What's All This Then?

commentary on the passing parade

Agree? Disagree? Tell me

My Other Blog

Monday, June 20, 2005

Every time I get to thinking that John McCain is a sincere fellow and a straight shooter who speaks his mind without concern for political consequences, he says something that puts him shoulder to shoulder with his party’s partisans and makes him sound like a pure politician who will say what needs to be said to toe the party line. He was on Meet The Press on Sunday and inevitably, as I predicted, the name of Dick Durbin came up - as it will likely keep coming up until the administration and its backers find something else to distract voters from the real issues that it’s trying to spin and obscure. Russet said:
Your Democratic colleague Dick Durbin of Illinois set off a firestorm when he compared the actions of Americans at Guantanamo to Nazis, Soviet Gulags and Pol Pot. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that Senator Durbin should be censured by the Senate for those comments.
And McCain said:
Well, I think that Senator Durbin owes not only the Senate an apology—I don't know if censure would be in order--but an apology because it does a great disservice to men and women who suffered in the gulag and in Pol Pot's killing fields. Dick Durbin should be required to read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago" and I think that he would--may have a better understanding that there's no comparison whatsoever. And it does a great disservice to the majority of men and women who are serving in Guantanamo who are doing the job that they're told to do and they're doing it in a humane fashion. To tar the American servicemen and women with a brush that applies to the gulag or the killing fields is a great disservice to the men and women in the military who are serving honorably down there.
Of course he didn’t "tar American servicemen and women" with anything. He didn’t compare the FBI agent’s report of with what he saw at Guantanamo with the activities of the Nazis and the Soviets in their gulags. He simply said if you didn’t know what the FBI agent was talking about, you’d think it was a description of what might have occurred in one such country. But McCain predicted that by the time of next week’s Meet The Press, Durbin will have apologized

That was his take on his colleague Dick Durbin. But what about his colleague Bill Frist and Terri Schiavo, now that the autopsy results have been revealed? He made a diagnosis from the Senate floor and now he says he didn’t. Well, said McCain;
I don't want to criticize Bill Frist. He obviously had very sincere feelings about this issue. All of us were very emotional. Terri Schiavo had a loving parents and siblings that wanted to care for her for the rest of her life. I think our hearts went out to her in that situation and her family. Maybe we didn't use our brains as well as we should have. So I can't--I know that Bill Frist has denied that he "diagnosed" Terri Schiavo. I think we ought to get this issue behind us and move forward. It's an American tragedy and I hope that the next time we're presented with one of these situations we'll perhaps approach it in a more measured and reasoned fashion.
"Dick Durbin, apologize you tarrer of American servicemen and women. Bill Frist, you sincere guy, let’s put any issue that makes you look like an insincere, incompetent fool behind us, because my occasional, "use it when I feel the need" partisanship, just won’t let me see that insincerity and incompetence."

Over on CBS’s Face the Nation, the guest was Senator Joe Biden. Bob Schieffer asked him if he ever met the incoming flights at the Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, bringing back the bodies of service personnel killed in Iraq. This is the exchange that followed:
Sen. BIDEN: I've tried to and they will not allow me to. As a matter of fact...

SCHIEFFER: Who will not allow you to?

Sen. BIDEN: The Defense Department. Look...

SCHIEFFER: Wait a minute. You're a United States senator.

Sen. BIDEN: I'm a United States senator. Well, let me be very...

SCHIEFFER: They're not letting you on a military base?

Sen. BIDEN: I'm allowed in the military base. I'm not allowed to go to the mortuary. I'm not allowed to be there when the flag-draped casket comes in. As a matter of fact, Bob, one family asked me whether I would meet their son who was tragically gunned down, actually car bombed in Iraq. This is several months ago. I said I would be honored to be with them. They wanted me to come with the minister. They wanted me through the whole process. The commander of the base told me that he couldn't allow that to happen and he's a friend--this is not like - there's no hostility there; I'm on the base all the time--until he cleared it with the Pentagon. And I'm told the civilian leadership in the Pentagon. So in order for me to literally go in and accompany a mom and a dad and a son to pick up the body of a dead son, a young Marine killed in Iraq, I was not just able to do it as a senior United States senator, former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee--not like I'm new to this. I had to get specific permission for that specific event. I wanted to go when more than one Marine came back dead and I just wanted to show my respect. I didn't want any press there. There was no press. We weren't talking about that.

SCHIEFFER: So you think it is the secretary of Defense himself who's blocking you?

Sen. BIDEN: Well, that's my understanding. I don't know that for a fact, but it's not the military. It's the civilian decision in the Defense Department that you're not allowed to be there just to show respect. And let me emphasize here now. No press. No cameras. Nothing. I have made it a practice. The reason I've gone to Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia is to demonstrate to those troops there that I understand what's going on and to be with them. No press. And they won't even let me on the base.
It makes you wonder if any Republican Senator has ever tried to meet an incoming flight of coffins and whether a Republican Senator would be allowed to do so - or what repercussions a Republican Senator might face if he tried to see what the administration has so successfully kept from public view. And it makes you wonder why. No it doesn’t. We know why - and its shameful.

And of course, the Durbin Dilemma made its obligatory appearance as follows:
Senator, your colleague, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, this last week generated a fair amount of controversy by comparing the interrogation techniques that are being used in Guantanamo to those used by the Nazis, the--genocide essentially. He said these are techniques you might associate with Pol Pot, with the Gulags. At this point, a number of people, including the majority leader, have called upon Senator Durbin to apologize. He has not. Were those wise comments and should he apologize?

Sen. BIDEN: Look, I spoke to Dick Durbin yesterday. He told me he's written a letter where he points out that in the letter that there was inappropriate comparisons. He wished he hadn't made them, and he understands that that went beyond the point he was trying to make. But the point he was making was an accurate point about we need to do something about Guantanamo, that we can't leave it sitting in the status quo the way it is now. And as far as the majority leader asking him to apologize, I don't think that's a wise place for the majority leader to go. You know, I mean, if you're going to start talking about apologies I haven't heard him apologize for the Schiavo case, and quite frankly I don't think it matters. I think the matter is what do we do now? What do we do now about Guantanamo, and I think that's what Senator Durbin is now focused on.
A slightly different take from that of straight shooter John McCain. Durbin and Frist as a trade off. Even Steven. Makes sense to me.

Biden said that unless he runs into insurmountable barriers down the pike, he’s a Presidential candidate. To which I say right on - and I think he should kick off his campaign by acknowledging everything he’s learned from British Labour politician Neil Kinnock , with the comment - "As I was saying in 1987."