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George W. Bush's presidency since 2007

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Democrats Surrender on Torture

By Brent Budowsky
November 9, 2007

Editor’s Note: In a hasty Senate vote, Democrats caved in once again, approving President Bush's nomination of Michael Mukasey to be Attorney General despite Mukasey's refusal to admit that the simulated drowning of waterboarding was a form of torture.

In this guest essay, former Democratic congressional staffer Brent Budowsky laments the latest sell-out:

Mr. Smith has left Washington and Mr. Orwell has arrived.

First, let’s be crystal clear about how the Democrats threw a vote they would have won on Michael Mukasey and torture -- and let’s be clear why this happened.

Others and I were privately advocating a filibuster against Mukasey’s attorney general confirmation bid. That would have needed 41 votes to prevail. At a minimum the filibuster could have forced President Bush to accept a ban on waterboarding and torture as a condition of Mukasey's confirmation.

Democrats had 40 votes against confirmation on Thursday night plus the four presidential candidates who did not vote. In other words, Democrats had 43 or 44 “no” votes, if you add the presidential candidates. If the Democratic senators had the conviction to filibuster, they would have won.

As of Thursday morning, the vote was expected next week with some talk of delay until December. Once it became apparent that there were 43 to 44 “no” votes if the presidential candidates were present -- and with the possibility that, over the weekend, rank-and-file Democrats would increase pressure on Senate Democrats for a filibuster, the vote was jammed through late at night, a week ahead of schedule.

Of course, by late Thursday night, the BBC World Service was correctly broadcasting to the world that the Senate had confirmed Mukasey with all of the objections to his position on torture that were stated, but surrendered, yet again, by Democrats.

George Washington spoke with fury against torture. Commanders of every military service, throughout every generation of Americans, during every war ever fought, were adamantly against torture. Military JAG lawyers have defied higher authorities in opposition to torture. Gen. Taguba defied higher authorities to courageously speak out against the continuing cover-up of Abu Ghraib.

Yet the Senate’s contribution to our troops on Veterans Day is to create more harm for them, as messages are beamed to the world, that even the Democratic Senate cannot make a stand against torture, even when 70 percent of America agrees, even when they had the votes to win.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), one of the leading neoconservative advocates of the catastrophic Iraq war, who only recently succeeded in defining the Senate’s position on Iran, is now attacking Democrats for having too much principle, and fighting too hard.

What is incredible about Lieberman is his lack of modesty considering how much carnage, chaos and bloodshed has resulted from his catastrophically bad judgment on Iraq and his arrogance in attacking those who have been the most right.

But Thursday was a new low for Democrats, who surrendered the fight they would have won and were morally obligated to make, on torture, and for Lieberman, who attacks Democrats for being too strong, at the exact moment of their weakest of many surrenders.

Mr. Smith has left Washington, George Orwell has arrived, and 70 percent of the nation must now consider what to do, with Washington, D.C., in such overwhelming disrepute directed at both sides of the aisle.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and to Bill Alexander, then the chief deputy whip of the House. A contributing editor to Fighting Dems News Service, he can be read on The Hill Pundits Blog and reached at [email protected]. [This article first appeared in The Hill.]

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