Advice to Democrats Regarding Secrets and Political Messages:
In New York City, part of the big summertime fun of the post-7/7 and 7/21 London bombings is the institution of random bag searches throughout the steamy subway system. That means if the cops pick you on the right day, they could busily pick through your backpack filled with anal beads, love oils, and Jenna Jameson's vibrating latex pussy with cock clutching kung-fu grip. That means that if you've taken the train from JFK, having had your personal belongings rifled through at customs at the airport, they can also be fondled at the 14th Street A line stop. Surely, we are told, such is a small price to pay to assure that we are not bombed into a fine paste that becomes a tasty treat for the rats and the sewer crocs. Because, truly, if we have nothing to hide, why mind the searches?
And now that the Patriot Act is being re-authorized in one form or another, with its demands that the FBI be allowed no judicial oversight when they go trawling through your library records to see how many times you've checked out The Anarchist Cookbook, 101 Best Chick Pea Recipes, and The Idiot's Guide To the Koran. Or to enter your home to look for suspiciously large quantities of kitty litter, which they know you've purchased because you used your A&P Bonus Savings card to get that motherfucking discount. For certainly, if you have no intentions other than making yummy falafel snacks or provide a comfy, clean place for your countless cats to crap, we're assured, then why should the searches matter? We should be willing to give up our rights to privacy if it stops a single terrorist act. And, indeed, if we oppose such searches, we must have something to hide.
This is the warped logic of our discussions of civil liberties: if you are a good, lawful person, then you shouldn't mind having yourself probed, spied on, and frisked. Principles like the Fourth Amendment are merely covers for the guilty.
So let's turn this shit around and use it against the Bush administration. Hang on - this is gonna be a bullet train speedin' to the heart of the political spin machine. Here's the deal:
Poll numbers show that a majority of Americans see Bush, Cheney, et al as liars and cover-up artists. This is bad news for an administration that tells its citizens they must forcibly open up their private lives to government scrutiny, an administration that gives the constant message that secrecy is primary to its operations. In every aspect of governance, the executive branch has asserted a right to keep things hidden, from Congress, the Judiciary, and the People. And that's where the Democrats can turn around the Patriot Act and more on the adminstration and on the Republican party.
Here's the campaign, in all its glorious simplicity: "What are you trying to hide?"
Notice the beauty of the message there - the implication that something is being hidden, that something sinister is going on, the way it puts the onus of proof on the ones doing the hiding. And it works in a scoundrel's menu of current situations:
On treatment of "detainees" in the war on the struggle on terror of extremists in the whole entire big damn Earth: Dick Cheney and Justice Department have gone nigh on nutzoid at the prospect of an amendment to a Senate defense bill that says, simply, the Army field manual applies to interrogations and, oh, by they way, don't fuckin' torture people. Now that the whole defense bill has been shit-canned by Bill Frist over this, it is the time to ask Cheney and the administration: "Oh, you don't want any rules or oversight? What are you trying to hide?"
On John Roberts's documents while in the Solicitor General's office: The Democrats' call for the release of more of Roberts's records than the dribble the Bush adminstration has pissed out has been met with Bolton-confirmation-like stonewalling and derision from Republicans, like John Cornyn, who said, "They don't have anything on him now, but they're still digging and hoping." The proper response on this from Democrats oughta sound like a throwdown for a streetfight: "So, like, if there's nothing to get on Roberts, why not release the documents? What are you trying to hide?"
The "What are you trying to hide" message is so clear. Look at how it's worked on the Plame inquiry, how much doubt it's sowed in the administration, doubt that can easily be spread to other issues. Yes, it's a double edged sword because it seems to accept things like the Patriot Act. But it can also be subversive to the spread of secrecy and the invasion of privacy. In an ideal America, government should be open to the sunshine and air, and citizens' lives should be private. But the Bush administration has reversed this foundational principle.
So let's at least put things on an even keel, no? You want us all to be open books? Then swing open the doors, unlock the file cabinets, and let some light into those dark corners from which the Bush administration governs.