By David Swanson
HERE IT is: Fifty Pages of Fluff. Jonathan Tasini, among others, has posted a draft of the AT&T Democratic Convention Party Platform: Here's a PDF. It's not all fluff, but it's packaged that way, and you have to plow through 8 pages of stomach-turning platitudinous cowardice before getting to anything worthwhile. There is, in the end, a good deal of worthwhile stuff in here, and a good deal of head fakes in the right direction with no substantive detail.
When Nancy Pelosi recently remarked that she was avoiding impeachment in order to be bipartisan, she wasn't kidding. And this is introduced as a bipartisan platform. It opens by, admirably, noting that we face crises of war, economic collapse, and environmental disaster. What to do? "Abandon the politics of partisan division." Yep, that oughta about fix things. The next sentence even throws in the word "accountability" with no shame whatsoever. The platform makes no mention of the governmental crimes of the past 7.5 years, no promises to punish the perpetrators, and no suggestion of ways to deter their repetition. Just vague desires to do better.
The Cheney-Bush gang didn't launch wars of aggression slaughtering over a million innocent people and ruining nations for human society. They made "mistakes", "failed", and "overextended our military." Not that they could have been expected to do much worthwhile, since "The American people do not want government to solve all our problems; we know that personal responsibility, character, imagination, diligence, hard work and faith ultimately determine individual achievement." Well, shit, and here I was fixin to go to Denver when I should just stay home and pray for more responsibility and diligence and let yall handle the big decisions.
And by "yall" I mean the glorious new bipartisan consensus, since "There can be no Republican or Democratic ideas, only policies that are smart and right and fair and good for America -- and those that aren't." What sort of Coloradan horseshit did these people step in on the way to the printers? What sort of talk is that for a majority party going up against the would-be successor to the least popular president in the history of the nation, a senile fool bragging constantly about his role in a war opposed by three-quarters of the country? No Democratic ideas? None? And no correspondence between Republican ideas and stupid, wrong, unfair, badness? If you're not going to put an offense on the field, Barack, your defense is going to wear down by November.
News-flash: the top concern of the American public is neither turning a deficit into a surplus nor "competing in a global economy." It's seeing more people able to live a safe and happy and rewarding and sustainable life. We don't have to compete with other nations to do that. We just have to stop rigging the system against workers and against the environment. And if we don't help people do that in other nations too, we'll never do it here. I don't think it's your place, Madam Platform Chair, to judge whether I'm willing to work hard enough or to give your "God" the credit for my "potential." Your job is to protect my rights and stop rigging the system for those who buy your advertisements. Why is there no mention whatsoever of our legalized system of campaign bribery in this rotting, termite-infested platform?
Why does the platform avoid mentioning the poor and begin with a stupid bribe offer to "middle class Americans"? An "energy rebate"? Where is the move to renewable energy that can address the crisis you noted above?
I'm glad you intend to put $50 billion into job creation. But that's a drop in the bucket compared to what you intend to put into wars and the military. Sure, it beats McCain until he copies it. But where is the vision, the daring, the deeds to match your opening rhetoric? Heck, further down in the platform you propose giving Israel $30 billion, no doubt most of it in the form of weaponry. If we can afford that sort of disastrous crony-profiting waste and antagonization of potential enemies, can't we afford a little bit more than $50 billion for useful things that might be appreciated by the people whose taxes all this money comes from?
Why is your next priority "empowering families"? What ever became of citizens and the rights they should have no matter whom they live with? And then why do you simply recite the all-too-familiar hardships people face? What will you do about it?
The third topic you turn to is health care, but you ignore the desperate need for a single-payer system and simply prefer to recite the problem. Seven years of Bush-bashing has led you to almost glory in problems, I'm afraid, and edge carefully away from anything that might actually solve them. The number of words you chew through to explain your non-solutions to the lack of a single-payer health system suggests the rebirth of Hillary Clinton's phonebook-thick plan to enrich the insurance companies while preventing them from gouging us, with perhaps an addendum on turning water into wine.
In contrast to your muddled mess of a health care position, your positions on Social Security and pensions are clear and honest and should be a model for a heavy rewriting of this platform. You are to be applauded for rejecting the pretense that Social Security is in trouble and for proposing to provide all workers with pensions. Your backing of the right to organize through the Employee Free Choice Act and other measures is just as admirable. Raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation is long overdue, but could you not have at least proposed as a starting point for discussion some general idea of what amount you will try to raise it to, since that will make all the difference?
Eventually you turn briefly to poverty and offer some worthwhile solutions, including equal pay for women. Then you turn to the environmental crisis under the headline "Investing in American Competitiveness." But your proposals are vague and your goals, while all pointed in the right direction, too little too late.
Then you turn to education. While free quality preschool would be a creative proposal, "affordable" preschool is less inspiring. Expanding Head Start is a very good plan, but how much will you expand it? Why are your proposals for K-12 all vague and unquantified, and why do you believe it necessary to diminish the value of anything you eventually propose by stressing the greater importance of parenting? Making college free would be a powerful alternative to garrisoning the globe with expensive military bases (bases that go completely unmentioned in your platform as if they simply did not exist although they employ a half million Americans in 150 countries), but offering students $4,000 for college won't get us very far.
