Proposal: A Covenant with America
Here are my suggestions for a new covenant with America that could be adopted by politicians running for Congress this fall.
1. The American people do not want their courageous intelligence personnel endangered by politics at a time when international terrorism remains a real threat. If elected we will strengthen the law to make it easier to obtain indictments against those, like White House advisers Irv Lewis Libby and Karl Rove, who play politics with intelligence officers’ lives.
2. The American people do not want dirty money in politics. To address misuse of funds such as that of former Republican congressional leader Tom Delay, we pledge to make it easier to prosecute money laundering for the purpose of fixing elections.
3. Five years after Usamah Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri sent their evil minions to attack New York and Washington, DC, they are still at large, and are still encouraging violence against the United States and its allies, as we saw in Madrid and London. The Bush administration has spent over $400 billion on an Iraq War unrelated to 9/11, but comparatively small sums on counter-terrorist efforts against the al-Qaeda leadership. We pledge to invest in genuine counter-terrorism and to strengthen cooperation with allies to disrupt and destroy al-Qaeda’s remaining capacity.
4. The American people cannot be expected to pay trillions, and to sacrifice thousands more lives, for a failed land war in Iraq. We pledge to withdraw US ground troops from that country on a short timetable. The necessary political and military arrangements will be made to give the Iraqis a fighting chance of establishing stability on their own, but we believe that the very presence of US ground troops on the present scale provokes anger in some factions and makes others less willing to compromise.
5. The Bush administration misused and misrepresented intelligence on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction and repeatedly asserted or implied an operational link between Iraqi intelligence and al-Qaeda. Congress was systematically misled by briefers sent over from the executive branch. We pledge that if elected we will establish by law a panel of lifetime appointees to review intelligence for the president and congress, and to advise when they perceive any branch of the government to be distorting the professional intelligence community’s findings for political purposes.
6. Americans should be secure from warantless invasions of their privacy. The Bush administration’s abuses against the fourth amendment of the US constitution must end. If we are elected, we pledge to protect Americans from unreasonable and unauthorized government snooping by bureaucrats. Some of these practices are authorized by the so-called “PATRIOT” act, which we believe to contain provisions that defile our revered constitution and would have shocked and dismayed the founding fathers. Exceptions will be made for clear threats to national security, but those exceptions, too, must be promptly reviewed by a judge.
7. Cruel and unusual punishment was outlawed by our founding fathers. Torture goes against all the principles on which the United States was established. Nevertheless, in the world’s eyes, the United States is now associated with disgusting photographs coming out of Abu Ghraib, showing unconcealed torture. If elected, we pledge to stop the executive branch from authorizing practices recognized in international law as torture. Likewise, the US constitution guarantees all the accused a speedy trial. Facilities such as Guantanamo Bay, where prisoners can be held indefinitely without charge and without trial, are as big a threat to the liberties of our Republic as is terrorism itself. If elected, we pledge to close it and to try the accused, convicting the guilty.
8. The failure of Congress to adjust the alternative minimum tax has allowed a measure that was intended to prevent the wealthy from avoiding taxes to become a new, stealth tax on the middle class. If elected, we pledge to significantly raise the threshold for the alternative minimum tax so as to strengthen the middle class, and we pledge to allow Bush’s temporary tax cuts on the super-wealthy to lapse so as to keep the budget healthy. The economic recovery makes these temporary measures unnecessary, and letting temporary tax cuts lapse is not the same as raising taxes. The middle class has to choose whether it wants to pick up the bill here; we are saying it does not have to.
9. We pledge to work for green energy and to curtail America’s dangerous dependence on foreign oil. Not only is it unwise to depend for our energy on unstable or hostile regimes abroad, carbon-based energy is causing a dangerous warming of the globe, and warming seas helped produce the catastrophe that befell New Orleans. If elected, we pledge a new Manhattan project, this time focused on bringing the weight of government spending to bear on innovative energy technology, resulting in homegrown ways to provide inexpensive transportation, heating and air conditioning for all, and to end the threat of global warming while continuing to grow the economy. Inexpensive, clean energy would increase the standard of living of middle class Americans enormously.