When talk isn't cheap

News & Politics

The debate over the confirmation of Supreme Court Disaster Samuel Alito has moved to the Senate, and if my colleague Joshua Holland's lament didn't convince you of the danger we're in, here's our guest blogger, lawyer Osha Neumann, pleading with just one Senator, any Senator, to have courage:

Alito is one scary cat. At his confirmation hearing he looked up at the Senators who were so ineffectively grilling him like a predator waiting for his prey, knowing his day would come. So now it's time for the Senate to vote. And the Republicans have the votes. The "Gang of 14" -- "moderates" the newspaper calls them -- agreed not to filibuster except in "extraordinary circumstances." But these are nothing if not extraordinary circumstances. These are extraordinary circumstances. The president brazenly claims that that his powers as commander in chief in a war without end trump all constitutional restraints. So much for the rule of law. He has a majority in Congress and now a chance to pack the Supreme Court with his pals, who might just ratify the essentially unlimited powers of the executive. And that's not "extraordinary circumstances?"

So what possible reason could there be not to filibuster? If our Senators are about to engage in an exercise in futility at least make it an interesting exercise. Something dramatic. Something to wake us up. Something that could, perhaps, in the end turn out not be futile at all.

One. That's the number of senators it would take to start a filibuster. One senator with courage.

Here are three assignments for our Senators. It would best to do them in the order assigned.

1. Watch "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." It was made in 1939. Jimmy Stewart plays a nice country boy from Montana, who happens to believe, I mean really believe, in the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence, and government "of the people, by the people, and for the people," all those words carved in marble in all those monuments on the Capitol Mall and preserved in nitrogen in the Library of Congress. You might say he's a real liberal fundamentalist.

Because a bunch of unscrupulous corrupt politicians thinks he will be easily malable he gets appointed to the Senate, but he turns out not to be as dumb as they think. He soon discovers that his mentor., a senator played by Claude Rains, is in the pocket of a fat cat lobbyist who runs the state and owns the press. When he refuses to play the game, the old boys network turns on him, and comes close to breaking him. In the climax of the movie he begins a filibuster. All alone he stands. And talks. And talks. Till he faints from exhaustion. The power of his act -- not just his words, but what he does with his exhausted body -- breaks through the iron ring of lies. And he wins. "The only causes worth fighting for are the lost causes." That's what his father used to tell him.

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