Thursday, August 28, 2008

The US Political Olympics

The end of the Olympics this year meant the beginning of the US political Olympics, the Democratic National Convention this week, to be followed by the GOP convention next week. At the Democratic Convention the traditional media has worked hard on pushing the meme that there is a great deal of dissent within the party, that Hillary supporters are going to vote for McCain, and so on. There is a group calling itself PUMA, who have received an inordinate amount of media attention, given that they are a relatively small group of people who don’t come across as particularly informed when questioned. They are found where the media is, hovering over Chris Matthews in particular, much to his glee. The fabrication of “splitting the party” is so much more fun than telling the actual truth. These women claim to be all about supporting one woman, yet will vote for McCain, who would do his best to eliminate reproductive choice, and do nothing to ensure equal pay or justice for all woman. A man who has called his wife abusive names in public. We’re supposed to take these malcontents seriously? Only the PUMAs themselves and the corporate media do.

The Democratic Convention seems to have accomplished what it intended to. Michelle Obama had a chance to make a very good speech, that may allay the fears of some who seemed to envision her in the way she was portrayed on the New Yorker cover. Senator Clinton was given her due, and made a terrific speech about her candidacy, and her support for Obama. She walked a fine line with grace and good humor – and set herself up for a future run for the White House. President Clinton was given his due, as was Joe Biden. Biden was a tad overshadowed by the emotional introduction given by his son Beau. Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana rocked the house on Tuesday night, with his energetic call to action. It was thrilling to see NH Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter on stage with a large group of Democratic women leaders.

One of the great moments of the convention was the speech given on Wednesday night by New Hampshire’s own John Hutson. John Hutson is a retired Rear Admiral, former Judge Advocate General, and Dean and President of the Franklin Pierce Law Center, in Concord. Dean Hutson has been a critic of the Bush administration’s policies on torture, on rendition, on treatment of detainees, on habeas corpus, and the Geneva Conventions. He’s testified many times in front of Congress, notably in 2005, in opposition to the appointment of Alberto Gonzales as US Attorney General. Hutson has also appeared in two documentaries, The Ghost of Abu-Ghraib, and Taxi to the Dark Side. The latter movie focuses on the death of an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar. In 2001, Dilawar was arrested by the US military, and brought to the prison at Bagram Air Base, where he was tortured and beaten to death. He was arrested on a tip from some men who claimed Dilawar had been part of a rocket attack on the US military. It was later revealed that the men who framed Dilawar were the real attackers. The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary of 2007.

Last summer, when working for the Kucinich for President campaign, I had the honor of being present while Congressman Kucinich met with a group of retired generals and admirals assembled by Dean Hutson. These men and women questioned Kucinich at length about his views on the military and the future. It was remarkable to be in the presence of so many powerful men and one woman who have thought deeply about the future of the US military and the rest of the world.

John Hutson isn’t always in front of a Congressional committee. He visited Carroll County on a Thursday night in March 2005, where he spoke in Tamworth about military prisons, torture, Abu-Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and how the US torture of prisoners might affect our own troops. Approximately 150 people turned out that night to hear Dean Hutson. It was an event that drew people from all areas of the political spectrum.

Dean Hutson gave his speech at the Democratic Convention during prime time on Wednesday night. His speech came between those of President Clinton and Senator Joe Biden. When Hutson announced he’d been a lifelong Republican, he was greeted with boos – but those boos turned to cheers when he announced that he was there as a proud registered Democrat endorsing Barak Obama. Hutson said: “Why? Because the Republican Party I once knew has become something different, something I no longer recognize. The "Grand Old Party" is no longer grand. It's just old. The same old, failed policies.”

As I listened, I was struck by the loss to the Republican Party. Losing intelligent, articulate men like John Hutson should be a wake-up call to the GOP. I’ve heard the same kind of reasoning from others, including NH Senate candidate Bud Martin, who told me that he felt as though his party left him behind. The GOP doesn’t seem to be listening, just repeating the same familiar themes of the Reagan years. All they have to sell us is their vision of the glorious past, a vision that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. We can’t move forward into that past.

“From the invasion of Iraq to the devastation of Katrina, I see arrogance abroad and incompetence at home. And I simply cannot tolerate, and America simply can't afford, more of the same. “ Retired Rear Admiral John Hutson of NH.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another outstanding article Susan! Considering how appalling the last eight years have been, I'm still incredulous that so many individuals remain staunchly attached to the Republican fantasy. That all their party could come up with is McCain/Palin, says something about their drained brain pool. We're finished as a nation and international power if their party wins again. Go Obama/Biden!!