When Republicans talk, Democrats listen and respond. When Democrats talk, Republicans steal the ball and run for the basket. Last week, the White House was in a flaming tail spin brought on by a scandal that involves President Bush's entire...
When Republicans talk, Democrats listen and respond. When Democrats talk, Republicans steal the ball and run for the basket.
Last week, the White House was in a flaming tail spin brought on by a scandal that involves President Bush's entire inner circle. At first, we learned that the President's closest adviser leaked national security secrets to the press as part of a deadly game of political revenge. Next, we learned that a memo with the same national security secrets was passed around Air Force One during the President's 2003 trip to Africa. Was it just one adviser who leaked secrets to the press? Or was the President's entire circle of advisers and aides involved in plot to destroy someone who spoke out against the false facts in President Bush's call to war? That was the debate less than 48 hours ago.
But then, in two quick moves, President Bush stole the ball.
In the first move, President Bush released the wrong name of the person he planned to nominate to the Supreme Court. In the classic White House communications "head fake" that would have left even Michael Jordan dangling in mid air, some "anonymous source" told the press that Edith Brown Clement was the President's nominee. The press went after it, pulling themselves off the big story. Move one was complete. President Bush had knocked the ball out of the Democrats' hands.
In the second move, President Bush booked himself a prime time spot on national TV. With the press corps scrambling to write theme music and catchy titles that rhymed with "Brown Clement" (good luck with that), President Bush walked down the aisle with his real nominee: John "Babyface" Roberts. The press flipped through papers on their desks, and a chorus of "John who?" rose of up from newsrooms across the land. Move two was complete. President Bush grabbed the ball with two hands, dribbled twice, and slammed it home. The country was now in his story.
Why, oh, why do Democrats always fall for this? I mean, did the Democratic leadership forget that Bush was going to nominate a candidate soon? I knew it was just around the bend and I don't even have a crack Congressional staff of Williams grads working for me (although I wouldn't mind that). No, the Democrats had the lead late in the third quarter and so they thought they had the game. Then Bush suddenly woke up, gave them a quick "one two" move, and stole the ball. Now the Democrats--unless they want to lose this round--need to steal the ball and take control of the debate again.
Stealing the ball is about much more than Babyface Roberts being confirmed or not being confirmed. Stealing the ball is about waking up in the morning--waking up early--looking in the mirror, and saying "We believe in this country. And we are going to fight for the American people. Today, tomorrow, everyday."
So, how do Democrats steal the ball?
They steal it by putting the debate back into the real story that concerns Americans. That story is not about a judicial nominee, but about a President who has turned the White House into a private club, where only those who know the secret handshake can enter, everyone else must wait outside. The real story that concerns Americans is about a President who hides from the very people who elected him, who leads the nation on an endless cat and mouse game about who said what and where and when, all while the nation's sons and daughters bleed to death on the streets of Baghdad fighting for what they believe is the truth.
The real story is that Americans are worried. Americans are worried about a President who hides from them instead of standing with them. Americans are worried about a President who shrouds himself in secrecy, but then distributes national secrets to destroy his political opponents. Americans are worried that their President inspired their children to a fight for the country based on false evidence, but then never had the courage to stand up and tell the truth. Americans are worried that in a time of such uncertainty, with bombs blowing up our closest friends and allies, our President hides behind a wall of lawyers. Americans are worried that their President is no longer their President, but has become a man obsessed with keeping secrets, consumed by destroying his enemies, and surrounded by cronies who will obey his will whatever the cost.
And that worry did not stop when Babyface Roberts became his nominee for the Supreme Court.
To tip the ball away from the Republicans, Democrats need only stand up and state what is already in the hearts and minds of the American people:
Americans are worried.
And to steal the ball back for good, Democrats need only stand up and ask the question that is on the lips of the American people:
What is the President hiding? What is he hiding?
The President never answered any questions about the national
security scandal brought on by his White House. He just used the
Supreme Court nomination to distract Americans from the scandal. But
just because President Bush has distracted the media doesn't mean that
Americans have stopped worrying about what their President is hiding.
All else will follow. The news cycle will return to the real story. The Democrats will have the ball again.
The issues that concern us about Babyface Roberts are not just his views on privacy or secret prisons or equal rights or freedom of speech. Those are all important, and troubling. But the bigger issue is secrecy.
In a time when Americans are worried about what their President is hiding and concerned about how the President's secrets have undermined our national security, how can the President send over a nominee with so many secrets to keep?
Secrets? Babyface Roberts has secrets? That's right he does.
During the confirmation hearings for his current lifetime, can-never-lose-his-job appointment to the DC Federal Court, when asked about his views on Roe v. Wade and a variety of other issues, rather than being forthright with the American public, Babyface Roberts chose to keep it all a secret. So many secrets for a man with such an angelic face.
Why would President Bush nominate a man with so many secrets to be on the Supreme Court? I mean, when Americans imagine a Supreme Court justice, do they see a person with a hidden life? Where does this mistaken idea come from that a nominee for the Supreme Court can sit before the people and say, "I appreciate the question, but that's a secret. I'm not telling what I think about this"? Is there anyone in America who watches the Supreme Court nomination process and says, "Gosh, I really hope we get a candidate who is totally unwilling to tell us what he thinks about issues that impact our daily lives. Please, oh, please I hope I don't have to listen to this person's views on privacy and civil rights and secret prisons and corporate abuse. I mean, how can we possible expect a person to be a good Supreme Court justice if he is ever willing to talk about his views in public?"
In a time when Americans are so concerned about what their President is hiding, a Supreme Court nominee who insists on keeping all his views secret is unacceptable. it's worse than than. It's offensive.
If Babyface Roberts is unwilling to tell the American public what he thinks on matters important to us, then he should not show up for his confirmation hearings. He should say to the American people, "Thanks for the job offer, but no thanks. I already have a great job and since I'd rather not answer your questions, I'll just stay where I am." He doesn't even need to walk over to Congress to say it. He could telephone or send a note on a nice card.
It is offensive that in the middle of a national crisis about secrets revealed and secrets hidden, President Bush should send over a candidate that is not 100% willing to answer any and all questions posed to him, about anything, at any time.
Wouldn't that be an amazing thing? Imagine a nominee for the Supreme Court who said to the Senate, "Ask me whatever you want. I look forward to the opportunity to share my views with the American people." What a kick in the pants that would be.
President Bush has played around with the trust of the American people for too long.
It's time to steal the ball.
© 2005 Jeffrey Feldman