Sensenbrenner Wants You
Shut the Hell Up
may have missed it last Friday when a brusque House Judicial
Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) abruptly
gaveled a hearing to a close and walked out. I caught it
on C-SPAN, and it was pretty horrific.
background: After majority-controlled hearings on extending
the Patriot Act’s sunset provisions proved predictably biased,
the Democrats invoked their seldom-used right as the minority
party to call for another hearing where they picked the
witnesses. So Sensenbrenner scheduled it for Friday, when
the House was out of session. He was absurdly insistent
on time limitations, going so far as to give witnesses 19
seconds to answer one member’s question, because that was
all that was left of her 5 minutes. He would interrupt witnesses
mid-sentence when time ran out. He often refused to yield
the floor or recognize points of order, and basically obstructed
the proceeding as much as he could. Then he ended the hearing
after only one full round of questioning—five minutes for
each committee member.
didn’t end it the way one is supposed to adjourn a congressional
hearing, on motion or without objection; he just scolded
the participants for talking about Guantanamo Bay and other
controversial subjects which Sensenbrenner has blocked hearings
on, banged his big hammer, and walked out while at least
two voices clamored for recognition. Then when it became
clear that the hearing was going to go on without him, Sensenbrenner
had the mikes turned off.
appalling display was documented by C-SPAN cameras, who
pulled out their boom mikes and kept rolling as the Democratic
reps and their witnesses lamented what had just happened
for a few more minutes.
course of action, though unusual and illegal, is actually
quite consistent for Sensenbrenner. The Representative from
Wisconsin has a real problem with free speech. He’s for
the criminal prosecution of broadcast indecency offenders—in
other words, he wants to put Howard Stern in jail. Surely,
if Sensenbrenner ever read The Beast, he would want
us in jail too.
according to the Hill, Sensenbrenner also doesn’t
like people talking when he isn’t around, either:
has also sponsored a constitutional amendment, repealing
the 22nd amendment and freeing George Bush to
run for a third term. And a fourth, and so on.
this thing unfold, I felt something I haven’t for a while:
surprised. It felt like I was watching America’s vestigial
traces of democracy crumble before my eyes. My hand was
over my mouth.
the reaction to the story, which didn’t play big on TV at
all, particularly disappointing is the reaction from the
conservative rank and file. I thought that even a Republican
would see how wrong it was to simply walk out of a hearing
because you don’t agree with the witnesses. Of course, I
was wrong. Essentially, Republicans are more than happy
to have been shielded from information, which runs contrary
to their juvenile fantasies of America as an unquestionably
noble, righteous force for freedom.
a mentality similar to the self-brainwashed group of Michael
Jackson fans cheering him on during his recent trial—a story
that has easily gotten a million times more coverage. Those
crazy Jacko fans, they know he’s a molester, though they’d
never admit it—because admitting it would mean admitting
to themselves that they really think it’s okay for
Jackson to fool around with kids.
mean, let’s face it: even assuming that Jackson’s story
is 100% true, when has it ever been okay for a 45-year-old
man to spend enormous sums of money on your kid, and sleep
in bed with him at night, hanky panky or not? Think about
it: if it was your own brother, you’d have his testicles
in a jar on the mantle by now. It’s not okay, not okay at
all. So Jackson’s remaining fans—whatever their motivation
may be—must be careful to never really consider the evidence—they
must keep the truth away. The reality mustn’t surface
in their conscious minds, so they can go on worshipping
their singing, dancing, circus geek.
so it goes with the GOP faithful: they know the Patriot
act goes way too far, enabling rubber-stamp warrants, secret
trials, and sneak-and-peek searches on American citizens.
They know we are abusing prisoners at Gitmo. But they don’t
want to face any evidence of this, because it would force
them to admit that they just don’t care; that, indeed, they
crave iron-fisted totalitarian rule; that they can’t fucking
wait until all the people like James Zogby, all the people
at Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International—hell, throw
in Mark Felt and Bob Woodward and even myself—are shipped
off to Guantanamo themselves for “interrogation.”
would please a loyalist Bush booster like seeing Michael
Moore in a hood with electrodes stuck to his privates, Lynndie
England pointing and smiling, puffing on a Merit 100. I
really can’t imagine a single Republican raising any objection
to that if it happened tomorrow. Moreover, Democrats—at
least the few who objected—would be attacked as disloyal,
or anti-American, for suggesting that perhaps we had gone
too far. “That’s the kind of rhetoric that puts our soldiers
in danger overseas,” they would say, “are you taking the
side of the Islamofascists?”
don’t want a debate; practically everything they say is
an attempt to squash debate. There is no point in
discussing an issue when your position is a matter of faith
rather than a response to reality. It’s not that Democrats
are wonderful or anything; they are corrupt pretenders all.
But the GOP is shaping up to become one of the vilest political
organizations in our history, a much bigger enemy to American
freedom than a few thousand ragged suicidal fanatics.
the Democrats want to win, they need to do something that
their current leaders in congress are incapable of: they
need to cut the bullshit. They need to distance themselves
from the Republicans, and the best way to do that is tell
the truth. Democrats have been trying to have it all ways
with all people for so long, they seem completely unaware
of how asinine they sound. They are so desperately ingratiating
that many instinctively recoil, while Republicans, crazy
as hell, have simple messages that rarely change. And they
have huge balls.
only prominent Democrat with any balls right now is Howard
Dean—and the rest are doing their best to castrate him.
If that’s what we’ve got—a party that apologizes for saying
the indisputable truth—That the GOP is "pretty
much a white, Christian party," or that they are “corrupt”—then
there really is no hope. The truth is on Dean’s side, and
it would be on the Democrats’ side if they chose to speak
it. The bizarre media overreaction to such simple statements
indicates just how unaccustomed we all are to hearing it.
shouldn’t shy away from the truth; the Republicans have
that covered. Just look at Sensenbrenner. When confronted
with the truth, he walked out. He turned off the microphones.
He didn’t want to hear it. More to the point, he didn’t
want you to hear it. And his followers applaud him,
because they don’t want to hear it either. All their
lives, they’ve had to hear all that negative, disloyal information
from the left, and finally those days are ending, and they’re
happy as hell about it. They finally shut those smartasses
and his supporters don’t know a damn thing about freedom
or democracy; they may not even understand that they are
clearly against these concepts. They are terrible, mindless,
trained by decades of churchgoing into an unquestioning
loyalty and a bitter resentment of dissent. They are good