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Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Few Good Men

So House Speaker Denny Hastert thinks that terrorists would be "coddled" if the 160 Democrats who voted against the odious bill setting up "trials" for detainees got their way. Leaving aside the quite serious notion that the legislation, in fact, essentially guts the Constitution, one wonders what Hastert has to say about the seven members of his own party who bucked what had to have been unrelenting pressure and hit the "no" button on Wednesday: Roscoe Bartlett, Wayne Gilchrest, Walter Jones, Steven LaTourette, Jim Leach, Ron Paul and Jerry Moran.

With the exception of Gilchrest, the Civil Liberties Seven are nobody's liberals: Bartlett, for example, voted against the extension of the Voting Rights Act earlier this year, and Walter Jones' claim to fame was, until fairly recently, his absurd crusade to serve "Freedom Vanilla" frozen yogurt in the Capitol cafeterias in retaliation for France's refusal to join us in the invasion of Iraq. Even Gilchrest, who has a laudable record of opposing oil drilling in Alaska and the wholesale slashing of social welfare programs, usually sides with the GOP.

But this was apparently too much even for them. According to the Baltimore Sun, a spokeswoman for Bartlett -- who voted against the renewal of the Patriot Act on the grounds that it infringed on the privacy of Americans -- is worried about "unintended consequences" of the detainee bill. Gilchrest, a former Marine and a decorated Vietnam veteran, told the paper that the legislation "fogs the issue" of whether the U.S. would abide by the Geneva Conventions.

Too bad the Republican senators who won so much praise for their "brave" stance against the administration weren't able to muster that kind of courage.

More than offsetting the Republican defectors were the 34 Democrats who voted for the bill. Some of them -- including Senate candidates Harold Ford and Sherrod Brown -- are engaged in tough campaign battles this fall. But what excuse does, say, Florida's Allen Boyd have? He doesn't even have an opponent in November.

Of course, Boyd and his 33 brethren deserve credit for at least showing up for work on Wednesday. Twelve representatives skipped the vote, including Democrat Jim Davis of Florida, who's running for governor. Nothing says "vote for me" like missing the chance to weigh in on one of the most important issues Congress has tackled this year.

Update: The Senate, that bastion of sensibility and restraint, has just defeated Arlen Specter's amendment to restore habeas corpus rights to detainees. The vote was 49-51, with Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson the only Democrat who voted with the Republicans (as did, incidentally, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner, the spines that were so stiff only a week ago apparently transformed into jelly). Republican Sens. Sununu, Chafee, Smith and Specter voted for the amendment.

Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, to whom I often refer affectionately as "the girls from Maine," dented their own reputations as mavericks: Collins voted against Specter's amendment, and Snowe, for some reason, didn't vote.


Blogger Jonah B. Gelbach said...

nicely stated, all around.

9/28/2006 1:50 PM  

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