Prosecute the torture.

February 2, 2005

Let's Break Strom's Filibuster Record

From the Levity in Action blog:

Let's Break Strom's Filibuster Record

There are those who say it would be a waste of time to hold the Senate floor until Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales answers the questions he’s been asked, about those memos that redefined torture. It’s a lost cause. It’s energy better conserved to fight a right wing Supreme Court Nominee.

But that’s worse than cowardice. It's a lack of self respect -- a failure of imagination and passion. Doesn't anyone remember "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"? Once upon a time, a Senator had that passion.

After Gonzales, Strom Thurmond’s black daughter has been the biggest newsmaker this week. She kept their secret, revealing who her father was only after he was dead. Now she's released her autobiography and talks to everyone.

Strom (he deserves a worldwide first name basis – like Saddam) still holds the Senate filibuster record. The year I was born, Strom held the floor for 24 hours and 18 minutes all by himself, because he believed in something important and he wasn’t afraid to stand up for it. CNN quoted him when he died a year ago:

"I want to tell you that there's not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the Negro race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches."
Except I heard a recording of this on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show – which was, as usual, more accurate than CNN – and Strom didn’t say “Negro” race. As a 21st century American of some African descent, I am permitted to use his vocabulary, though most often I choose not to.

The pool thing was a big deal. When black movie star Dorothy Dandridge was staying at a 5 star Vegas hotel, she dipped her feet in the pool without permission, and the next thing she knew, the management had drained all the water out.

Today as I watch CSPAN today flashing ‘No Agreement on Debate Length,’ and the somnolent announcer actually uses the phrase “possible filibuster’ at the Gonzales hearings, I have hope. And I have an idea.

See, publicly Strom was full of passion and racism. Privately, he helped support his Negro daughter, and insisted he was just giving Americans in the south what they wanted – what they were used to, what would keep him popular with his people.

Last May, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham was stumbling out into the light after a screening of the other Abu Ghraib photos and videos – the ones that still have never been shown to the public. When asked what he’d seen, Graham answered, “Rape and murder.” Rape, like severe beatings, no longer fit the new Gonzales definition of illegal torture, because neither necessarily causes “organ failure or death”.

Then last week, the same Graham chastised Alberto Gonzales for his role in changing the official interrogation rules in ways that quickly led to Abu Ghraib, among at least 300 reports of abuse and murder in U.S. run prisons. “I think we've dramatically undermined the war effort by getting on a slippery slope in terms of playing cute with the law,” said Graham. “We’ve lost our way.”

And then he voted with his party – even though all of Gonzales’s other support had disappeared – to recommend his confirmation as the next U.S. Attorney General, the nation’s chief of law enforcement.

So let’s learn a lesson from Strom. Maybe he didn’t hate black people as much as we thought. Maybe it was just a popular act. But he sure put on a good show. He made it into the history books. And the 21st century history books still need to be written.

So whatever we feel deep down, let’s pretend we really, deeply hate rape, murder, and torture for just a day or two. We’ve probably got 30 Senators or more, so it’ll be easy to hold the floor compared to what Strom had to do. We could go for 25 hours easy, beat Strom’s record, and then give up. We’ll be in the history books too.

And from that effort, future generations will believe we really hate it when Americans rape and murder arabs, just as much as we hate niggers in our pools.


1 comment:

josh narins said...

With the new filibuster rule, Senate business continues during a "filibuster."

To have real consequence, the filibuster rule would have to revert to its original formulation.

I'm pretty sure it was changed to deal with the southern racists.

Seems like the most problematic parts of the Constitution and in US history are Acts to Deal with the Southern Racists.