, and so did the 100 or so people who marched on Tuesday.
When Bob and I got there, a little after the 6 o'clock start time, people were marching and chanting on the park side of Prospect Park West. We joined the moving protest loop with the signs I had made. I asked the woman in front of me why we were marching on that side of the street, and she said, an edge of sarcasm in her voice, "This is the free-speech zone." We were hemmed in by New York Police Department sawhorses. It felt ridiculous, a mockery of our first-amendment rights.
We marched and chanted slogans like "Supporting Mukasey is crazy" and "Shame on Schumer." After about 40 minutes or so, another protest leader (I assume from the sponsoring organization, Brooklyn For Peace) showed up, and he said we were perfectly within our rights to march directly in front of Schumer's apartment building so long as we didn't take up more than half of the sidewalk and we kept moving around in our loop. So that's what we did.
Here's Bob at the end of the hour as we were listening to one of the protest leaders. We were pretty sure that Mukasey's confirmation was a fait accompli, but why did it have to be that way? Why are the Dems so ineffective in the majority? Why didn't any of the presidential candidates who are in Congress bother to show up for the vote? Why wasn't there a freakin' filibuster?
The principles on which our country were founded mean nothing anymore—even to a progressive like Chuck Schumer whom I once admired. Schumer endorsed this man who had said that Bush is entitled to hold people indefinitely without trial. Who had refused to say that waterboarding, an act prosecuted as a war crime in postwar Japan under Douglas MacArthur, is torture. And who will clearly let Bush continue his war crimes without fear of punishment.
*John Robinson successfully pulled that prank on the woman who preceded him as editor in chief of the student newspaper at college. She looked up the word in both dictionaries. At least, that's how I heard the story.