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Vichy Democrats: Pelosi and the Politics of Collaboration

by DON SANTINA

As the Bush Administration’s economic stimulus plan sailed through Congress last month, a few Democratic senators timidly raised objections to the legislation that Nancy Pelosi’s House had approved, particularly in relation to certain provisions deleted by the House. These provisions, which would have provided critical assistance to people most hard hit by the continuing recession included an extension of unemployment insurance, expansion of food stamps, and rebates to the working poor whose incomes fall below the radar of income tax requirements.

They lost.

“There’s no reason for any more delay on this,” House Speaker Pelosi said as the Senate approved the plan.

In a not-surprising move earlier in the legislative process, Pelosi had surrendered those provisions during a joint session with president’s budget crew. It was not surprising because in her fourteen month reign as Speaker of the House, Pelosi has collaborated incisively and repeatedly with the policies of the Bush Administration.

The term “collaboration” is popularly considered to be a construct of WWII, but the phenomenon is certainly older than Judas and threads through recorded history to its penultimate high point in Vichy France after the German conquest in 1940. In Vichy France, the collaborators appeared in basically two forms: active and passive collaboration with the German masters. Simply stated, the active collaborators identified Jews and resisters for the Nazis to take to the concentration camps, and the passive collaborators watched it happen and made excuses about why they could do nothing about it.

Through the power of her office, Speaker Pelosi’s collaboration with the White House Agenda has been both active and passive. For the sake of identification, the White House Agenda can be defined as: aggression overseas, suppression of dissent at home, and the transfer of wealth upward to the richest segment of society.

The Speaker of the House is one of the most powerful positions in Washington. The Speaker, selected from the majority party, controls the inner workings of the House, determining who goes on what committee, what legislation gets considered, and what hearings are to be scheduled in support of legislation. Conversely, the Speaker also decides who doesn’t go on what committee, what legislation never gets considered, and what hearings will never be called.

Let’s look at the practice of active collaboration through the categories of the White House Agenda. For starters, there’s Speaker Pelosi’s continued funding of undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the illegal occupation of Haiti, support of the Colombian government’s reign of terror, Israel’s scorched earth policy in Lebanon, and aggressive posturing toward countries like Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. In lockstep with imperial White House policy, Pelosi called the democratically-elected president of Venezuela a “thug” for stating that our questionably-elected president was promoting a “democracy of bombs.”

In terms of legislation, perhaps the most egregious transfers of wealth upward under Speaker Pelosi’s stewardship were the Energy Bill, the Farm Bill and the Peru Free Trade Agreement. The Energy Bill was not substantially different from the legislation Dick Cheney created on secret several years ago.  The oil, coal and power companies all got what their lobbyists bought.

The Farm Bill was a lay-down-and-roll-over capitulation to the corporate greed of giant unregulated agribusiness, even in this day of massive meat recalls from feedlot cattle production and other destructive agricultural practices such as the use of pesticides and squandering of water resources.  To add insult to injury, after virtually excluding support for organic farming from the big buck bill, Speaker Pelosi directed House cafeterias to serve organic meals. Like health care, it’s obvious that Pelosi believes that what’s good for Congress is not for good the rest of us.

Speaker Pelosi actively trumpeted the Bush Administration’s Peru Free Trade Agreement, yet another an offspring of NAFTA. NAFTA, championed by President Clinton and supported by Pelosi in 1993, has become the poster child of the multinational corporations’ eternal quest for cheap non-union labor. In 2002, the Economic Policy Institute estimated that NAFTA had eliminated 879,000 American jobs.  It also devastated Mexico by disrupting the work force and dumping subsidized American corn on its markets. The trade agreement passed the House with yes votes from all of the Republicans plus Pelosi and 108 other Vichy Democrats.

In terms of passive collaboration with the White House Agenda, we encounter the fact that since Speaker Pelosi’s House held hearings on the steroid farce in baseball, Pelosi’s House Can Hold Hearings On Anything.  That being the case, not calling for hearings on issues vital to the American public is an act of passive collaboration.

Where are the hearings on Katrina? Where are the hearings on the new American policy of torture?  Who was responsible for Abu Graib and the secret prisons around the world? What about warrantless wiretapping and the removal of habeas corpus from the judicial system? No bid contracts to Halliburton, the vice president’s company? Who rigged the 2000 and 2004 Florida and Ohio elections? What about the fact that 35.5 million Americans went hungry in 2006?  Why isn’t there an investigation into the predatory lending schemes and bundling that created the mortgage crisis?  Bush’s signing statements and the Constitution? Why are the oil companies reaping vast profits while working people pour their pay checks into the gas pumps?

And, of course, the 500 pound gorilla: where are the impeachment hearings for grievous lies and heinous falsifications that led to the preemptive war on Iraq? Hundreds of thousands dead, thousands injured and wounded, millions displaced. No hearings. The carnage continues.

“Impeachment is not on the table,” Speaker Pelosi stated fourteen months ago and—bunker like–has continued to suffocate all efforts to bring the White House’s treasonable activities to the table.

Our prison system–which is now the largest in the world—is filled with non-violent drug offenders and petty criminals. When sentencing these people to the living death of prison, our courts are known for laying on bromides like “you have to be responsible for your actions. A civil society demands that we must have accountability!”

And yet there is no accountability in Washington. No one is held responsible for crimes against humanity. And no one will be held responsible as long as the Vichy Democrats remain in power.

DON SANTINA is a cultural historian who received a Superior Scribing award for his Counterpunch article “Reparations for the Blues.” He also details Nancy Pelosi’s privatization projects in “Ethnic Cleansing in San Francisco” which appeared in the September 29-30, 2007 issue of Counterpunch. He can be reached at lindey89@aol.com

 

 

 

 

 

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