Then you make all sorts of good and important, if not terribly inspiring, proposals on the economy and taxation and housing. And as one reads along, the defensive repetition of rightwing rhetoric never vanishes, but does diminish. It's as if someone had been assigned to add an extra glossy coat of that stuff to the first dozen pages. By the time you reach page 20, the paint fumes are fading away. The proposals on housing and lending and bankruptcy are vague and sound much better than the recent performance of Democrats in Congress would suggest, but I prefer to see you moving in the right direction rather than the wrong one. Your proposals on corporate trade policies are more believably but disappointingly weak.
In section 2 ("Renewing American Leadership") you turn to fear-mongering. After mentioning Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy, you claim that we face threats at least as dangerous as did they. Really? As dangerous as nukes on Cuba? Are you serious? We "have interests not just in Baghdad, but" also in a long list of places all over the globe? Really? Will we bomb those places if "necessary" to protect our "interests"? What exactly is "the fundamentalist challenge to freedom"? Where is your response to the past 7.5 years of rolling back our freedoms, and who do you think did that? Why are you threatened by China, India, Russia, and a united Europe? EUROPE???
You propose to end the war in Iraq responsibly? I don't care what you think you mean by that, but can you explain WHEN you will do it? You propose to "defeat Al Qaeda"? How in the world would you do that, and will you arrest and prosecute in courts of law (not kangaroo courts - which also go unmentioned here) those responsible for murdering innocents? You want to "secure nuclear weapons from terrorists"? Can you name one terrorist (George W. Bush doesn't count) who has ever possessed a nuclear weapon? You want to "revitalize" the military after 7.5 years of the greatest expansion it (or any other military in the history of the world) has ever seen? Your other goals of using diplomacy and combating climate change are admirable, but they may not succeed when loaded down with all of this fear-mongering and militarism.
"Iraq was a diversion from the fight against terrorists who struck us on 9-ll." No, it was not. It was a diversion from a criminal war of aggression against the people of Afghanistan that has done nothing to advance the arrest and prosecution of the key individuals behind those crimes, but has created a great deal of hostility toward the United States. You want to "redeploy" from Iraq to Afghanistan and leave behind a non-combat force in Iraq. But how will you persuade the Iraqis not to combat your non-combat force? Attempts over the past 7.5 years to create reality by announcing it haven't worked out so well.
Your proposals to assist Iraqi refugees and to shut down U.S. bases in Iraq are much more useful, courageous, and just. But if the bases are not to be permanent, WHEN will you close them?
You propose to "win" in Afghanistan by sending more soldiers there, having learned nothing from Iraq except that voters oppose continuing its occupation. You propose to illegally and -- if recent history is any guide -- disastrously attack people in Pakistan with "satellites and predator drones." That such acts of aggression are illegal apparently phases you not at all, which fits with your failure to mention anywhere any of the crimes of Bush-Cheney.
But you're not done there. You rant on and on about "global terrorists" and protecting the "Homeland."
Then you inject a sudden and weighty note of sanity by expressing the goal of moving in the direction of a world free of nuclear weapons, and even indicating some general steps in that direction. Thank you for that. And thank you for the semi-sane words of caution regarding Iran, although horribly marred by your usual refrain: "keeping all options on the table," which can mean only a willingness to launch an aggressive nuclear war.
In order to be prepared for new wars of aggression (since nobody has even fantasized about a need for wars of defense), you propose adding 92,000 new troops to the world's largest military. And you propose to use "parents, teachers, coaches, and community and religious leaders" to recruit these troops? And this is the party in opposition to the Republican Party? I'm beginning to understand that line up top about how there are no Democratic ideas and no Republican ideas. I'm glad you intend to care for veterans, but why are you so intent on producing more of them?
You discuss foreign relations at length but give only passing mention to supporting the United Nations, which -- after all -- was right about the "mistake" of attacking Iraq. You avoid answering the questions I would have wanted answered, such as:
Do you oppose wars of aggression?
Do you support the power of Congress to declare wars?
Do you support the power of Congress to end wars?
Should a president ever attempt to launch a war without a Congressional declaration of war?
Should a president ever launch a war that is neither in strict self-defense nor authorized by the United Nations Security Council?
If Congress chooses to end a war, is it appropriate for Congress to enforce such a decision by ceasing to fund a war?
Should a president ever intentionally mislead the Congress or the public about grounds for a war?
In what ways should a president who misleads Congress and the public about the grounds for war be held accountable?
How many U.S. military bases are currently maintained in foreign countries? How many should be?
Do you support the use of mercenaries?
Which of the following actions do you consider acceptable during a war?
Making first use of nuclear weapons.
Using depleted uranium weapons.
Using white phosphorus as a weapon.
Using napalm weapons.
Using cluster bombs.
Targeting hospitals and ambulances.
Detaining prisoners with no legal process.
Spying in violation of the law and the Bill of Rights.
Claiming the right to violate laws.
Leaking classified information.
Which of the following treaties will you commit to fully upholding?
The Kyoto Treaty on Global Climate Change
The Biodiversity Treaty
The Forest Protection Treaty
The Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty
The Land-mine Ban Treaty
The Biological Weapons Convention
The Chemical Weapons Convention
The International Criminal Court
The United Nations Charter
Have you accepted any contributions from any companies that produce weapons or tools of war? Will you commit to not accepting any such contributions?
If a president commits war crimes, should he or she be held accountable in international court?
If a president commits high crimes and misdemeanors, should he or she be impeached and removed from office?
What percentage of federal discretionary spending should be directed to wars and the military?
Do you support the creation of a Department of Peace?