A division is emerging in our government. While Cabinet members are still keeping close ranks around President George W. Bush, senators and members of the House of Representatives are beginning to question recent strategic decisions and are carefully distancing themselves from the president, all due to the looming midterm elections of 2006.
Interestingly, the criticism does not come from the Democratic minority, but is increasingly voiced by members of the president’s own party.
One such clear division is due to the scandal surrounding the internment camps the United States is operating in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other alleged secret locations.
In Guantanamo Bay alone, nearly 540 so-called “enemy combatants,” a term used to circumvent the Geneva Convention, are held without charges and access to international organizations or lawyers. Both are violations of U.S. and international law. An unknown number of inmates have been released after years of imprisonment when it was decided there was no reason to hold them any longer.
Vice President Dick Cheney was quoted in Monday’s Washington Post as saying, “The important thing here to understand is that the people that are at Guantanamo are bad people.” President Bush had similarly dismissed a report issued by Amnesty International that claimed deplorable actions were occurring in the camps as “absurd,” and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday the camp would be needed for years to come.
It is disturbing that the highest officials of the United States government are professing to be spreading U.S. ideals in the world, yet throw out one of the most profound of said ideals — innocent until proven guilty — as soon as it’s convenient to do so.
Such treatment seems more fitting for a colonial power than the benevolent big neighbor the United States portrays itself as being. As Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said, the United States is “losing the image war around the world.”
This is what should be called absurd, and not the criticisms aimed at it — and thankfully an increasing number of senators are warming up to the debate, urging their leadership to reconsider or at least acknowledge previous mistakes.
The rift first became obvious when Congress signed a law that would have required Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube to remain in place even though her husband had repeatedly attempted to have it removed. White House strategists orchestrated the move in order to win the support of the Christian Right. This it did, but the backlash that followed from those that rightfully perceived Congress not only overriding the State of Florida’s sovereignty but also personal rights far outweighed any approval coming form that group and sent Congress’ approval ratings plummeting.
Congress is now worried about next year’s election, and members have expressed regrets over making this misstep. Autopsy results released wednesday showed Schiavo’s brain had indeed been damaged irreversibly and seem to prove that it was indeed an error in judgment; yet a White House spokesman said Wednesday that Bush still would have preferred the feeding tube to have remained.
In an equally stubborn move, President Bush is still hoping to confirm John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, even though members of his own party have begun to question his competency.
If Bush and his Cabinet continue to stubbornly cling to doomed methods, Congress may chose to break with him or even start an impeachment process. Either way, Bush’s presidency may come to an early end provided he and his Cabinet members stick to their personal philosophy of up-is-downism.