Back when I was researching my script The Lady of Mississippi, an interracial romance set in 1926 in the Magnolia State, I came across one of the most mean-spirited men ever to serve in the United State Senate, Theodore Bilbo. This racist Democrat was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and famously filibustered an anti-lynching bill in the Senate. He advocated violence against blacks.
So much did this hate-monger define the worst aspects of Jim Crow that I included him in one scene in the script. Whenever I think of him, I realize that while some of the most noble and principled Americans have served in the United States Senate–as well as a number of dedicated public servants, so have some of the worst rapscallions in American political life.
Following a recount fraught with partisan shenanigans with more votes counted that people who voted, it looks like another such individual, a man of Bilbo’s angry ilk will now serve in the United States Senate.
To be sure, Al Franken embodies a different kind of hate and does not (to my knowledge) advocate violence against his foes, but like that mean-spirited Mississippian, he harbors intense hatred for an entire class of people. For Bilbo, it was African-Americans. For Franken, it’s conservatives and Republicans. And just as Bilbo embodied a political movement so too does Franken.
Fortunately, that movement is not nearly as pervasive or as powerful as was Bilbo’s in its heyday. It does not control state governments which repress some citizens and look the other way when others abuse and murder their fellows.
To Al Franken and his base on MSNBC and in the “netroots,” conservatives don’t just support (what they believe to be) bad ideas, they’re bad people, deserving opprobrium and ridicule.
If you want to know why I respect my state’s senior Senator, Dianne Feinstein, while regularly disagreeing with her on any number of issues, just take a gander at this headline: Feinstein slams Obama CIA head pick. This responsible Democrat has taken issue with the president-elect of her own party for tapping a political hack to head the CIA.
Feinstein, the incoming chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement:
I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA Director. I know nothing about this, other than what I’ve read. . . . My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.
Shouldn’t the president-elect have consulted with the leading Senate Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee before selecting someone to head the CIA?
Unlike her junior colleague, the former San Francisco Mayor does not walk in lockstep with her party’s leadership and understands that Republicans are political adversaries, not mortal enemies. She often works with Republicans on key issues, even when her party leadership favors obstruction. And as this statement shows, takes issue with her party when she thinks its leaders have proposed bad policies or otherwise blundered.
H/t: Jennifer Rubin who offers a great critique of the Panetta appointment.
Apology for the slow blogging. Had hoped to be back up to speed today, but had to run a number of errands, plus I have two nieces and two nephews celebrating birthdays, requiring trips to toy stores and jewelry shops (the step-PatriotNieceWest just had her ears pierced . . . .).
UPDATE:Â Might Feinstein oppose his nomination in committee and on the Senate floor?
Say what?Â Â Yeap, it is true. (h/t – Towleroad)
Call it a Christmas present for gay and lesbian couples. President Bush signed the Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 (WRERA) two days before Christmas. The new law makes it mandatory for businesses to roll over retirement benefits to a same-sex partner in the event of the employee’s death.
Previously, employers could decline and surviving same-sex partners would have to pay tax on the inheritance of the deceased partner’s retirement savings. Legally married heterosexual couples automatically avoid that tax penalty.
National LGBT rights groups hailed the move. â€œThis legislation secures much-needed protection for lesbian and gay couples,â€ said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. â€œOur community faces unique challenges in preparing for retirement because we are denied Social Security spousal and survivor benefits. Protecting our hard-earned retirement savings is even more crucial to us, and until now, the tax code made it that much harder.â€
How interesting that this hasn’t been well-reported.Â Why?Â Because by signing this into law, President George W. Bush has, by law, done more for gays than any other President in history.Â Â President William Jefferson Clinton, on the other hand, signed two laws (DOMA and DADT) that put gay rights progress into full reverse.
Bush increased American gay rights, Clinton took away American gay rights.Â Facts are facts.
Ah, the irony.
So, thank you President Bush.Â This is actually a solid real-world benefit for same-sex partners across the USA.
[RELATED: Here’s a primer on the new law (WRERA 2008).]