Salazar and Obama: Two Dismal Debuts

by NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN

Amidst the shambles of the 2004 elections, there were two spots of hope for the Senate Democrats — the seats they had wrested in Illinois and Colorado.

At first blush, it would appear that both blossoms have merely flattered to deceive.

Both Barack Obama (D-Ill) and Ken Salazar (D-Co) had excellent opportunities this week to strike a blow for America. They appear, instead, to have limited themselves to a narrow view of their roles. At a crucial time, both failed to stand up and be counted — one sparklingly, and the other bumbling.

The lone black member of the current senate could not bring himself to vote against Condoleezza Rice for Secretary of State. Obama, who took only a minute to take apart Condi Rice’s high rhetoric conflating tyranny and terror, stopped short of ascribing mendacity, and even if he thought doing so was discourteous, there was no compulsion to end up voting for her confirmation anyway. This was sad enough. But any allegation that he let Ms. Rice’s color influence him is probably untrue. For he exploded this canard, stopping at the perimeter of political risk, or as Clinton famously called it, "maintaining viability within the system". We didn’t, after all, see Obama stand with Barbara Boxer to challenge the Ohio vote and a decry an election where thousands of black people were effectively denied the vote.

As to the ponderous Salazar, who reminds one of nothing so much as the unlamented Phil Gramm, he discovered himself more Hispanic than Democratic at a crucial juncture; where was the need to chaperone Alberto "What Geneva Conventions?" Gonzales to the latter’s Senate hearing? But Salazar showed that his obsequious behavior is not based on race. All the President’s men (and women), regardless of either ineptitude or wilful malfeasance, can expect to receive the same elaborate courtesy from the newest "can’t we all just get along" Democrat, whose feared propensity to become the next Nighthorse-Campbell assumed greater momentum the moment he opened his mouth during the Rice Confirmation debate in the Senate. Salazar intoned the usual platitudes to exalt Rice’s ‘unique’ qualifications: "Highly qualified, inspiring life-story, long experience, high intelligence…".

Perhaps so, Senator Salazar. But there are many who would fit that description. On the other hand, how many can boast of these other qualifications: "…lied to the Senate, cheated the American people, took us to an needless war, failed to defend us on 9-11…"

Is it not insulting, as Barbara Boxer said, that someone should not be held to full account because he happens to be from a minority? Someone should tell these guys they weren’t sent to the Senate to be railroaded and behave as rubberstamps.

But you can hardly blame the newest Democratic senators when those far senior compromise on such vital matters. Lieberman — no surprise — declared his strong support for Rice and urged other senators to do so. As soon as Gonzales was mentioned for Attorney General, Patrick Leahy gave an avuncular nod and a good word for the nominee. And after searching questions which elicited either unsatisfactory, evasive or untrue answers, senators like Biden, Dodd — and Sarbanes (et tu, Paul?) voted to support Rice’s confirmation.

So there you have it. Being caught lying to the American people is no a bar to being promoted to Secretary of State, no matter if the proof in cold print is there for all to see, held up on cardboard panels by Barbara Boxer. Failing in your job as National Security Adviser and permitting the largest terrorist act on American soil is no impediment either.

Instead of persuading Republicans that such nominees are an insult to the highest offices in the country, so many Democrats want to be epitomes of false propriety and phony political correctness, but in what a cause Ò and at what a cost?

Democrats don’t seem to realize that these are Orwellian times. Like the old story of boy who murders his parents and then seeks the courtÌs mercy because he is an orphan, the Bush Administration follows a well-honed tactic — threaten and cajole Democrats to vote for their measures, and then cite the very vote forever as an endorsement for their plans. Seems like the plan is working again. Was the Iraq war vote not enough? Have the likes of Lieberman, who worked overtime to get that resolution passed, learned nothing?

With this the Democratic attitude, no wonder Bush bears more than a passing resemblance to Alfred E.Newman. And well might he echo that icon, "What me Worry?"

NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN is a writer living on the West Coast. His writings can be found on http://www.indogram.com/gramsabha/articles. His blog is at http://njn-blogogram.blogspot.com. He can be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

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