All eyes will soon be on the Senate Intelligence Committee and the testimony of ousted FBI Director James Comey. However, we must not overlook today’s testimony the Committee heard from several of the top intelligence officials in the administration.
On one hand, their refusal to answer questions should sound the alarm about what is going on. On the other hand, as conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin put it at The Washington Post, that refusal puts our intelligence officials in contempt of Congress.
“None of these witnesses invoked executive privilege or national security. They just didn’t want to answer,” she wrote. “This is nothing short of outrageous. …their behavior was contemptuous and frankly unprecedented.”
While these professionals knew exactly what they were doing (and I’ve heard cogent argument of how they were protecting the independence of foreign intelligence gathering), supporters of the administration seem likely to miss the significance. These self-proclaimed lovers of the Constitution have always been a bit fuzzy on the details, however.
Beyond the 2nd Amendment, the Gadsen-flag waving Tea Partiers would be hard pressed to describe any of the other 30 Constitutional Amendments (or even realize there are only 27). And, their 2nd Amendment Solutions have always been selectively applied.
The administration of George W. Bush spied on Americans and not only listened in on the calls home from our military stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but made jokes about those calls between our soldiers and their wives and sweethearts. Crickets from the NRA members, but when the black guy in the White House suggested improving health insurance, time to show up at protests with sidearms and semi-automatic weapons.
But I digress. Our problem today is that too many people lack a basic understanding of how our government works. That goes for Trump, who thinks he’s Don Corleone reincarnate, to the members of Congress who think they work for Trump.
This includes voters, as well. We just had a primary election in New Jersey yesterday and we heard again the usual complaints. Lamentations about the low voter turnout, anger over the lack of voting choices, and hand-wringing over the fate of our democracy. Too many people forget, however, that general elections are about democracy but primaries are about party organization. Back when most people identified with one of the two major parties, choosing the candidates for the general election was taken away from party bosses in smoke-filled back rooms and given to “rank-and-file” party members via primaries.
But today, lines are blurred. We’ve gone from those smoky rooms filled with party bosses giving us FDR and Ike, to primaries giving us presidents from Jimmy Carter to Trump. And now people who would refuse to declare themselves a party member want undue voice in deciding a party’s slate and direction. (Looking at you Bernie Bros.) If you want to change a party, either party, you have to get involved, convince people, build a slate and take over functions. It won’t happen by sitting back and waiting for an election.
As we’ve lost sight of the separation between primary and general elections, we have also overlooked the separation between the levels and branches of government.
Therefore, the hearings going on now will truly test whether our current crop of Congresscreatures understand they are a separate and co-equal branch of government. The future of our democracy may depend on this. Forget Trump’s MAGA slogan, we need MACAA, Make American Civics Accessible Again!
While we contemplate the educational effort ahead, and the need to keep Texas from determining the content of school books, to ensure basic knowledge of the workings of our democracy, have a Constitution Hound cocktail.
An appropriately bitter drink for our times, the recipe from Kindred Cocktails calls for:
1 oz rye
1 oz Campari
1 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz Bigallet China-China
1 barspoon absinthe
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 twist Grapefruit peel
Shake, strain, rocks, garnish