Three separate events caught my attention in recent days. The first was the pro forma Senate hearing on Russ Feingold’s proposal to censure George W. Bush. The second, Tom DeLay’s decision to abandon his reelection bid. The third was a purportedly confusing new hairdo. Feingold’s proposition was going nowhere and with good reason. DeLay’s departure may augur well for November’s vote. The hairdo? Well that's an altogether different story.
The history of censure and more significantly of impeachment which is on many liberal wish lists is not encouraging. Two sitting Presidents have stood at the bar on the Senate floor and both prevailed against what were essentially politically motivated attempted coups. Only Richard Nixon was in real danger and he decided to throw in the towel rather than submit himself to trail. In his case, the crimes were real and straight forward – so much so that only Gerry Ford’s pardon took him out of harm’s way. Much as I admire Senator Feingold, one of the few politicians with impeccable character, censure and impeachment end up being distractions that go nowhere, and distraction is the last thing we need at this moment.
DeLay who certainly is facing the possibility of prosecutions beyond the pending Texas cases has undoubtedly factored his legal situation into his decision. But what may have tipped the scales was his real fear of losing to a Democrat in November. There are lot’s of things that one can say about the gang in power these days including an oppressive religious-based social agenda (which DeLay championed in the Schiavo case among others), but perhaps the most stinging indictment lies not in what they think (it’s a free country) but in how they execute. The Bush people are incompetent. There is only one way to deal with incompetence: fire the perpetrators. If this were almost any other democracy, Bush would have been sent walking papers long ago. Sadly, Americans blew their chance two years ago (looking at the polls many must be suffering buyer’s remorse), but we have a shot of neutralizing him in November. Tom DeLay isn’t the only Republican smelling the scent of potential defeat, and we better not get bogged down on our way to getting the job done. As Ike proclaimed during his landslide ’52 campaign, “it’s time for a change”. Nobody involved in that victory wasted even a moment on dead ends. Focus, everybody, focus!
And finally there is the famous hairdo. Now none of us knows yet precisely what happened between Congresswoman Cynthia A. McKinney and the Capital Police, but clearly it was provoked when she was not recognized by them while on her way to work. The reason given for the mix-up was Ms. McKinney’s new hair style. Really? Do you think the Capital Police would been thrown if say Elizabeth Dole, Dianne Feinstein or Hilary Clinton walked in with a new do? Did they fail to recognize Arlen Specter when he lost his hair while undergoing chemotherapy or got it back recently? I don’t think so. Did I mention that Ms. McKinney is black? Cynthia McKinney has a reputation for being outspoken, somewhat of a loose cannon. Oh yes, women can be that way, unpredictable PMS and all that. And an African American woman representing Georgia, you know the uppity type. We’re told the Capital Police are lobbying for criminal prosecution (rumor still but it seems to be yet another cell phone attack by a black woman). Ms. McKinney smells racial profiling and not without reason. The same House member, experienced just that when attempting to enter the Clinton White House in the company of a very young white female assistant. In that case, the guards there assumed that it was the white aide not the black lady who was the legislator on the list. It’s the kind of thing that makes a lot of African Americans justifiably paranoiac, leads them to understandable rage. It reminds me of the time, when the then Director of Newark’s Anti-Poverty Program Cyril Tyson, told me of being stopped for no reason at all by a patrol car when driving up to its headquarters and of CNN Anchor Bernie Shaw’s experience of being assumed to be the doorman while waiting for his driver in front of a Manhattan hotel. This stuff happens to people of color all the time, then and now. So much for progress.
Russ Feingold is possessed of a kind of moral rage, Tom DeLay provokes it and Cynthia McKinney can’t escape it so long as she insists on displaying her colors. Don’t these seemingly unconnected events typify our troubled times?