Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Florida's Bill Nelson Trashes the Constitution

There is so much to be said about yesterday's shameful Senate vote granting telecom immunity that one hardly knows where to begin. One excellent place is Russ Feingold's speech on the Senate floor, which neatly and accurately sums up the issue.

Another is Scott Horton, who writes today for Harper's Magazine:
[F]uture generations looking back and tracing the destruction of the grand design of our Constitution may settle on yesterday, February 12, 2008, as the date of the decisive breach. It hardly got a mention in the media, obsessed as it was with reports on the primary elections, the use of drugs in sporting events, and that unfailing topic, the weather. Yesterday the Senate voted down the resolution offered by Senator Dodd to block retroactive immunity for the telecoms and it voted for a measure which guts the Constitution’s ban on warrantless searches by extending blanket authority to the Executive to snoop on the nation’s citizens in a wide variety of circumstances, subject to no independent checks.
Given the predictable and routinely unanimous vote of "Republicans in the Senate [who] continued to function in lock-step, as they have on almost all significant issues for the last seven years," as Horton explains, passage of the bill can only be explained by the fact "Democrats fragmented." Horton again:
Their vote summed up everything that’s wrong with Washington politics today. Fear and hard campaign cash rule the roost, and the Constitution is regarded as a meaningless scrap of parchment, indeed, a nuisance.
And who, among others, voted to trash "the grand design" of our Constitution? Florida's own U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.

There are many issues of importance that come before the Senate during the six-year term of a senator. In our time, these include such matters as the Iraq War, the declining economic health of the United States, global climate change, immigration reform, a woman's right to choose, and on and on. As with every elected official, some of Nelson's votes on these and other issues no doubt have pleased voters -- and some have not.

But none can be more important to our democracy, and to our nation, than supporting and defending the Constitution. Indeed, those words are in the very oath administered to every incoming senator.

Yesterday, Senator Nelson betrayed his oath of office. He has, in effect, endorsed criminal misbehavior by the telecom companies as well as the Bush administration. He no longer merits public office, whatever may be his views on other issues of the day.

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