I haven't written anything here in a while mostly, I think, because I keep thinking I should have something to say about this ever-unfolding torture business. So much has already been said about it recently and it's probably pretty clear, to any of you who know me, where I stand on the issue. Also, I really don't believe I can offer anything new that hasn't been said better elsewhere. Today, however, things are happening at breakneck speed and I'm not sure I can pick just one thing to write about but I gotta write something.
It is President Obama's 100th day and finally, after much resistance from the Republican party, former Kansas Governor, Kathleen Sibelius, has been quickly sworn in as Health and Human Services Secretary in the midst of a pandemic of swine flu. The first US death from the swine flu, or the very recently re-named H1-N1 virus, has been reported this morning, a 23 month old toddler in Texas. Yesterday the usual suspects of the ultra-right media madness, Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, started using the current health scare as an opportunity to spread racism and fear by bringing up that old war horse topic of illegal immigration. Immigration, illegal or otherwise, is not an issue in this current health crisis. Mexicans are no more responsible for the swine flu than gay people are responsible for AIDS or black people are responsible for crack. It's an argument that doesn't hold water but that doesn't stop the blubbering, bobble-heads from spewing their hateful rhetoric.
It's been nearly two weeks and I haven't written anything about the installation of New Yorks' new Archbishop, his Excellency, Timothy Dolan, a friendly fellow who vows to challenge any same sex marriage bills proposed in New York. Take that separation of church and state.
Yesterday there was the really big news that Arlen Specter, who after serving as Republican Senator from the great state of Pennsylvania for 29 years, has decided to switch his party affiliation. This is seemingly very good news for the Obama administration as Specter will make the 59th democratic seat in the senate and when Al Frankin is, one day, finally, seated as the junior Democratic senator from Minnesota, that will give the Dems a 60 seat filibuster proof majority. Good news right? Perhaps. Specter is, however, a true Republican moderate. He claims he's changing his party affiliation because the Republicans have moved too far right (good for him) and his moderate principles and his beliefs fall more under the heading of Democrat now that the Republican party is a dwindling assortment of floundering wing nuts and extremists.
After taking a closer look at Specter's voting record, however, one has to consider that this may not be such a great move for liberal lefties, like myself. Specter supported the Supreme Court Justice nomination of Clarence Thomas and has a long record of voting straight-up, old-school Republican. The real notable difference, especially as far as the regional, reactionary, gun-totting, party of "NO" is concerned, is his support of a woman's choice, admittedly a hot button, divisive issue for the Republicans who insist on shouting "Baby Killer" in the direction of anyone who supports a woman's choice.
So Specter's switch is good news in theory but it certainly doesn't insure filibuster proof voting on the Senate floor. Senator Specter is an honorable, responsible man of integrity who, I believe, does have the best interests of his constituents at heart. That being said, I believe that he will support Obama's health care initiatives just as he supported his stimulus package.
It is disappointing and disconcerting that the Republicans, who had an opportunity to nurture and support the likes of Senator Specter and encourage more like him to join their ranks, chose instead to deride him for his values, his integrity and his independent thinking. The GOP could be expanding their base by welcoming moderates instead of pushing them aside. I believe that the United States is a country that, ultimately, benefits from a two party system. What is going to happen when one of those two parties has so marginalized itself that it is no longer representative of those it, supposedly, serves?