The Middle East
I would be remiss, Bush, if I failed to take note of the first item of importance in the world today: the broadening conflict in the Middle East. Many more civilian lives lost over the weekend. More demonstrations of the failures of diplomacy and the intransigeance of participants on all sides. More smiles and handshakes exchanged for the benefit of the media's cameras, and more inauthenticity, hatred and distrust behind them. I take your Rice's assurance of some kind of a truce within the week with a heavy pinch of salt. The Israeli offer of a 48-hour cessation in its bombing assault is already compromised, I hear on this morning's news, by further attacks on both sides. There is no good news.
Bravo, Loretta Sanchez!
But I set out to write about two birthday parties. The first, on Saturday afternoon, was a second birthday celebration for Progressive Democrats of America put on by the local Orange County chapter. As you might imagine, given the political atmosphere of this particular corner of California, it was a relatively small affair! But it was nonetheless a lively one, with good liberal people spurred on to real grassroots action by the outrages and incompetence of your administration, Bush, both at home and abroad.
There are those, I know, who have been complaining that the Democratic Party has been weak and ineffectual these past few years. I wish they had been on hand to hear Congressmember Loretta Sanchez speak. I thought she was terrific. Given the important office that she holds, she struck me as a remarkably unpretentious woman, energetic, well-spoken, charismatic and direct. She had been on the floor of the House in Washington DC until two o'clock in the morning, and managed to find the energy to show up in California only a few hours later and speak with powerful conviction--and with a lot of anger, Bush, I have to say--at this small gathering, before heading back to Anaheim to be with her own constituents. Hard-working is a barely adequate term to describe this kind of dedication.
The story she had to tell was enough to anger anyone. She was anxious to dispel the myth of the weak and ineffectual Democratic Party by describing something of the obstacles they face in working for the country. It has been much on my mind--as you must surely know, Bush, from following these pages--that your Republicans have managed skillfully to promulgate and exploit that myth for some years now, and it has annoyed me particularly that even many Democrats have bought into that particular Republican message. Almost every day I hear at least one otherwise liberal-leaning person say that there's no difference between Democrats and Republicans, that the Democrats lack leadership, conviction, backbone, ideas... And quite frankly, Bush, that kind of talk just pisses me off.
They should have heard Loretta Sanchez speak about Republican control of both the rules and the agenda in Congress. Wanting to illustrate her point that your Republicans hold all the power and use it to make their Democratic colleagues look weak and indecisive, she told us the story of the previous night's debate, still fresh in her anger for its cynicism: how Democrats have been trying for months to bring the minimum wage to the agenda, and how Republicans had been resisting any change that might benefit the poorest of the working poor; and how they finally attached it to the bill (the one that came up, last night, for a vote) that included not only the repeal of the estate tax, but also the package of tax cuts you have been pushing to benefit the very rich; how they protected discussion of their bill with rules that allowed no further amendments or argument, and forced it to a vote where Democrats had the option either to vote their conscience against more huge tax breaks for the wealthy or against a slow increase in the minimum wage.
She gritted her teeth and voted no--risking, of course, the exploitation of her action for political gain on the other side, along with the accusation from those on her own side that she had acted against their liberal principles. Watching the news on my return home, I was appalled to watch a Republican Congressmen, on the floor of the House, rising to crow shamelessly about the fact that Democrats had once more been "outfoxed."
Is this what it's about, Bush? "Outfoxing" Democrats, when it comes to the vital business of this country, affecting the very lives of the poorest of our citizens? Shame on your Republicans for their despicable display of "strength" in this affair. Shame on them for their cynical abuse of the power entrusted them by the American electorate. And shame on those of us Democrats who enable the success of these tactics with our easy dismissal of the extraordinary, dedicated efforts of people of good conscience like Loretta Sanchez.
Thank you, Loretta, for the passion with which you shared this story. Take heart from the support of people like those who join their voices in Progressive Democrats for America, and keep up the good work. Let's all take a leaf from Ronald Reagan's book and adapt his famous dictum to our own purposes: THOU SHALT NOT SPEAK ILL OF A FELLOW DEMOCRAT (although, of course, there's always the exception... With all good will in the world, I can think of few kind words for a certain politician who happens to sit in a Senate seat in the state of Connecticut...)
The other birthday party, Bush? It was mine. A couple of days before the actual event, it's true, but we had nearly twenty good friends gathered in our little cottage yesterday afternoon, and spirits were high. I felt so privileged to have such people around me, and so honored by their love and friendship. I won't tell you what I wished in blowing out the candles on my birthday cake, Bush, but here's a hint: it had to do with an upcoming event in November of this year...
Have a good week. And good luck in solving the problems of the Middle East...